The Green Hotel

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The sign introduced the quaint little building of at least 1930’s vintage as the “Green Hotel” I’d booked into.

I painfully unwound my legs after what seemed like hours of straddling luggage on the floor of an overfull Matador van. It had served as a village to village bus service. I was at my destination in the state of Bihar India for the evening and next day would catch a taxi ride to Ranchi where I was assigned to visit a hospital.

The desk attendant had been resurrected from sleep long enough to hand me a key and then wave me toward my room after paying him the equivalent of US$5 for the night. He had no knowledge of a booking, but there was no one accommodated there anyway so I had the pick of the hotel rooms. It was there I thought I’d discovered why the hotel had been named the Green Hotel.

My room was an unpainted cement room with attached bathroom. It was the bathroom that informed me why the hotel had possibly received its name. From my sitting position on the bed I could view the accumulated green mould slime flowing from roof down the wall to floor, and exiting through a hole in the floor meant to care for runoff from the shower, and of course double up for a toilet. But it was at least a place to rest after hours of dusty travel.

The first order of business was to get cleaned up and to my delight the shower worked. It was a single jet of water at high pressure and freezing cold, but very acceptable and excellent for blasting off accumulated grime and sweat. I then thought of clothes. All well used and dirty, they were in need of a good wash. There was one small hand sink and I’d learned how to make magic with my washing in small cramped places. It had to be better than a bucket and probably much better than beating my clothes against a rock at a river!

I travelled a bit more ambitiously than some of my fellow travellers. There in my toilet gear was a range of useful things including clothes washing powder and it worked well in remote locations as it did in my washing machine back home.

No plug, but no problem either as I’d discovered a pair of socks works just as well. For some strange reason I enjoy working the magic of making underclothes turned yellow with sweat into white garments even the angels would applaud. So I held my soaped up prizes for inspection and gave them a tick of approval. Now it was time for the final deft touches. The sock was removed and water sent the soap on its way.

But the magic didn’t work this time. The white soapy chads turned bright red!

Now science is not my strong point so I had to sit on the bed again and contemplate that miracle. Soap washes white, clear water rinse turns clothes red! Didn’t seem right somehow, but travel in Spiritual India can do strange things to the brain and it needs a pause to think things through.

So concentrating hard I repeated the process. Sock in the plug-hole, soap up my red underwear and watch it turn white. Inspect my work. No drama this time; the underwear was indeed white. Remove the sock and run the rinse cycle with clear water which I inspected closely. The underwear slowly turned red again.

Have you ever had one of those paranormal experiences that raised the hair on your back? I did that day. I systematically completed a mental inventory of my life in India. Had I in some way offended a holy man and incurred his wrath? Was it to be my lot in life to wash all my clothes red as an act of penance? It was a fearful possibility indeed!

But after several minutes of contemplation I concluded it had to be some other reason and went back to inspect the hand sink. There at the base of the plug hole was the answer. Accumulated years of spitting betel nut into the sink had left an encrusted red dyeing agent to fool the superstitious. The combined agent of sock and soap powder had negated its influence, but when those were removed the betel nut had its own way.

I looked at the hand sink in dismay. Had the missiles fired contained a trace of TB? What had I subjected my underwear to and could I again have them in close proximity to my body without some dread disease attacking me?

I borrowed a bucket from the sleepy attendant at the desk and completed the job with a greater application of soap powder and longer than usual rubbing out of all traces of the red stuff. The powerful shower jet blasted out all remnants of offending red. At least I hoped it did. But for the rest of my itinerary I felt uneasy about that underwear. What was it doing to my body?

I’m penning this as its possible someday you may find yourself in the backblocks of India and suddenly see the inviting sign “Green Hotel.” Avoid it if you can, but if that’s not possible avoid the hand sink. It contains a lurking danger!

 

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”

 

 

 

 

 

15 Comments Add yours

  1. borika45 says:

    as I read of your experience, I wasing for you to say you wre ‘seeing red’ which you were literally! What persistence and patience! you not only got the result you wanted – white clothing – but you figured out the problem! thanks for a great read.

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    1. Well thank you sister in law. Anytime you want to conduct the experiment I’m sure there’s an Asian shop near you who can supply a quantity of betel nut. Make sure its liberally applied down the sink hole. lol

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      1. borika45 says:

        methinks it is cheaper and safer to use beetroot but thanks for the idea (lol)

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  2. Oh Ian, I am sure you did not intend giggles from your audience but you must admit this is a slight bit giggle worthy. I can picture you through the entire process, forehead furrowed in consternation as you try to discover the offender.

    This was an excellent story of your travels and wonderfully told, with a moral even.

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    1. Actually I did expect giggles. Even in the most trying of circumstances we must find something to smile about. It’s not easy, but I’ve found that looking for something to smile about preserved my sanity on many occasions. There is so much sadness in life and occasions when smiling is not possible, but it is a healing balm when appropriate.

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  3. Mags Corner says:

    Sweet Ian I am sure you probably was not laughing as you watched your underwear turn red but as I read this I couldn’t help but laugh. The way you tell of your experiences sometimes shows your wonderful gift of humor. I am very happy you found the source of the red and you did not have to wonder about that any longer. From now on when I see a hotel I will think of you and the Green Hotel and smile. Hugs

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    1. I will always remember the Green Hotel. lol

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  4. Eric Alagan says:

    It’s amazing how trusting we sometimes are, especially when travelling without the comforts and assurances of home. If it looks clean – it must be. Happy to say I’ve not had occasion to hand wash my clothes in wash basins – but one never knows.

    Slightly in a tangent here – I never use bathtubs in hotels – even the 5-star ones – preferring to use the shower instead.

    Perhaps, now that hotel is called the Red Betel Hotel – LOL!

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    1. I know what you mean about bathtubs Eric. In the days when we were only allowed a 24 hour stopover in Burma (now Myanmar) I stayed at the Thamada Hotel and was foolish enough to take the bath rather than shower. I got a raging fungus infection out of that which fortunately was able to be reversed at my next stop which happened to be Singapore. I have many reasons to thank Singapore. lol

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  5. Subhan Zein says:

    When I first started reading, I was thinking that you would come up with a sentence like this: “It was the bathroom that informed me why the hotel had possibly received its name.” and yes, you eventually did.

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    1. Oh yes! I will never forget that experience. Lol

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  6. I can assure you I’ve stayed in many like it way out there in the remote areas. lol. I’ve even slept on the stone veranda of the dhak bungalows out in the boonies too. Probably a lot cooler outside and I always enjoyed the scenery and 24 hour music blaring out Hindi cinema songs most times overpowering the sounds of laughter and chatting squatting outside on their charpoys (4 legs) or beds if you please. The whole country is a continuous living breathing entity. I love it immensely.

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  7. Jane Thorne says:

    I love your stories Ian…I could do with your expertise this week as I turned a lovely white lace pair of knickers dark blue…. 🙂

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    1. Maybe you had better check for blue betel nut. lol

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  8. jstansfeld says:

    Good story Ian, I was as baffled as you when the clothes turned red. I enjoyed the unexpected conclusion and your subsequent concerns. Yes, if we ever visit India again, we will also avoid the Green Hotel.
    Cheerio,
    Jane

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