Capital is dead labor
– Karl Mark
Wind howled outside. South east monsoon was brewing and coming in fast. Darme, our porter, heaved himself up from his beloved stool with a valiant effort and resumed his ambling to and fro about the deserted lounge, checking on windows that overlooked river Bentota.
He had been with our company for the last forty years, a faithful and obedient servant, attending to the well-being of our staff and looking after our guests. Dressed in his crispy white livery with red and gold touches, he painted a picture of hearty antiquity about the place, and added a sense of authority to our front office environment.
When our competitors positioned good looking women at their doorsteps to entertain new visitors, Darme’s distinguished appearance and friendly disposition captured the hearts of all who checked in to our inn form every corner of the world.
In a sense, a company mannequin he was. A company mannequin which was very alive.
I started as the rain blasted upon us in a perfect torrent, its pent-up fury evident by the frenzied drumming on the asbestos roof, its angry talons clawing away ineffectually at the dripping glass panes. Darme had closed the windows on time.
I returned to my tab, ignoring the violence. Tap. Tap. Rooms no 5 and 6 booked. Mr. Jabir in 12 has ordered a Tuna Kottu tonight…
“Sir, a visitor at five o clock” Darme croaked over his shoulder as he reached for his giant umbrella. Tab in hand, I swiveled in my chair. A rain-washed, rickety tuktuk had deposited a passenger at the entrance. Darme brought him in.
“Goodness me, this is indeed terrible weather!” said the stranger, in fluent Russian.
Later, in dry clothes, with a steaming cup of black coffee nestled between his palms, he explained to me his requirement.
It appeared he was a lecturer in a Russian university. Fond of his students, he desired to introduce them to the unique experience of scootering about the lush countryside of rural Ceylon.
“Not far from here the Colombo-Galle Main Road branches off towards a town called Elpitiya,” he elaborated. “This offers good thirty kilometers of peaceful countryside riding. From Elpitiya, we can take the road to Ambalngoda and reach the coast once again.”
The entire route, he called: the ‘AEA* Triangle’. But the most important thing, he insisted, is that he himself should test the feasibility of this idea – out in the rain. He would be leaving for Russia in two days time so can I find someone to accompany him around AEA, now?
I politely informed him I am truly at my wits end. He offered ten thousand rupees to hire old Darme but I remained adamant. “Not for ten thousand. Not for sixty thousand”
The lecturer’s eyes gleamed. “So sixty thousand is the limit?”
Two years have gone and I am quite a wealthy man now. After the arrival of the Russian students Lots of my guests have taken a fancy in riding this AEA triangle. Maintaining two dozens of scooters was not easy but it brought me an appreciative income.
Darme died some months ago. But he was one of the pioneers of this thriving start-up. He dared nature’s ferociousness at a time when he should be in a bed, resting.
My clients still ask for him. As a reply I point them out my new business logo; Darme’s friendly face smiling down at them above the new company name board that proclaims ‘AEA’.
However, I am determined now that I would never take another chance with my company mannequin again.
*AEA (Aluthgama-Elpitiya-Ambalangoda) pronounced ‘aayeh’