Monday, April 21, 2008

Of Flies And Fools

First, the flies. One of the hardest parts of living in India is that everything, everything is different than it is in the US. Sometimes during the first couple of months I would lay in bed in the morning and wish I could stay there because the thought of another day in a place where nothing was familiar seemed too daunting.

Within a few days of living here, we noticed that even the flies were different. Up till then all I knew about flies was that they vomited every time they landed. I had heard this in grade school and it had stuck with me. At this point I tell myself this is an urban myth, like the story about Ricky Schroeder dying when he washed his Pop Rocks down with a cola. I tell myself this because fooling myself is easier than running to a sink a scrubbing every time a fly lands on me.
Anyway, the flies in India are more sedate. They fly slower, they take off slower, they seem to do everything slower. At home when a pesky fly came around, one swish of my hand was enough to send the fly scurrying of for a couple of minutes of wild flight. Here, no such luck. When they land, they want to stay. "Go ahead and swish that hand around," they seem to say, "it's creating a refreshing breeze for me. I think I'll sit here and enjoy it." Sometimes you actually have to brush or flick them off. You know, make contact with the flies (it's an urban myth, it's an urban myth, it's an urban myth).

Then, last night I was reading the end of my latest novel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. In a passage describing a memory of the main character's father who had just immigrated to the US, it said this, "...Baba started grumbling about American flies. He'd sit at the kitchen table with his flyswatter, watch the flies darting from wall to wall, buzzing here, buzzing there, harried and rushed. 'In this country, even flies are pressed for time,' he'd groan." I had to take a minute and laugh at how differently we all perceive things.

On to the fools. I seem to have jinxed myself. Perhaps after I wrote this post about our guards, I should have knocked on some wood. A few weeks ago our driver, Kirpa Shankar, arrived at the house early in the morning and found Pushpindar bathing behind the house. Kirpa Shankar pointed out that this was not a good place for a man to wash himself because the children or I might walk out or look out our window and see him. Pushpindar was offended by this rebuke and wanted to fight. Thankfully Kirpa Shankar was mature enough to avoid fighting. This morning when Kirpa Shankar arrived at the house, he once again found Pushpindar bathing. When he reminded Pushpindar that this was a bad place to wash, the guard became very angry and threatened to find Kirpa Shankar on his way home tonight and shoot him.

I had convinced myself that what I can only think to call the "macho mentality" was not present in our employees. This idea that any disagreement is considered an insult and that it can only be resolved by asserting one's manhood through violence. I know it is prevalent here. I read about it in the newspaper daily, but I just couldn't see it in this meek seemingly kind hearted boy.
Now we are faced with the task of letting both of our guards go. They are brothers remember? I can only hope that our new guards are better, as they may actually have something to guard us from.

So, who are the fools? Pushpindar, for macho-ing himself and his newly married brother out of their jobs, and me, for fooling myself into believing I knew him.


SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I think it is an urban myth. I've never even heard it myself.

And can you believe how exhausting unfamiliarity with one's surroundings can be? It's as if you have to re-invent the wheel for everything.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Oh, and Larry and I have taken to torturing Anna by suggesting that we may move somewhere else for a year or two. It's a fun game.

Mr. Smith's Brother said...

Dealing with the unknown is the most challenging of all the hurdles we face in life. You've created comfort in the midst of chaos (or so it appears to we spectators) and deserve our praise for it (and some astonishment for those of us who know you well:-). As for you guard situation, your driver may have more to fear than you.