I was transiting via Colombo and I was at the lounge. A six hour transit added to a four day trip to UK was making me a bit disoriented. I thought maybe a short nap would help. I noticed there was a quiet area that had been set aside for people like me. I tiptoed into the section. (Felt odd walking past sleeping strangers and picking a recliner next to someone. But needs must and all that…)
Just as I was about to close my eyes, the man on the recliner next to me started snoring. He would start softly and then build up the tempo and the noise level until he reached a peak and then one long loud indrawn snore which came to a sharp stop. Silence for a minute which feeds the hope that maybe he has stopped snoring. But no. He would resume from the lower volume. And build it again to the crescendo.
As fascinating as it was, I thought it was a bit weird that I was intently clocking a stranger’s snoring pattern. So, I forced myself to mentally mute him and closed my eyes.
No sooner had I drifted off to sleep than I heard footsteps thumping along. I half opened my eyes and saw a man muttering to himself as he walked. I followed him through half closed eyes as he headed to the recliner next to me.
Something warned me that this man was going to be loud and I could feel the clouds of sleep clearing and my brain getting ready to spew forth disapproval over the anticipated inconsiderate behavior.
The thing about my instinct is this. It is almost always – annoyingly- right. As it was this time. The man zipped open his carry on bag in a loud impatient movement, and pulled out a sheaf of papers, which he then proceeded to loudly shuffle through. I opened my eyes more fully and half sat up and said in a whisper, in tamil “please do that a bit softly. People are sleeping” Only a blind man could have possibly missed seeing 15 grown adults sleeping on recliners!
The man looked at me belligerently and said loudly “I haven’t even started doing anything and you’re telling me, I am making noise?” I raised my eyebrows at this statement. Did he mean he was going to start doing something that was going to be noisier?
By this time, I was completely awake and my brain warned me to stop. He was clearly from a rural area and experience has taught me that men from the villages are less likely to take kindly to a strange woman telling them what not to do. And certainly not a city chica dressed in jeans at that! I snapped my mouth shut and tried to go back to sleep.
And he showed me what he meant about “starting ! He unfolded a stiff plastic bag and started stuffing things into it. Now you all know how noisy that can get. People started stirring. Even the snoring man woke up and glared at him. But this one blithely continued doing what he wanted to. And much to my bewilderment, finished it, and took his things and went out to eat! Had he come in to do this stuff in an area where no one would see? – maybe he was smuggling something? And how could he just not worry about disturbing all the people who were sleeping?
I was too tired not to mention totally cheesed off with him to analyse this. I sighed at how these small things get to me and got up and went outside. As I went past the man, I couldn’t resist saying “It would be nice if you had some consideration for other people” Before he could respond, I stalked off.
I must have looked really mad cos one of the guys serving the lounge came up to me and said “Is everything ok?” and I irritatedly explained what had happened. He smiled gently at me and said “He is an old man. Come have some tea”
It was said in such an indulgent tone that I felt a reluctant smile make its appearance. He got me some tea and then added “Eat something” Again in that tone that was indulgent yet soothing. His name tag said his name was Bandara. And I said “Thank you Bandara” I settled down to my tea and snacks.
I watched him as he moved around the lounge. Bandara was a natural host. He made people drinks, brought snacks, chatted with them and generally made an effort to make everyone comfortable. There were other people doing the same job but he did it with a kind of gentle affection and dignity that made him stand apart.
It was in the little things that he noticed. Like how, when I was scanning the room for a bin to throw the tea bag cover, he appeared beside me with a smile saying “Give it to me” And as I sat down to have my tea again, the way he quietly came and placed a napkin next to me. And he didn’t do it just for me. He was like that with everyone.
As I was about to leave the lounge, I approached him and said “You are such an asset to the team. Thank you for making the effort to keep us comfortable. May I mention your name in the article I would like to write?”
He beamed at me “Yes , it is Bandara. Please note the initials”
I nodded at his name tag “yes I see that it is SS Bandara”
He said “No. the full name is MMLSS Bandara”
I dutifully wrote it down. I thanked him once again, took his picture and bid him goodbye.
As I walked away, I noticed that my spirit was up again. The way Bandara had lavished his attention on me as well as others during my stay at the lounge had had its effect. I felt soothed and comforted. And I smiled.
Small things do have a big effect on me. Like I said – two sides of a coin.