Tring … Tring… Tring… Shantaram lifted the receiver from its cradle. Before he would take the call, he knew who was calling. Yes. The same person! The occupant in Room no. 104. - Mr. Lobo. This was his third call. On earlier occasions he called Shantaram, the receptionist, only to lodge complaints against occupants in the neighboring rooms. He would first ask for Room boy. When Anantu, called on him for carrying out his errands, he would immediately complain about one or the other occupants in the nearby rooms. Once he complained about somebody coughing and sneezing which irked him very much. What could Anantu do for somebody who was releasing bouts of cough and sneezes due to seasonal cold – cough – fever. But Anantu was asked to silence them. How would he go and shout at them just because Lobo wanted him to do so. The occupants of other rooms were also equally valuable guests of the Hotel. So he thought it best to go to them with bottles of Vicks and Amrutanjan and enquire whether they needed any home remedies, medicines or a doctor’s help. The occupants of Room No 103, an old couple, were quite pleased with his gesture and praised him heartily for his humane service, a step beyond mere hospitality.
They had come to Kolhapur to have darshan of Goddess Mahalakshmi and seek Her blessing They had to send a few CDs to their son in USA. They wanted to place those CDs at the lotus feet of Goddess. The CDs contained recitations of slokas, hymns and Bhajans pertaining to each and every festival starting from Gudi Paaduva, - the beginning of Hindu new year. The CDs were full of praises of all Gods and Goddesses as they included all festivals like Ram Navami, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, NavRatri etc. Both the husband and wife were good at rendering recitations. It is their son who insisted that they must read out and narrate the rituals connected with the systematic conduct of Pooja for each and every festival. Though innumerable booklets were available – why even cds of eminent pujaris and pundits were also available in the market, he wanted to be guided only by his parents and listen to their renderings on each occasion. That would give him great satisfaction as though his parents were actually with him particularly on such holy occasions and offering blessings.
They told Anantu about the purpose of their visit to Kolhapur and were happy with the hospitality extended by the hotel. A royal treatment going well with the name of the hotel – SHALINI PALACE. Anantu was mentally thanking Lobo. A complaint from him was actually encashed by Anantu, by his presence of mind and ready wits, as compliments. But Lobo was a person who gets irritated by even by a slightest disorder and every time it would not be possible for anyone to set right things. Truly, when Lobo complained - his second one, Anantu was taken aback. It was about the annoying sound of flushing the toilet by the occupant of next room. How could the neighbor be told about the nuisance? If the sound of flushing was a nuisance, then would it not be worse, if they stopped flushing! Anantu wanted to advise Lobo to develop a bit of tolerance for small little things. But he remembered the hotel’s policy and its golden rule – ‘THE CUSTOMER IS OUR KING’. So he silently walked out. That was the way he could tackle the issue without hurting anyone.
A third call was received from Lobo and that too in a short while. Anantu told Shantaram that he would not attend on him. His demands were too silly. He said that this particular ‘customer king’ was a bit eccentric and was very difficult to cater to his demands. Shantaram advised him to continue to attend on him. Lobo might be eccentric – but who knows he might be very liberal in offering tips. Though it was a practice to pool tips received by all the attendants and share equally amongst them, Anantu would be excused this time, if he did not share the tips. Lobo, his unique nature and his peculiar demands were on a different footing. Reluctantly Anantu went to see Lobo. As feared it was a complaint. This time his complaint was on the occupants of Room No. 105. Two young boys had come to occupy the room. After settling down they had just put on their music system and were talking between themselves about what they should do for the day. This otherwise a routine nondescript happening had somehow bothered their neighbor in Room 104. - Lobo. Without losing a minute he raised his objection to the loud music and sound of chattering in high pitch. His contention was that neither the musical note nor their voices should have crossed the boundaries of their room and simply in no way it should enter his room or disturb his privacy. Anantu really wondered whether Lobo understood the meaning of the word ‘Lodging”. Was it for staying in the hotel or making rather lodging complaints?
Anantu requested the boys in Room No 105 to lower their spirits as guests in other rooms – particularly the elderly couple in the adjacent room suffering from cold and fever, were getting disturbed. He did not mention a word about Lobo of Room no. 104. The boys were very decent. They simply put off their music system. They locked the room and went out. Lobo called Anantu and congratulated him for the immediate impact he brought. It was a great relief for him also, as the problem got solved amicably.
For quite a few hours there was no call from Room No 104. As both Shantaram and Anantu had by now got accustomed to getting annoying calls from him, the long silence was very conspicuous by itself. They thought he would have gone out. After a long break, they did receive a call. But this time it was from Room 105 – the boys. It was their turn to complaint about their neighbor. They were complaining about the inmate of Room 104 and also alerted that something was wrong there. Anantu rushed to the room and to his horror found the room in a terrible mess. Lobo was lying on the floor in an awkward position with his legs stretched wide apart. There was a pool of water around him. Could be soda. The whisky bottle after rolling, had rested on its belly and a broken glass tumbler too was lying there. A plate of spicy chiwda and some snacks were found spilled, scattered and soaked. One of the sofa seats was pulled out from its place. The height of everything was the stench and stinking smell emanating from the bed. It was anybody’s guess that he had vomited right on the bed. He had not locked the room from inside and his blabberings were heard by all. Probably he was already inebriated to that extent. His loud voice, lewd and abusive language had really upset the boys in the next room. Therefore they had informed the reception counter.
Anantu closed the room from outside. If anyone happened to see or know the atrocious condition of the room, what would be the image of the hotel! Damages done by Lobo were too much. Shantaram was informed about the nasty situation. Then they both ie. Shantaram and Anantu went downstairs to the lumbar room and got things cleared and made enough place. They then went up and literally lifted Lobo and shifted him to the lumbar room – a make shift arrangement. Actually Mr. Lobo had to be kicked out and mercilessly thrown out on the road for all the nuisances he had created and the loss, more for spoiling the business prospects. But on compassionate grounds, they left him there. Clearing the mess and cleaning the room, changing the bed and its outer linen….All these would be an expensive affair. Obviously all these expenses would be charged to his account at the time of settlement of bill.
The man who was so sulky and very fussy about everybody’s trivial discomforts, which otherwise would be considered very-very normal, and tested the patience of the hotel staff, had himself been a nasty fellow. He complained about somebody’s sneezing which was much better than the pool of soda and floating snacks. He complained about the sound of flushing the toilet. That was much better than his vomiting on the bed. He also complained about loud music from neighboring room which was very much better than his rubbish loose tongue. Enough is enough of such a customer – an unforgettable customer who kept raising their tolerance level.
Anantu raised his hands in prayer, ‘Oh, Mahalakshmi Maata save us from such customers.’