SECOND AND LAST DAY OF HOUSE ARRESTcould have gone through with my planned visit Second and last day of house arrest. . .Holi continued, as promised, until about noonstreets ringing with parade noises, young men's violent loud voices, the hotel staff even more lax and familiar in their behaviors than they've beenbut now it's over and I can think about resuming my commitment to getting out of the room and into the streets. . .tomorrow. Today, finished Naipaul's book and began Geoffrey Moorhouse's Calcutta, and read through Lonely Planet a little about Goa. . .spoke to the desk clerk about changing the Calcutta ticket for a later train to Bombay; can do, he thinkswill do, in any case, tomorroweverything's closed today for Holika, the burning of the wicked witch. More Holi on TV, scenes from Mathura of women beating men as they kneel beneath shields with long heavy poles, the whole scene hazy with clouds of red powder being tossed and sprayed, and billowing from the women in their exertions. A little later, two young men staying at the hotel returned from the revelries, covered all over in colors, handprints in green on their T-shirts, small handprints I could feel on my breasts. . .meanwhile I was watching tennis on the lobby TVthe Lipton event in South Floridamore men, naturally.
I'd been bothered, on Saturday, by an incident/observation similar to one V.S. Naipaul describes as occuring to him on the lake at Srinigar: child rowers ferrying seated souvenir salesmen about in their pursuit of tourists. . .In my case, the rower of the boat was too young (maybe 13, not young in India, really. . .). I'd told Papu that I wanted an adult rower, didn't want "a boy"he misunderstood (willfully?) and I ended up hiring a different boy even youngerbut more honestthan the boy who rowed the day before. At the end of the ride, I prepared to pay 80 Rsat 50Rs/hour, a little over what I ought to have been paying for the hour and a halfat which point the boy, inexplicably, asks for baksheesh; I say, I'm paying you, why do you need baksheesh?wondering, not being nasty or aggressive, just confused. . .at this moment up springs as if from the mud a little shouting man demanding that I give the boy baksheesh and him 100 RsI start to object and he rolls his eyes: "Why you always money money madam?" I say to Papu, Who is this man? It turns out he's the boy's. . .well, they said father, but this felt like something being said for my benefit; he was in any case the owner of the boat and the employer of the boy. At this man I shoutedI've shouted very little here, almost not at all (being very quiet, and still, is more effective by far in any case)but at this man's making a commotion I shouted back, something like, "Why should I pay you when the boy did all the work? What do you do anyway?"and I did in fact refuse to give him any money (Papu paid and I reimbursed himI just refused to play); so the little man scurried back up to his no-doubt padded perch overlooking the boat landing and we continued to make derisive, unhappy noises at one another until I went away.
The choking harshness and cynical cruelty in this way of treating children, of using children to do their work for themand their begging for themwhile they idle around being loud and unpleasant, feeding their addictions, making mental investments, scheming and gossiping, pissing outdoors, displaying violent pieties, abusing women and animals, taking pointless journeys on buses and trains: is this something Indian men learn from their fathers? To some extent it must be. . .and yet to some great extent it feels like there's been a going bad in these men; it is also undeniable that the grown men doing the work that children can and most usually dolike the rowing, the chai serving, the fetch-and-carrying functions in shops and elsewherethese men are very broken down, very underfed, very degraded-seemingmany appear to be refugees who don't speak or know the local language. . .so the children in these same jobs look, by contrast, to be on the rising young executive track, with their appearance of not-yet-shattered health and spirit, their frequent fast-talking grasp of the baksheesh patter in several tourist languagesthe sense they project (in the mind of the wishful beholder, at least) of having, of coming from, a home. . .They are not so evidently in the processin its late stages, at leastof dying in harness.
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