Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Memories of conversations in Singapore pt. 1

December 2009

I was walking around in the Arab quarter of Singapore. The sun was getting low in the sky and the afternoon was drawing to a close in not too long. I was looking for Ishani and Maria. We were going to meet and go to Ambrosia shisha-bar in Baghdad Street. Ishani had text’ed me the name of a street they were currently walking along and I tried to look for it. I thought I knew where it was but couldn’t find it, so I decided to ask someone.

In the 5-foot-walk outside a Persian carpet shop I found two guys sitting and talking. One on a chair with his back towards the street, and one on top of a massive stack of carpets. The one on the carpet-pile nodded towards me to signal to his friend who now turned around and asked how he could help me.

“I’m looking for this street,” I said. “Maybe you can help me?”
Turned out he didn’t know where it was neither. Then the conversation quickly turned.

“Do you need a carpet?”
(Me looking surprised by the sudden topic-change.)
“I have many nice carpets here, we could find one that you’d like.”
I smiled and said I that I was back for holidays and a friends’ wedding and that I didn’t live here anymore. Hence, I would probably not need a carpet at the moment, but thanks!
“Where do you live Sir?”
“Right now I live in the UK.”
“Maybe you’ll need a carpet in the UK? I can fly it for you!”
I was surprised to hear that a small local shop behind a 5-foot-walk by Arab Street in Singapore shipped internationally. But hey! Internet age, bulk ships and big aeroplanes… It didn’t exactly take me three months on a sail-ship to get to this part of the “far orient” neither, so maybe I should have some more faith in his logistics. Curious I asked:
“Do you do international deliveries?”
“Do you fly goods internationally as air-cargo with a freight company or something?”
“No no no no no!” he replied with a big smile and a thick Indian accent.
“I fly it for you!”
He made a hand-move as to hold the tip of the carpet up in font of him while sitting on it.
“Ahh! Like Aladdin’s magic carpet?”
“Yes, yes! My carpets are magic!”
All of us were laughing pretty well by now.
“Well, thank you! I will let you know if I need any carpets in Europe!”

It was sad to leave. Both fellows were really funny and if I had stuck around, who knows, maybe I would have learned the ancient skill so few today master: to fly a Persian carpet! But I had to find Ish' and Maria. Maybe I should come back for a lesson one day. Indian and Arab traders are great on making deals, so maybe I could suggest something like:
“Ok, if I buy these carpets and don’t bargain the price, you give me flying lessons! And if I come back with my friend and he buys carpets I get more lessons! OK?”

Firm eye contact! Don’t give in! Prepare for handshake and you should have it nailed!

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