About traveling and loneliness – a trigger to reflect what we’re doing

istock-travel-backpacker

This is an excerpt out of the book ‘Shantaram’ by David Gregory Roberts.

This dialogue is between two Indian people, Prabaker from Bombay and a bus driver, on the way to a village in India. They are talking about Prabakers friend from New Zealand, who is accompanying him and living in Bombay for a while. It’s written in the first-perspective of the New Zealander

“‘Gora kaun hain?’ the [bus] driver asked, when we climbed aboard the step. Who’s the white guy?

Maza mitra ahey,’ Prabaker answered with contrived nonchalance, trying in vain to disguise his pride. He’s my friend.

The exchange was in Marathi, the language of Maharashtra State, which has Bombay as its capital. I didn’t understand much of it then, but the same questions and answers were repeated so often during those village months that I learned most of the phrases, with some variations, by heart.

‘What’s he doing here?’

‘He’s visiting my family.’

‘Where’s he from?’

‘New Zealand,’ Prabaker replied.

‘New Zealand?’

‘Yes. New Zealand. In Europe.’

‘Plenty of money in New Zealand?’

‘Yes, yes. Plenty. They’re all rich, white people there.’

‘Does he speak Marathi?’

‘No.’

‘Hindi?’

‘No. Only English.’

‘Only English?’

‘Yes.’

‘Why?’

‘They don’t speak Hindi in his country.’

‘They don’t speak Hindi there?’

‘No.’

‘No Marathi? No Hindi?’

‘No. Only English.’

‘Holy Father! The poor fool.’

‘Yes.’

‘How old is he?’

‘Thirty.’

‘He looks older.’

‘They all do. All the Europeans look older and angrier than they really are. It’s a white thing.’

‘Is he married?’

‘No.’

‘Not married? Thirty, and not married? What’s wrong with him?’

‘He’s European. A lot of them get married only when they’re old.’

‘That’s crazy.’

‘Yes.’

‘What job does he do?’

‘He’s a teacher.’

‘A teacher is good.’

‘Yes.’

‘Does he have a mother and a father?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where are they?’

‘In his native place. New Zealand.’

‘Why isn’t he with them?’

‘He’s travelling. He’s looking at the whole world.’

‘Why?’

‘Europeans do that. They work for a while, and then they travel around, lonely, for a while, with no family, until they get old, and then they get married, and become very serious.’

‘That’s crazy.’

‘Yes.’

‘He must be lonely, without his mummy and his daddy, and with no wife and children.’

‘Yes. But the Europeans don’t mind. They get a lot of practice being lonely.’

‘He has a big strong body.’

‘Yes.’

‘A very strong body.’

‘Yes.’

‘Make sure you feed him properly, and give him plenty of milk.’

‘Yes.’

‘Buffalo milk.’

‘Yes, yes.’

‘And make sure he doesn’t learn any bad words. Don’t teach him any swearing. There are plenty of arseholes and bastards around who will teach him the wrong sisterfucking words. Keep him away from mother-fuckers like that.’

‘I will.’

‘And don’t let anyone take advantage of him. He doesn’t look too bright. Keep an eye on him.’

‘He’s brighter than he looks, but yes, I will look after him.’

It troubled none of the other passengers on the bus that the conversation of several minutes had taken place before we could board the bus and move off. The driver and Prabaker had made sure to speak at a volume adequate to the task of including everyone in the bus. “

At the end it’s all about the Point of view

 

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