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Friday, December 04, 2009

"You prepare the paperwork and come, yes?"

So apparently I have a new job profile - that of translator between my building's Nepali watchman/supervisor and foreign tenants with broken English who don't speak Hindi.

I'm at home finishing up season two of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this afternoon, after getting home from a 4am-12noon shift at work, when the doorbell rings. It is Ramesh, the watchman, who speaks decent Hindi. But he's got an accent that makes it a little difficult to comprehend what he's saying, plus he doesn't really open his mouth when he speaks. Its more of a mutter.

He says something about how he can't communicate with the man below, who he says is Iranian. He says he's supposed to pay eight thousand rupees but wants to bring it down to seven. I have to ask thrice to confirm just what he was paying for. It's a motorcycle the guy below is apparently selling. Ramesh asks me to translate between him and the Iranian.

I go down and ring the doorbell. A thin, nearly bald man in utterly ill-fitting track pants - and I mean ill-fitting; like too tight in all the wrong areas - with a brat clinging to his foot opens the door. He's clearly confused at why the watchman has brought a white guy who hasn't shaved for a week and desperately needs a haircut. Flustered, he asks us to come in but I politely decline.

I tell him what Ramesh asked me to - that he will give seven thousand now and the rest later. The guy looks at me like I've asked him the meaning of life. Ramesh looks at me expectantly.

We manage to get on the same level soon enough, and I figure out that the motorcycle is not his, but his friend Musa's. Musa is not in Bangalore, I'm told. Ramesh wants to know who has the paperwork. The Iranian says he does. Ramesh is apprehensive of signing off in front of a third party. The Iranian seems keen to shut the door and smack his brat, who has now started to hurl a tennis ball against the wall. Ramesh looks back and forth between the Iranian and I.

The Iranian gets onto the phone, speaks for a minute, and hands me the phone. I speak to Musa, whose accent is thicker than the man in front of me. He wants to know who the interested buyer is. I tell him it's the watchman. He says he wants eight thousand tomorrow. I converse with Ramesh, who says he can give seven and a half max, final offer, repeating that he's a poor man and that Musa give him a concession. Musa isn't buying it. I hand the phone back to the Iranian. He and Musa speak for a while longer.

"OK, that is settled. Thank you," he tells me.

I ask him what is settled. He gives me a blank stare. Ramesh twitches. The kid is about to eat the tennis ball.

He says that Ramesh should decide what he wants and come back. I tell that to Ramesh, who is not properly puzzled. He asks who has the paperwork, and is worried that a third party won't suffice in completing the paperwork.

The Iranian says he has all the paperwork, but that Ramesh must bring the money and "prepare the documents". By now I'm the most confused, and tell Ramesh what the man has said. "Chuck it, something's fishy with this Iranian," he says.

I suppress my laughter. The Iranian snaps at the brat. I say thanks for his time, Ramesh gives him half a smile. The Iranian shuts his door.

Ramesh and I have an awkward moment. He thanks me and we part ways.

That was like a moment from the sitcom I was watching. My life is fun.

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