by Valerio Gori
Hollywood films puzzle me. Not all of them. Some of them. Might say most of them. Especially the well-directed ones that end up with pathetic, inappropriate final scenes. The list is tremendously long: Blood Diamonds, A Beautiful Mind, etc. Without those very last minutes, these films would have been really nice. Yet, when they came out in theatres, they were just flawed. I always wondered how was it possible for the same person to direct the first 145 minuted of the Gladiator as well as the last 10.
K. is a random young man in Jaipur. Seems nice and quite lonely. Nothing unusual for a boy living and working in Mumbai, who moved here for a few-days-long business trip. At least, that is what he told us when we first met. Alessandro and I were coming from a long discussion on the difficulty to share simple, genuine experiences with locals. And there he came K., showing us we were wrong. And he did it with the simplest smile and the kindest invite: let’s go get a beer altogether.
As we got to the hotel where the bar was, K. helped us to the bar. For all that matters (and it does, as later explained), he was the worst guide ever. He apologised for all the times we had to turn back and get the stairs, but that was the first time he got into the hotel. In the end, K. had to ask several times for directions to get to the bar. We did not mind. It was funny for us to get lost in the labyrinth of nicely decorated rooms and corridors. The hotel was a high-class one and K’s behaviour (not to mention his outfit) were far from being compliant to that required to the hotel guests. Nor were ours, though. But we were Europeans; nobody cares if you wear dirty and cheap T-shirts when you carry euros in your pocket.
We enjoyed all that. Alessandro and I were in our habitat, as high-class hotels have the same touch everywhere in the World (or, at least, that is my experience). And that touch is much closer to the places we belonged to than to ordinary India. K talked a lot, explaining his story; without spending much time detailing it, K told us he came to Jaipur with his boss for a few days. Then he asked whether it would have been fine for us if he invited him over. So it was. And the boss’ cousin – who works in the same company, too – came as well. It was weird as anyone was apparently keen to inviting someone new to join. That’s India, I thought. They share, they are used to share. They grow up in big families where everything is in common. Thus, they must be eager to share our company with those that are close, too. It was weird, but nice.
A pleasant evening. Studded weird questions, I avoided to consider unpolite only because Indian new-culture is much more based on you-are-what-you-earn than ours. Before living, we were almost forced to accept that K. would have been our guide for the next day in Jaipur. We could not refuse.
Indians can be annoying even when they are nice. They are simply too nice for us. We wanted to be free. We wanted no guide. Moreover, we realised that we were feeling uneasy with all the questions we were asked on our salaries and economic status. Too bad we decided to use an excuse to get rid of K. and keep travelling our own way. The moment we did, we felt guilty of some sort of Western closeness of our minds. Still, it was over. We met K., shared a beer with him and his bosses and that was it. We left him behind our backs. He was a nice guy we shared some nice hours with. That’s it.
As we were going around Jaipur, we met K. three times. That was not a coincidence, as in Jaipur you always end up on the main road. And there he was. Always trying to get another appointment. With increasing excitement. In the end, he came to be annoying. We declined until last time, when he irrupted in a McDonald’s where we had dinner with some random Spanish nice folks and insisted on having a tea. If the reader has been in India, he knows there is no way to say no. So we went, but one condition: it must have been quick.
As we got to the very same hotel, K guided us, again. He appeared to be much more at ease in there than last time. Never asked for directions to get to the restaurant. I never doubted the ability of young Indian boys to learn quickly, yet I felt suspicious. I asked him why did we get to that same hotel, and he answered he always get there. “I know you, young little liar” was all that I could think…
K took a table for three, as three we were. I ordered my tea and waited for someone else to join our table. No one was expected, but as things went by, the plot was more and more clear to me. And right I was: two men came. One was an old boss (boss of last night bosses) and the bosses’ boss. It is quite complicated to understand hierarchies in a country where everyone claims to be a boss… Summarising, I can claim with a certain confidence that we met the whole company management team those days!
Neither Alessandro nor I liked the way thins were turning. Clearly, the gentlemen were aiming at something more than a nice chat. K got nervous and kept scratching his nails. And was silent. Completely silent. Alessandro made him good company, thinking it was best to leave the conversation to me. So it was. The bosses kept introducing business and money-related subjects to discuss while I kept on turning the conversation to foolish matters as the political configuration of the Indian States within the Federation. This annoyed them. It would have annoyed me, as well, I believe. But that I looked forward to.
No need to explain all the reasons that brought Alessandro and me to think – from different directions – that our guests cared for us for a specific purpose. Smuggling, we both suppose. Kidnapping was out of discussion, considering the context (yet too long to explain). Moreover, our guests’ organisation was into the diamonds business and it is much easier for a Western tourist to pass unnoticed through security checks. Still, it does not matter. Whatever they wanted, that was not what we wished for.
As I asked for the bill to get away, the waiter waited for one of the bosses to assent. That really annoyed me. I was questioning myself on who these people might have been. Still, not relevant. I was so disgusted and frustrated I just wanted to leave. So did we. I paid my bill and went away.
Getting back to my hotel room I realised I was neither angry nor too annoyed. I was sad. I sought for someone to consider me a person rather than a wallet surrounded by pale, Western skin. I thought I found the chance to get to know India better and I knew some of its worst. In the end, I realised there was nothing I wished more than erasing the last hours from my mind. K would have remained a nice guy willing to make friends. I would have discovered something real that India hardly shown us before. Something I liked much. A bridge over different cultures.
I would have written a much shorter post. A nicer one.
And there I was.
Begging my mind “just to cut the end, please“.