Wednesday, February 15, 2012
My landlord is away on holiday, and one of his buddies, Rashid, came to the house to make sure all was well, and that the tenants were happy and the servant was doing his job. After I reassured him all was well, he invited me to his hotel for dinner. I was not really surprised, as I find that well-to-do Indians do like company from other countries and are very hospitable. Since I was going up to that area any way to look into the cost of Thai massage and a steam bath, I paid Rashid a visit. His hotel was on a hill, with an amazing view of Darjeeling, but away enough to be in the cool and quiet woods. There were guava, mango and papaya trees all around the hotel, and along all the rails was a profusion of a strong orange coloured honeysuckle. It was very pleasing to the eyes. He invited me to his house at the very top, one with Roman columns, and an ornate balustrade, leading up to the upper rooms. I was a bit concerned that I was being shown this huge empty house on my own; not that I have been hit upon much now that I am in my fifties, and have stopped dyeing my hair, but among other things, I wondered if the many servants were used to a routine of western female tourists being brought into this den of ostentatious opulence. We eventually settled on a balcony on the top floor, one that led out from a spacious bedroom. Hmmmm... He ordered a fruit plate and sweet lime soda for me and pulled out a bottle of Scotch for himself. I declined to drink, which I do from time to time and anyway, I hate Scotch. We exchanged pleasantries, but his body language was restless and his attention span was quite poor. I am quite used to this. Racist as it sounds, many many Indians appear restless and inattentive during conversations. We got to talking about my landlord's servant, who is challenged in many ways, including speech, hearing and possibly mental faculties. He is a poor local villager. I mentioned that I thought he was unusually rough with my landlord's beloved dogs, pulling them by their legs, and otherwise manhandling them, to which Rashid quickly pointed out that female dogs were not safe in the servant's company. I shuddered, and said that was disgusting. I figured that he needed to tell me this to test my shock-ability, but it might not have been anything as premeditated at that. It could simply have been that he felt less inhibited in a western person's company. I am often seen as more approachable on taboo topics of discussion. I oblige and listen quite a bit.
Our talk was soon interrupted by two people who came to join us on the balcony. One was a thirty something year old swami whom Rashid has given free access to his house and a permanent bedroom. Rashid told me later that he did a lot of pujas in the house and that hosting holy people gave him good karma. The fellow was European, possibly northern Italian, wearing sadhu Baba garb, and with him was a female devotee from UK, wide-eyed, blonde, willowy and young. She told me her home was mostly in India, but she went back to UK to work every six months to raise money doing contract work in urban design. The swami prattled on about many things with a feminine affect, speaking quickly and jabbing in the air, mostly about the lineage of various spiritual masters. He often stopped to ask me a sudden question, and when I paused during my answer, he would quickly take over. Among other things I found out that the most honourable swamis, the least likely to be up to shenanigans, were Bengali. He also told me that Danish people were the best people on earth, and for a second I almost fell for the idea that my personal ancestry, Bengali and Danish, were just the most virtuous and desirable people on earth. I quickly snapped out of it. The devotee said "I knew you were Indian, something about your energy, your aura..." to which I said nothing. Nobody noticed my silence, which was a relief, because I did not have to tell more of my standard story of how it came to be that I was this and that. They left as suddenly as they came, and there I was with a slightly inebriated host and a fantastic view of the valley. There was a few seconds of silence.
Then Rashid started to tell me about his affair with a Czech woman, in the spirit of his perception that I was open to hearing about ostensibly shocking things. He told me about wife swapping parties in Delhi, and elsewhere. I didn't blink or miss a beat. I nodded. He explained that Indian wives just did their sexual duty without moving, and it was boring. From this information, I gleaned that his sex life with his wife was not good, but he did not say this explicitly. Nor did I get that she had joined him in these swinging circles.
He told me he had had affairs, but he was tired of younger women, because they were not experienced, that in fact, he was looking for older women because they knew what they were doing. I looked at him squarely in the eye, and said "don't look at me" rather matter-of-factly and laughing. He apologized profusely and said "no, no" that he didn't mean any disrespect. I said I wasn't offended, but just wanted to be clear that I was not interested. He moved on. He asked me if I could help him by finding an experienced older woman. I dont' know why but I said "sure, I will keep an eye out for you" and then considered what it would be to look out for such a woman in my daily walks and if I found one, how I would broach the subject. But why leave it at that?
I decided to turn things around a bit. I told him if his wife was not moving during sex, then it was his responsibility to do something about it. He looked mildly surprised. He was also a bit drunk. This was good. A good time to talk to him about the facts of life. Cultural metaphors work really well sometimes. As corny as it sounds, I explained to him that every woman was a Radha, waiting for her Krishna to come to her and seduce her, to make love to her. I said your wife is like Radha, waiting for you. His eyes were wide open and his ears perked up. The previously inattentive guy was very attentive. He asked me to clarify. I said that every woman wants to have good sex naturally, it just has to be woken up, and that his wife was right there waiting for him, only in her thirties, so what on earth was he doing running around looking for other women? I should clarify that he has several homes, in other towns, and his wife was in one of those houses as we sat in this one, discussing his possible duties as an Indian husband. I moved on to the metaphor of music. I said he would have to be the musician, and she would be the instrument, and that he would have to make music. He liked that a lot and started laughing as if it was a very big aha! moment. I laughed too and there was a sense of relief in the air for both of us. We were both talking about something dear to our hearts. He asked me where he could learn all this. I said it's from your own books, the Kama Sutra. He said "but my wife will be suspicious". I said no, she wouldn't be suspicious if he told her he loves her and has been doing research, and wants to improve their marriage. I told him to leave some such books lying around in the bedroom. I recommended he should start with endearments, and offer her foot massage and flowers. I should have mentioned chocolates, as mainsteam Indian TV certainly plays up these western cliches of what women want and it might work. Flowers and chocolate.
Rashid was very happy and declared that I was his guruji. I said "no, I don't think so" and laughed, and said I would be his friend. He said I could come and stay at his place anytime I wanted and for as long as I wanted. It was a very nice offer. He offered to drive me home on his motorcycle, but I insisted that I preferred one of his people who had not been drinking to drive me home.