The value chain.
I have created and learned about many new value chains during my stay here. I have created the flow of a value chain for the flow of ginger seed. It began from an individual farmer cultivating seeds all the way to a mass manufacturer that benefited from the hard labor he excreted. I have mapped imaginary value chains of friendships made with people. Always seeking the root cause of the said friendship.
I never realized the value chain I was about to enter. It was one of the extremes that I had not foreseen until it was too late. It all began with my host brother. We went for a ride. The ride was to allow him to escape the burdens of reality, the wife, kid and job. I did not mind such a ride. He would find himself a liquid bliss and I would enjoy the comfort of someone suffering as I use too. This may seem crude— it is in a way. I found solace in the fact that I no longer have the over bearing burden of a short cut for dealing with emotions. Although, I later realized that this relief did not exclude me from the abnormalities of life. I quickly found myself in the middle of a mafia war, a struggling marriage and a new love of affair of my own. It to break it down in a cliché sports metaphor it’s the bottom of the ninth, full count. To understand the story I should start from the first inning. The innocent ride that I took for personal satisfaction.
It began with me coming home from work earlier than usual, two hours to be exact. I needed to talk to my supervisor who lived down stairs. Her husband is my host brother. I cannot smoke in front of my temporary mother to avoid the risk of being disrespectful. So, I went down stairs and my host brother asked if I wanted to go for a ride. He was to get a drink and we could smoke cigarettes. I grabbed the opportunity without second thought. An escape to chain smoke in a car for a few hours seemed like an oasis of ecstasy.
We jumped into the car and as soon has he roared the engine is wife popped up. “I want to join!” I always enjoyed the two together. The drama created by their love marriage 17 years ago and the path that it has taken always amuses me. It’s a very sweet story that should be discussed another time. He wrapped something of the top of his mouth in Hindi. A quick cut back and she walked away.
“I told her we’ll come back for her in 5-10 minutes,” he looked at me and smiled. With a slyer smile, “never get married.” It was a plea of a desperate man. The desperate man was a grand actor. We both enjoyed the laughter.
The setting transitioned to the ‘english-wine shop’ in a village just on the border of the city. It’s not the only place alcohol can be purchased, but it’s his spot. The man was paid and the twenty-two was passed through gated bars. My host brother paused a moment and asked if I had five rupees. I dug into my pockets and realized that I did— a package of nuts for the road.
The drive was nice. It had just rained, an unseasonal rain, but it brought a much needed relief to the unbearable heat. The road had a warm mist rising from the rainwater steaming from the hot gravel. The sun had set and the bluish tent of the atmosphere was transitioning to a poke-a-dotted black abyss complimented by specks of light. Instead of returning straight back to pick up his wife we traveled further into the village. I did not mind and neither did he. We talked about life. What our priorities were and what was still come of life. I was unsure if he had surrendered to what he believe was reality or if he was forging the path he truly desired. When spoke about life it was with an underlining hint of pain.
Suddenly we pulled into what seemed to be a house. A tractor was in the drive way and a lot of young teenage boys running around. One awkwardly smoked a cigarette. He was unsure how to hold it in his hand. It was inner dilemma on whether to hold in between his middle and pointer or to treat it like a joint and hold with his thumb and pointer. The battle was finally over when he settled for the pointer and middle.
An older man appeared from the dark side alley. “This is a hotel and he’s the manager. I am friends with him and the owner. We’ve known each for a long time.” He took a manly swig from the twenty-two. “Ek minute, I’ll be right back,” he opened his car door and greeted the older man. The two disappeared into the house. I sat in the darkness with the bottle next to me. I contemplated it for a moment and grabbed my lemon juice. The sugar washed the desire of the twenty-two away. I ate a few nuts and watched the young boy smoke the cigarette. I few minutes later the two appeared.
The two exchanged words and formally said good bye. The man waved to me and did a slight bobble of the head. We reared into traffic with out second looking. A car swerved and honked while a few bikes flew past us. I had become immune to the standards of driving. I was completely calm. The car ventured further from home into the poorly road of the village.
“You know protestitutes?” I must have looked dumbfounded because he attempted again. “Prostatute? You know sex worker?”
“Oh! Prostitute! Yes, I know what they are, but I’ve never really seen the point.” I was amused to see where this conversation was going. To stay on course with this topic I fed it a little fuel. “Why do you ask?”
“That hotel, my friends hotel, they have girls there. It’s a very good place.” He was very earnest. “The cops do not go there. The cops are paid off.”
“Is it illegal to be a prostitute here?”
“No, not illegal, but the cops will extort you. They’ll take you to the station and call your family. It is a social pressure, but not illegal.”
“I see,” I was curious why this was all happening. I thought maybe he was cheating on his wife. I did not want to ask or imply. It would have been rude and uncomfortable.
“That place also gives rooms to young couples. You know so they can have relations.” It made sense. The society here is conservative. It’s very rare that you see a public display of affection even from a married couple. Dating is considered a friendship in my western standard.
“Oh that’s nice. Do you and your wife come to have relations? I mean your son is always around?”
“No, no we’ve been married for seventeen years. Our curiosity is over. Plus, he sleeps with his grandmother often.” He stretched his hand out for a five. I still have not mastered the Indian high-five. It’s closer to a brief handhold. You go for the high-five motion, but right at the end you stop and hold hands. It’s a bizarre and uncomfortable feeling at first. The homophobia prone society I’ve been brought up in did not condone this. I have just recently accepted that it’s rude not to accept it.
I began to laugh, “I see.”
“No, I come here because they are my friends. I also help other friends. It is like a value chain. Like tonight. I take you here to me them. They meet you and know I know you. Then you can come here and it will be fine. If you showed up without knowing me they would allow you. It is some kind of value chain. I just help friends out.”
“Oh thanks, but I find it demeaning to myself to pay for sex. I think that if I’m so pathetic that I can’t get laid without having to pay I don’t deserve to have it.” I started to laugh. I was very serious, but I did not want to hurt his feelings. He laughed, but seemed confused.
“I have only had one relations. It is with my wife. No one else.” The fact that he has only been with one woman is amusing to me. It reminds me of purity that is rarely found today. The commitment of only knowing one body. I guess it allows the person to not be disappointed after a terrible one night stand.
We received five missed calls on the drive. His wife was very unhappy with him. She wanted to spend time with her husband. We returned and let the car idle outside. He gave her a few rings. We could hear the phone begin to ring and then quickly silenced. He began to laugh. “Don’t get married. It is a big mistake. At first they seem wonderful, but they are good at deceiving. She be mad and then be very happy soon. Just watch. You have to continue and continue. It shows that you love her. That you care.”
“Maybe that’s why I’m not married. I always give them the space. I let them sit on their thoughts. When they get over it they’ll come back. It hasn’t always worked.”
The gate next to the car began to rattle. It was his wife. They exchanged a few words in Hindi. She stampeded off into the house. “Giving it time. Time is everything.”
“I see.” I have realized that I resort to ‘I see’ when there is no response I can come up without.
He took another swig from his twenty-two. A long sigh of stress was relieved.