Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A few days ago, I thumbed through a journal I'd kept while travelling through India with wife two. That was the year I left her in Kathmandu because I had to return to work earlier that she did. She went back to India, met Mother Theresa and two days later, the saint on earth died. When I spoke to her on the phone, I had to ask, "What did you do to her?"

We had been to Rishikesh, a village made famous because the Beatles went there to learn at the feet of the Maharishi and write the White Album.

I think most guide books point this out more than they do the importance of the sanctity of the village. We'd walked down a street lined with small snack shops and everybody remembered wife two from her ashram days. They'd remembered her mainly for her haggling prowess and her large blond hair. I was grateful for those moments.

We were financially well off after working four or five jobs between us throughout the year in Kuwait.

We passed out a lot of money to beggars. It was my first trip to India and I hadn't expected the beggar scene to be so irritating. Handing them money did no good. In fact, it made them more aggressive; no amount was ever enough to shoo them off. On a Saturday afternoon, on our way to the Red Fort in Delhi, we walked passed two beggars, mother and daughter huddled together, squatting Asian style on the sidewalk. As soon they saw us, the mother dispatched her young daughter to run after us. I was about to give her ten rupees, but CV intervened.

She was really hacked off and she yelled at the kid. I didn't undertand at first how she could yell at a child. The child took it in stride and returned empty handed to her mother. CV explained to me, "Didn't you see the jewelry she was wearing-the earrings, the necklace? Her dress was new.

That bracelet on her wrist means she's a an upper caste. This is just a Saturday afternoon sport for them. Save your money for someone who really needs it." I'd forgotten how annoying beggars can be until I moved to Taif and onto this compound. There are a lot of Bangla Deshi men wandering about picking up trash, weeding the garden on the round-abouts. They all want to earn extra money, and the only option they have is to get hired on by one of us as a houseboy and gardener.

For less than a hundred dollars a month, I could have a well tended lawn, rose bushes, a landscaped front and backyard, my house cleaned everyday, clothes washed, ironed, bed made, hot meals waiting for me. The problem is choosing one. As soon as I come home from work, they are waiting outside my house. Three of them yesterday. Four the day before. "No suh, I am good house boy, hire me. Please suh. I not lazy boy." Yesterday a fistfight nearly broke out. "No suh, I come to you first. He lazy boy." These are men, like me, far from home, like me, with children. I have a child. They do not sleep in a three bedroom villa. They sleep ten to twenty to a warehouse floor. We are all lonely for home. It is as heartbreaking as much as it is irritating.

The military work is not much different from worki...The military work is not much different from working in an intensive university or community college language program, that is classroom management can often have you staring into the abyss.