I was late to wake up, the hostel body clock had not yet unwound. The only thing that can wake me, other than the aroma of food, is
“Jimmy! Wake up now; it’s time to get up”. My father said. He has this particular way of saying it loudly but in a rhythm of some old hindi song. It is a command and a shock at the same time.
I wake up quickly and become presentable to meet Maya, a single, female, 32, from US who had come to our place, in Jodhpur, through a social networking web site.
“You are kidding me”
“How they come to your place?”
“Why do they come to your place?”
“What web site is this?”
“You get to stay with foreign chicks”
These are some of the common responses my friends give me every time I tell them about foreign travellers putting up at my place.
Well, that’s what you get a when you put together empowering IT technology and a man determined to be powerful, my father.
The magnitude of the age of our foreign guest bothered me, in comparison to other parts of her ASL, as I combed my non-existent silky hair locks, but the name Maya somehow breathed promise.
“Meet my Son, Jimmy.” My father introduced me to Maya.
She looked like a typical foreign traveller, with a pair of cotton, coarse grain, semi- transparent Pyjamas which look very comfortable and must be very cheap. A black open shoulder top with a ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ printed light cotton cloth covering her bare shoulders. She was carrying a sling bag with all the foreign tourist essentials of medicine, camera, bead necklaces and tissue papers.
She was five-four, with sun burnt skin and average built and appearance.
“Hi Maya, I am Jimmy. I did my BE in Computer Science and then worked for IBM for about 1 year. Then I did my MBA in Marketing, and now I will be working for Maruti.”
I said without pausing for breath.
She was expressionless.
I was stunned.
With an introduction like that I had killed all chances of any further conversation. I vowed to unlearn the answers I had learned for company placements and also whatever formal education remained in my brain.
“You know, the company that makes cheap Indian cars! “
I tried to make up, but the verdict was clear.
After a few cursory glances and words about how much time in India, where you going next, how much you like India, I gave up, and left to have a cup of tea with my mother.
My mom is the most adorable creature in the whole world. Like every spoilt child I can say this with the most conviction.
“The maid servant has not yet come?” My mother was concerned.
“This Maya girl is not that great looking.” I am on very friendly terms with my mother.
“I have to get clothes from upstairs.” She reminded herself.
“I want to eat Dal Baati today.” I love my mother for her culinary skills
“I missed my favourite daily soap yesterday.” She resolved to watch the repeat telecast.
“I think I will bath today.”
Even my mom was surprised at this.
We finished our tea.
We have this very special relation where we understand each other perfectly without having any real conversation. She resumed her chores. I flipped a few channels on our new big TV.
“Get ready every one. We are leaving in 10 minutes.” My father said.
His particular style of speaking makes it a command and a shock at the same time.
And indeed, we have locked our doors, squeezed in our Maruti, with me in the Driving seat, Dad beside me and Maya and Mom at the back seats; we embark on our journey in exactly ten minutes.
“Go Straight”. My father said.
I obeyed. I lifted the clutch pedal too quickly and the car jolted to a halt.
“What was that? You have forgotten to drive?” My father said.
“So where are we heading?” I said as I managed to put the wheels in motion.
Now I am not a bad driver, in fact I am a decent driver, but somehow the occasional little mistakes that happen while you drive, start happening a lot more often when my Dad sits beside me.
“We are going to a nearby village; it would be good experience for Maya to visit rural India.” My father said.
“It would be a good experience for me as well.” I said
“The newspaper boy was asking for payment.” My mother continued from where she had left.
I knew my mom would enjoy the rural visit as soon as she gets her mind of her assumed daily duties. But Maya, she would evaporate in this harsh weather and extreme climate. And she wouldn’t understand anything about rural life. Still, she could take some pictures with village people, to show off to her friends, back at her country.
“I am really excited to go to a village.” She was speaking to my dad.
I hope the village sun won’t steal your excitement. I said in my mind.
Watching funny sit coms can give you a refresher course in seemingly smart, slapstick one-liners. Meanwhile, I managed to dodge a rapidly approaching city bus but crashed head on with my father’s dismissal of my fast depleting driving skills.
“My journey to India would be incomplete without this. I feel a cosmic chain of events taking me to this village.” Maya thanked my Dad for fulfilling her destiny.
I watched Maya in the rear view mirror, waving her hand to school going children. The children waved back enthusiastically.
“India is so full of energy. Everyone is so eager to share and help.” Maya complimented the entire Indian population.
Don’t these foreigners realise it. I pondered. Can’t they see that they are the monkeys in the zoo; and all Indians are just waiting with peanuts in their fists?
I humbled the Indian population.
I swiftly manoeuvred the car, as a cow directed the traffic control of the road.
“You must be extra careful when there are cows on the road.” My father said.
“Your son is driving alright.” Maya came to my rescue.
She is finally over my stunning introduction. I mentally high-fived myself. May be now she can see the cool side of me, I thought hopefully.
“You know the spirit of India lies in villages.” I pushed my case further.
But alas, I had pushed my case in fields where my Dad is an expert- Spiritualism and Villages.
What followed was a discourse on the bare essentials of Hinduism, Yoga, Mythology, Village life, Local deities. In fact my dad was speaking with such fluency and humour, I started enjoying his conversation.
Listening to some beautiful poems on village life, in my dad’s heavy voice, we reached our village. Modi Joshiyan.
We entered a house and were immediately welcomed by the entire family. They treated us like old time family friends and offered us tea and snacks. After customary introduction about our caste and our village, the males and females were taken in separate rooms.
The head of the house offered us opium, the traditional way of welcoming guests by Bishnoi clan. The entire way of consuming opium was quite elaborate and was more like a ritual.
My father summoned for Maya, after taking permission from the head of the family, of course.
The apparatus for preparing opium consisted of a silver stand with two jute filters attached. The big bishnoi in his white turban took out some dry opium from a plastic bag and meticulously grounded it in an ornate vessel. Then he mixed it with water and put it in the jute filters where it collected in another vessel.
He offered it to my dad, first and then to me.
Now this part was really tricky. The man poured some liquid opium in his hand and we had to slurp it from his hand.
Well, as long it is Opium, hygiene can wait.
He offered opium to Maya as well who willingly took gulps of freshly ground opium water. The process was repeated till we could not bear the bitter taste of opium.
We were offered Mango Bite to give our taste buds some respite.
Maya returned to the ladies room where many a village girls had come to see the fair skinned girl from far away land.
Poor Maya, I thought. She would be in a whirlpool of words she can’t comprehend.
“We will go now, to another village”, my father said, cutting short the details of the family dispute, our host had managed over a piece of land.
It was his time to experience my dad’s particular style of speaking that makes it a command and a shock at the same time.
I was told to convey our departure to mom and Maya. As I entered the ladies room I saw Maya deeply engrossed in conversation with a village girl, roughly her own size but definitely younger and arguably prettier. Maya was doing all the listening but her hand was on her shoulders and she has a smile on her face as if she understood everything the girl was saying.
I told that we were about to leave and rushed. It was the ladies room after all.
I and dad waited for the females to appear and bid our farewell to the Bishnoi’s at their huts gate. I listened to their Marwari accent and amazed how dad could understand such different dialects.
I was praising my dad.
The opium was taking effect. It is believed to make you see things clearly.
As the women delayed even more dad asked me to reverse the car and bring it front of the gate.
This was my chance, it was tricky to reverse the car in narrow village lane and if I could give this one flawless performance of precise control of accelerator, brake and clutch I would redeem my position as a driver, in front of dad. This was my chance to drive myself to glory.
I cautiously put the car in reverse and with surgical precision parked it right in front of the gate.
The opium had taken effect. It is believed to improve your driving.
The females had arrived and I geared myself up for the long drive ahead.
“I am not going with you guys.” Maya announced.
Maya was out of her senses. I thought.
“Thank you, Vipin (dad) for bringing me to this village. How can I ever repay you? You are my messiah. You have led me to my destiny.”
The opium had its effect on her, I presumed. It is believed to make you crazy.
My father looked at her face intently. His eyes were growing bigger.
She is out of her freaking minds, she wants to stay here? In a village called nowhere. I was unable to comprehend the depths of this stupid act.
Village people will probably rape her and kill her. I imagined the worst case and highly likely scenario.
“No Vipin, I am not out of my senses. I have found my soul mate here, in Kamla. She and I just connected. We talked and understood each other on a spiritual plane. We must have common past karma.”Maya spoke confidently.
My mom is emotional but she vouched that the two were inseparable in the ladies room
My dad stared at her some more, and started to clear his throat-
I prayed that the opium doesn’t have its effect on Dad. It is believed to make you violent.
“As you wish”. My father said.
Not in his particular way of speaking but it was a command for me and a shock.