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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Of hookers, road-trips and induced unemployment

I am writing this as I was woken up by a couple of hookers who just returned from a night-out somewhere and got locked out of their own house because the guy sleeping inside was stoned and passed out and wouldn't wake up to open the door for them. I managed to help them get in by trying to break their door open, in the attempts of which one of the stoned people inside woke up and opened the door. It's been a rainy night and the sun has not quite risen yet, and I am here awake and unable to go back to sleep, and this is quite as much of an attempt to get back to writing as it is to find something to do in my second month of voluntary unemployment. This also happens to  be a self-imposed pivotal moment in my life as I complete three decades on this planet very soon, and the promise that I made myself ten years ago of finding myself or my calling by the time I'm 30 is perilously close to being realised or disappointed (although I will be 30 for a whole year :D). Anyway, so I took a month off to travel around north India, missed a train to Allahabad and thereby the Mahakumbh which was happenening after more than a century or so, missed another flight to Chennai to meet my nonagenarian grandaunts coz I got too drunk the previous night. Well, these things don't surprise those who've known me for a while, but these are habits that I must definitely change. Losing phones, wallets, cards, consciousness, etc. is not something I want to take with me into my thirties.

I sometimes look at all the people I know, what they are doing with their lives, how they deal with various things in life, and I see many people caught up in the mundane regularities of the everyday, and some that strive to break away and seek meaning in this ever increasing mess we have created for ourselves. I do a bit of both I guess. Organised religion is almost certainly not the answer, and no matter how much they ccall independent seekers of spirituality 'whores of convenience' or whatever it's euphemism might be, I think I'd rather be a whore to convenience than a slave to ritual. So well, I am looking to see what I want to do with life, and as I see it, I stand at an extremely pivotal moment and I must take my time before I want to decide which way I want to go from this crossroads, unlike the night I spent drunk on a motorbike with my friend Peter on the backseat, somewhere around CP, trying to find our way home (to Vasant Kunj), and all we remember the next day is driving for hours, and crossing the same 'Gandhi's Dandi March' statue several times and wondering how many of them there were in Delhi! That is a funny story for a night, but if I live my life like that, I don't think I'd be laughing about it when I waake up on the other side (well, that's another philiosophical debate I have no answer to, but I'd like to believe that I will wake up somewhere, somehow).

Today, I will write about my current neighbours. My friend Martin used to stay there earlier, but he left last year, post which a Punjabi dude moved in. He stayed for about 8 months, and was very intrigued by the fact that I had 4 Indian dogs, and wanted to know if I wanted a breed, as someone in his family was a breeder. I succeeded in convincing him that I had quite a tough time handling just the four mutts I had, and that I wasn't willing to 'let go' of them if I got some 'fancy breeds' instead. Anyway, he was very intrigued by the whole set-up, so he called his breeder brother who brought home a ppuggg, a gurrmunn shaefud, and two roatwheelerrz, and they used to mess up our courtyard by bathing them everyday. Once they even locked all four of them in the house and disappeared for three days. You can imagine the mess their place was in when they got back. Well, they had give a key to my maid, who used to feed them everyday. When I complained to the landlord about this, he asked them to leave, as he is very afraid of attaining bad karma by being part of any kind of cruelty towards animals. My landlord has a couple of property related court cases pending, and tries to accumulate as much good karma as he can, so that he wins those cases (partly why he wants me to stay here with my dogs). Strange beliefs I say, noble as they may be.

I'm not writing about the Punjabi neighour this time, though, but about the ones that moved in after him. My landlord (who is an old, rather entertaining Sardar) sat me down one day, and as usual, started talking bout his days in Japan, where he ate all kinds of meat, drank all kinds of alcohol and slept with all kinds of women. He spoke about his Japanese girlfriend and how well-mannered she was and how well she took care of him. Then stories of the ship he was in on his way from Japan to India, and the halts in various countries, especially Vietnam (since he had heard that I spent 6 months there). He stopped to get up and take a leak, returning with the left side of his trousers all wet from top to bottom. He had obviously not been very successful at that venture. Anywway, so he sits on the chair in the courtyard again, and asks me, "Have you heard about Geisha Girls?" I replied in the affirmative, as I had seen parts of 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. After a brief conversation about Geishas, during all of which he was observing my take on their lifestlye and profession, he told me, "Well there are two girls moving in as your negihbours. They are Indian Geishas"

Well, I was quite thrilled at the idea of living next to hookers, as it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as was the time when I used to stay in a house where my neighbours were carpenters, truck-drivers and watchmen, but that is another story). Anyway, so here I was expecting some really hot-looking, sexy girls to walk in next door, but what actually happened took quite a lot of fizz out of the episode. The girls weren't bad, except they didn't have much education, and they were fine till they opened their mouths, which is the worst kinda fine you can find. There are three of them who stay next door, and they often have 'visitors', some of whom are constant, in the sense that they have been visiting for over 4 months or so now. So, I don't know what the technical term for this is, but I think these girls are basically 'keeps' for married men. Every now and then they get drunk, and then there are loud noises from the room,of abuses, wails, slaps, punches, kicks, pots and pans flying around, hitting the other side of one of my bedroom walls. The next morning is often intersting too. I wake up to broken bottles of beer, a girl who has cut her hand, finger, etc. Then the 'family' rushes in to take her back home to ensure that she doesn't kill herself, post 3-4 days of which, she returns smiling, and the entire routine resumes. Maybe I'll write more about them later.

I went on a road trip in my first month of unemployment. A Vietnamese girl I had met through a French friend I had in Vietnam was coming to India, and I hadn't seen most of the places here that she planned to visit, and I thought it might not be a bad time to do this while I can. It also coincided with the time when I got fed up with what I was doing at my new job, and I quit after 6 months, which was rather short considering that I had spent nearly 7 years in the organisation before that. I had saved up enough for a few months, bought a car, worked on my thesis, etc. while I had this job, but it was just too laid back and meaningless for my liking, something a lot of people would consider a dream job of sorts. I guess I just couldn't bear the fact that what I did there was not important to anyone, and what I did was merely a 'tick mark' activity for a lot of people who attended training sessions coz their managers forced them to, or because they had to take a break from work, and even the organisation had them only because they wanted to look good with a 'robust training team and a packed training calendar'!

I left all of that and went on a trip. I visited Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Mcleodganj in that order. Rajasthan was okay.I understand why it charms the west, with its colourful clothes and ethnic dance forms, camels, the desert landscape, the forts, etc. but that is not the kind of thing that fascinates me much. I took Stuart along for this stretch, and we had a good time bonding over various streets in the cities of Rajasthan. People were really surprised at the fact that I had gotten a dog with me woh bhi Desi! (and that too Indian!), but well, we were oblivious to the gazes, stares, remarks, etc. At least the Vietnamese girl was happy that we were taking some of the attention away from her.

After Rajasthan, we did Vrindavan, Mathura and Agra, this time without the dog, but by now I realised that she nd I had very different travelling styles, and I wasn't willing to spoil my vacation just trying to be nice to the visitor. So I took her to the places she wanted to visit, left her there and went and did my own thing n these places. She was not very happy about it and felt that she could have been kidnapped, raped or molested, which I had a tough time explaining to her that though common in India, does not happen inside monuments like the Taj Mahal, or the ISKCON temple, etc. Then she wanted to go to Kashmir!. So we booked flights to Srinagar and went there, and she was taken aback by the fact that there were men with guns everywhere. She thought she was goinna die. It was then that I realised that she had come to India, planned an itinerary, witout reading about the places she was visiting.

So when I mentioned Leh to her and said it would be too cold in March, she wanted to go to some part of Kashmir that wasn't too col, assuming that all of Kashmir was Buddhist and Tibetan. To top this, there was a militant attack a few hours after we landed there and we spent the next two days in a curfewed Srinagar, which meant that all we could do was stay in the house boat or go for a Shikara ride. I loved just chilling on Dal Lake for two days, post which the curfew was lifted and we got to see the Mughal Gardens and Gulmarg before we left. At this point we realised that we were better off travelling separately, and she went off to Rishikesh and I went to Mcleodganj with a college friend from Ludhiana. Mcleodganj is indeed beautiful and quite spiritual. I wish I had take a week off to go there, but as plans had it, I had just 2 days there, so we did as much as we could in those two days, but I am probably going back there quite soon.

Well, that was the road trip in a nutshell. I might write more about it elsewhere, about the details and some of the awesome places we visited, but enough has been said about it for now. The lights have just gone, and without the sound of the ceiling fan, I can hear the girls next door talking aloud and laughing about something. I don't have an opinion yet about the life they lead, and sometimes wonder if I'd like to be a hooker if I could be one. Well, thankfully, I don't have to answer that question... at least not yet. :P