Flash Fiction 2: Hadia

“Holy SHIT!” Deon exclaimed.  His taxi had just narrowly avoided oncoming vehicles by mere inches.  It wasn’t really a taxi, it was a rickshaw, pulled by a bicycle.  And Deon had just opened his eyes after catching a power nap from the airport.  His stomach was not settled, and the rough ride on the rickshaw to the hotel was not helping.  Should have taken a regular taxi, but then he would have spent more than the 12 minutes it had taken to get to the hotel.  Business trips.  Useless, pointless ventures that only reinforced Deon’s opinion of outsourcing tasks.  Sure, there were quite a few genuinely brilliant people on this team, but the less so made everyone, and the whole company, look bad.

His taxi arrived, lurching to a halt.  “I’ll get your bag,” came the very proper British.  Deon tipped his driver and said “thank you.”  Then he took his large suitcase and looked around. Near the hotel, they advertised what he expected was only marginal American food, and from his research, the hotel had only marginal amenities.  His company’s budget restrictions kept him out of the luxury hotels.  He had seen the few reviews online for the hotel where he was staying, not good.  “The Orange Diamond” hotel.  Why an “Orange Diamond?”  Maybe because the name “White Diamond” was already taken?  “I wonder whether the cockroaches in India like curry,” he quipped to himself.

“I need a drink.”  He said it to himself, but heard the same clipped British voice.

“They brew a drink called ‘Hadia’ in the restaurant around the corner which may not upset your stomach too much further, but I think perhaps a weak but hot tea might be more helpful.  ‘Hadia’ is a mild rice beer.  And I recommend the tandoori chicken- they offer it ‘mild’ – with some simple white rice.”

That scored another tip for my tipster.  “Thank you very much.”  Deon trusted that a local would know where to eat, and naturally, what to eat.  He checked his bag at the hotel, and walked around to the restaurant.  It was crowded- a good sign – but he really disliked crowded areas.  He asked if he could take his food and drink away with him.  The agreeable host provided an ample serving he would never finish, on layers of paper plates, and his beverage in a large paper cup.  Deon decided on the beer.  He found a less crowded area with a bench, found a place to sit, and ate.

Deon ate more than he thought he would, drank the entire beverage, and disposed of the trash.  Returning to his hotel room, he fell into a deep sleep.  In his dream, he had just married the Indian princess, and they were riding off to their honeymoon castle on the smoothest horses he had ever ridden.

Next morning he had a business meeting with the local manager, who introduced the staff proudly and then insisted on purchasing breakfast.  Deon chose a porridge made of poha, thinking that would be mild on his still-sensitive stomach, and black coffee.  The meeting was tolerable enough, the staff falling over themselves to make a good impression. He documented everything required..  The second day he met another team under the manager, and endured another tour with explanations of the various tasks handled at the facility.  There was no need to stay another day, although the company had arranged for him to stay for three.  So Deon spent the next day escaping the hotel compound, walking through the local market, and along the beach, snacking at a local vendor’s booth that he had seen a lot of people visit.  He really didn’t want to do any other tourist-y sight seeing, although there was a per diem that would have allowed it.  He picked up souvenirs for his associates from the market, packed them in his suitcase, and on the morning of the fourth day, rode back to the airport with the same local rickshaw driver.  That was a stroke of luck, he thought.

Finally, boarding the plane, he took his seat for the long flight.  He closed his eyes, and didn’t open them until the plane took off and stopped straining for altitude.  Seated next to him was an absolutely lovely Indian woman, traveling alone.  It was uncanny.  She looked exactly like the woman from his dream on the first night.  Could the hadia have given him a vision in the night?  Deon felt nervous, but courageously struck up a conversation.  He stumbled over his nervousness.  She responded with the most beautiful sounding laughter he had ever heard, somehow like soft, delicate wind chimes.

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