Having just left the “homeliness” of the NCG just hours before, the decidedly cool reception from the front desk at the Hotel Faran came as a bit of a shock (thoughts of Basil Fawlty begin to form in my mind). The owner, Hafiz, was a friend of Mr. Karim but unfortunately he wasn’t there. After a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing, I was eventually shown to my room and I immediately decided that my 2-3 nights in Murree had just become one night in Murree.
After settling in to my room, I went back to the front desk to enquire about the possibility of internet access and found that Hafiz had returned to the hotel in the meantime. I also found that the attitude of the front desk staff was decidedly less cool. While I was happy about the change, I couldn’t help wondering why it took the presence of the owner for the front desk staff to offer a warm, smiling welcome to a guest (thoughts of Basil Fawlty begin to recede).
I began to think that I had been too hasty in my judgement about the length of my stay and, after perusing the menu, decided that tonight I would have my chicken curry delivered by room service. Unfortunately room service requires a functioning telephone – something which I didn’t appear to have. So, it was another trip to the front desk to place my order. Just as I was about to say “Chi……” the lobby was plunged into darkness by the inevitable load-shedding at 7pm. Out came the matches for the gas lanterns while we all waited uncomfortably in an eerie half-light for the back-up genset to kick in. After ordering my chicken, vegetables and naan I tried to explain about the phone. In the end, I gathered my lack of telecommunication was the least of their concerns. Fair enough. (Thoughts of Basil Fawlty return with renewed and sustained vigour).
After quite a pleasant meal and almost two hours of uninterrupted power supply, during which I had the pleasure to hear a garbled Tony Greig commentate of a badly ghosted replay of some day/night match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, I decided that it was time for a nice, hot shower and an early night.
Silly me! What was I thinking? Not only was there no hot water coming out of the hot water tap (and yes, I checked both in the daily, sub-continent, which-is-the-hot-tap-today lottery) but there no water of any description coming out of the hot tap! After getting redressed it was time to pay yet another visit to now-officially Basil on the front desk. Standing in the lobby, slightly damp, I explained to Basil that there was no hot water. Basil called for Manuel to take a look at the unco-operative tap.
Manuel and I returned to my room where Manuel proceeded to turn the hot tap on to confirm that there was no hot water. Yep, there was no hot water. Manuel said “5 minutes” and left. Shortly afterwards, Manuel returned with another Manuel. Manuel 2 repeated the process to confirm there was no hot water. Yep, there was still no hot water. Manuel 2 pointed mysteriously upwards and said “5 minutes”, then both Manuels 1 and 2 left. After a few minutes, Manuels 1 and 2 returned with yet another Manuel. I now had an entire regiment of Manuels standing in my shower recess trying to solve the mystery of the missing hot water. Manuel 3 pointed, not mysteriously but knowingly, upwards and said “5 minutes”. Manuel 3 left without taking Manuels 1 and 2 with him but soon returned. Manuel 3 turned on the hot water tap and, miraculously, there was hot water. Manuels 1, 2 and 3 all pointed knowingly upwards. As my army of Manuels trooped triumphantly out of the bathroom I also pointed knowingly upwards and Manuel 3 nodded.
My stay at Faran Towers would indeed be brief.