I stayed in a small guesthouse in Chennai, India, while i was there for 1 week. It wasn’t the Taj (a 5 star hotel), but it was adequate. The room was bare but neat, the sheets slightly frayed but clean. The staff barely spoke English and I couldn’t speak Hindi,  but we managed to communicate in broken words and sign language. 

My first day there I called up room service for a cup of coffee.

The following was my conversation.. If you’d like to call this a conversation 😛 :

Me: Hello
Reception: Re-sap-shun
Me: I am calling from Room 5
Reception: Room 5
Me: I would like a cup of coffee please
Reception (Silence): …..
Me: Coffee please
Reception: Ka-fee?

Me (unsure): Ka-fee? (Ka-fee? Oh, he means coffee). Yes coffee, I mean Ka-fee

Reception (politely): Sa-ree sir 
Me:… (Sa-ree? Sa-ree? Oh, he must mean sorry)…Ka-fee
Reception (politely): Sa-ree sir
Me (slowly and clearly): Kaa Fee
Reception (politely): Sa-ree sir
Me (a little louder): KA-FEE
Reception (politely): Sa-ree sir
Me (exasperated): Coffee, Ka-fee, Ka-fee 
Reception (even more politely and patiently): Sa-ree sir
Me (wondering why I ever came to this city where the people can’t even understand me when I say coffee, which is a reasonably universal word; missing my morning coffee which would be given to me without my asking for it….  😦
Reception (clearing his throat): sir?
Me (my last attempt before I give up): Coffee…. please
Reception: Ok sir. Send room.

I put the phone on the cradle out of breath and thankful that I would be getting coffee after all because now I desperately needed it.

It was some days later that I realised that ‘Sa-ree’ in Tamil (the language spoken in Chennai) means ‘ok’.



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