On a balmy day in December I reached Goa and after the predictable chaos at the luggage counter, was met by a very polite team outside the airport. They took me to the best hotel in town—my lodgings for the next three days. It was beautifully located, on the beach, and designed by a famous architect. When the
taxi swept down the natural contour of the hill at the bottom of which the hotel stood, I relaxed and thought of Goan fish curry.
As I bid them goodbye and made to step into the foyer there was a burst of music and another sort of reception committee stepped forward. A crowd of foreigners in flowery garlands and sindhoor on their foreheads who had arrived earlier were standing ten feet away. They turned to look at me and my crumpled clothes and for a moment I thought there was someone else behind me for whom this fanfare was meant. But no, the smiles, the garland of seashells and the bouquet were for me. Before I could recover, a young woman marked my forehead and someone else gave me the bouquet.
A lamp on a tray was waved before me while I waited for my luggage to pass through the scanner. Someone played the banjo and yet another attractive person sang, and as this cloud enveloped me, the mystery deepened.At first I was flattered. Then I was impressed believing that every guest was welcomed with music and lamps and flowers. But suddenly it occurred to me that it had to be a mistake. I was in Goa to deliver an inaugural address but was I this important?
A ‘welcome drink’ was offered which I tried to sip with the enthusiasm expected of me while I was ceremoniously led to a table where another lot of well-dressed youngsters prepared to sign me in. They looked at me, at my ancient suitcase and the first shadow of doubt fell upon the group. “Er ... may we see an ID?” They had been expecting a woman guest at around the time I arrived and so someone must have galvanised the team into singing and smiling when my taxi drew up.
When I repeatedly told them that my booking was for the literature festival it occurred to them that I was not the grand personage from the ICICI Bank they had been expecting. I returned everything except the “welcome drink” and did my best not to laugh at the dismayed look on the faces of the hotel staff.