Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Servants of nature and unseen bosses

After few days of unlimited flow, like a large keg of Efes - a Turkish beer that is in abundance in Kazakhstan, I'm hitting a slow moving writer's block. There's a half-full bottle of water on my desk staring at my half-emptiness. Surrounded by a TV, bed, couch and a dreary view through the windows of my hotel, the atmosphere refuses to bring color that is required to put letters on paper, or in this case, the keyboard.

People think travel is glamor and it brings curiosity like a child, adventure like a Dundee, freshness like a pretty girl and wisdom like an old man. All of them may be true, but if you travel for living, and live in a suitcase, the curiosity goes to sleep like an overplayed child, brushing teeth becomes an adventure, freshness is what I put on my lip to ward of the cold breeze off the streets of Atyrau, wisdom is silence that we keep at dinner tables, when subjects run out, like the BBC on a very dull day.

Mind is a funny thing, you may have noticed. It prepares itself before departing on a long trip. It ceases to miss your loved ones during the plane rides, because there's TV, rest or due to an annoying co-passenger. Then, as if it got pinched on the funny bone, it begins to miss the loved ones as soon as you checked into the hotel, by looking at the dreary view, worn couch, overslept bed and the TV that shows repeats of hard-talk. Then days pass by where you continue to miss and make attempts to reach-out and then all of a sudden that desire too cease to exist. You take up alternate methods to amuse yourself or entertain, Efes inclusive. You divide your mind between what happens at present with what could happen when you go back home, yearnings of physical kind inclusive. These divisions don't collide. They'll live in individual silos to ensure that your prestine-ness is kept for that return home, to greet your wife, husband, daughter, son, girl-friend, neighbor, dog and restart your regular life, for couple of weeks however, knowing that the bags have to be packed again.

This kind of mind-set builds only in a hard core travel man or woman. People I see at the airports with heavy hearts and tears seems very alien. They are from a different world and should depart from a different terminal, the one built specially with lots of Kleenex boxes. For us, please give us Wi-fi, Starbucks tall-cap and a place to sit and read a book. The delayed departure, missed connections, unruly babies don't really bother seasoned travelers. It's part of life of traveling, like dealing with traffic on a January winter on highway 401 (Toronto, that is). They become servants of nature with an unseen boss.

Talk about servants and bosses, I recently read two books - during plane rides, of course. One is "White Tigers" by debutant novelist Aravind Adiga, a Man-Booker Prize short listed candidate. The other is "Six Suspects" by Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A which has been translated into thirty five languages and made into a bolly-hollywood movie "Slum dog Millionaire".

Co-incidentally, both books addresses the servant class of India. The mentality, bound-ness, unquestionable loyalty, unable to break free and as such resulting cunning-ness and treason. Although both books may have been written at different times by authors who live in different part of India, or the World, their approach is identical and very authentic. If read back-to-back you'd think you're reading a book of the same author; yet the plots are different. While the "White Tiger" completely immerse in the servants' quarters, Six Suspects goes in-and-out to find the true killer amongst six unconnected people.

When I was growing up, I recall having two little girls as servants in our house however, both at various times. The girls, aged anywhere between ten and thirteen, were from the upcountry of Sri Lanka whose parents worked in the tea or rubber plantations. My parents weren't bossy type so these little girls were well taken care of and performed only menial things, like sweeping the floor, running to the nearby shop to buy sugar, milk, etc. I don't ever recall them cooking or serve us as normal servants are expected to do those days.

I strongly believe employing under-age children as wrong and punishable though in impoverished countries these are accepted practice because it brings food to their families whom otherwise would half-starve. The people who work in the plantations are the under-class of Sri Lanka. They are under-paid, thrown in poorly built shelters and exploited by companies and politicians. Yet, they work hard to generate most of Sri Lanka's GDP.

So, next time when you drink Lipton's tea with lemon and double sugar, just think for a second those hands that plucked the leaves from a cold plant on a cold morning at high-hills, shoeless. Next time when you wear a Bata shoe with rubber under sole, just think about a man who scrapes hundred rubber trees for mere two dollars a day. And also think about their children who should have been at school but potentially be serving tea to a parent-unseen boss. Then, after those few seconds, think about your children.

Aren't they fortunate?

1 comment:

Vinay said...

Of course you need more & more books on Air Astana flights from Amsterdam to Atyrau:) I guess they still dont show movies.
Do you read Chetan Bhagat? I prefer "Night at Call Center" or "Five Point Someone" instead of heavy doses like "White Tiger" or "Six Suspects". At least they dont need vodka shots or make you write senti blogs after reading:)