The Malayalee Memory or is it everywhere there are
In the course of one day in Cochin, I was greeted by a similar refrain: I remember your face , you have been here before. Perfect strangers.
I can understand the people at the hotel recognizing a guest who has come to the same hotel more than once, but perfect strangers.
Now in Cochin, I use the same adage I use in Cuba, I am interested in getting to know people who want to know me in the street.
A banana seller, the pharmacists, the chai maker at the vegetarian restaurant, I can understand, there have been some contact in the past with them, perhaps even more than casually. Bur perfect strangers?
An autorikshaw driver in front of the hotel: you have stayed at this hotel before, I have seen you on the street?
My usual patent answer, no you have mistaken me for someone else. This is my first time.
Then a waiter at one of the newly constructed “café” near the vypeen ferry comes rushing out: I remember your face, I never forget any faces. As usual my pat answer, you cant remember me, I have never been here before.
Two or three shopkeepers along the road to the synagogue. I greet them since their greeting is genuine, since they are friends with the cobbler and the tailor (Versace of cochin). In fact the cobbler will duplicate my shoes !
I went to see a friend of mine, and one of the clerks accompanied me: once again, I have seen you, eventhough it was two years ago that I had gone to the same office.
Booksellers recognized me, that I take it to be an honour. Bought: Amitav Ghosh’s latest book; Naipauls authorized biography; the French translation of Kamala Das My story and another French translation of a Kottayam writer, C Radhakrishnan…
Without asking, he gives me a 10 per cent discount. ( IDIOM bookstore)
The “antique’ dealer on the left as you go towards the synagogue, his shop girl, says hello and when I asked for the price of a Mezuzah on sale ( these items are becoming a rarity, and very soon un obtainable), he called for the owner, who came over and greeted me like an old friend, and offered a price, 30 per cent cheaper than the one he had given me, one year and half ago. You are a regular customer, so I give you my best price, I agree with him, the price was very good..
The place is crawling with tourists, I cant say I have a distinct face, but it has something to do with their memory, or is it the fact that I have been here before, or is it the survival acumen that makes their memory sharper?