As I rushed to leave the sin city– GOA, I accepted the invitation from a new CS user who has only one positive reference written by a french guy. His stated that he lived with his family, which can be confirmed from the surfer’s reference. Of course, later it turned out to be a joke.
Sachin is the host. He is 26 years old, working as a salesperson for a pocket internet data provider. He speaks fluent English. ” A lot of my customers are foreigners, so I have the chance to practice my English.” Sachin said. “I haven’t taken any holiday during the past two years. I have specially taken few dayoffs to show you around Mumbai.
That sounded flattering but I felt a tinge of insecurity. The way Sachin speaks seems sincere, but there is something weird with his eyes. Apart from being squint-eyed, the supposedly white of the eye looks turbid. If eyes are the window to the mind, Sachin’s eyes reveal his disturbed mind.
Migrant life in a slum
Sachin lives in a semi-slum area in Anderi East, Mumbai. Stepping into his house, I was shocked. It is desolate, old and dirty. It consists one living room where a TV set and a iron single bed and two plastic chairs are placed, a kitchen with attached bathroom and a loft.
Sensing my disdain, Sachin said annoyingly, ” You are not happy, are you? This is Mumbai, real Mumbai. No fancy facilities. This is how millions people live. ”
“No, I am happy. I just feel tired after a long bus ride. I am not choosy.” I made up a perfect excuse.
Later, his elder cousin and his father came back from work. He does live with his family, but with few male family members. I felt cheated by his Couchsurfing profile. But here I am, experiencing the slum life in Mumbai, which is something I’d love to see, can never be done through package tours. In fact, I am rather enjoying the privilege of a traveller. I just pass by, albeit how bad the situation is, I will leave soon. For Sachin and his family, it is their way of being, whether like it or not, they have to live with it. I felt ashamed of my despise.
Sachin told me about his background when his father served me a Chai. His father’s stories speak for a lot of migrant workers.
His father came to Mumbai in late 1960s from a village in Varanasi. “There is no way to make money in my village. My father came here for better job opportunities and later for better education facilities of his children. He first did small jobs, like coolie, shoe-shining, earning 10 rupees per month. (now 1 USD = 60 Rupees) Later, he found a job in a printing factory. Life improved. He brought this house in 1970s with 1000 rupees. It worths more than one lakh now. (1 Lakh = 1,00,000 rupees). ” Sachin said with pride.
” I have a brother, three years older then me. There was something wrong with his mind so he had to undergo a surgery. My father needed to borrowed one lakh rupees from his company. (One lakh equals 100,000 rupees). The company forced my father to resign they save four lakh retirement pension paid to my father. He had no choice but accept.” Sachin said bitterly, ” It happened when I was 16. My father almost had a nerve breakdown. I wanted to quit my studies and started working to earn money. My father disagreed. I worked part-time in stores selling fruits and vegetables. I earned 10 rupees per day then. ”
I felt sad after hearing his struggles, poverty can deprive people of justice.
Upon finishing his high school, Sachin worked as a technician assistant in a pocket internet data provider, gradually moved his way up from technician to technical consultant, then became a sales representative. After working for few years, with the saving and money borrowed form his relatives at hand, he started a business with a friend. Sadly, his friend cheated on him, took away all the valuable assesses and disappeared. Desolate, he returned to his former company to work as a salesperson again, earning 15,000 rupees per month.
Puppy Love Trauma
Sachin’s father and elder cousin work on nightshifts as security guards. When they are working at night, Sachin will let out the house to other migrant workers to sleep. There are three migrant workers sleeping on the floor in the living room, another three stay in the loft. That’s how millions of migrant workers lead their life: working all day long to earn a meagre amount of money, sharing a shelter with other migrant workers. They live to work and life is reduced to mere existence.
As the two rooms were taken by migrant tenants, Sachin and I had to stay in the Kitchen. I felt disgusted but nothing could be done. As the saying goes, shit happens, let’s drink it.
Sachin took out three bottles of beer brought this afternoon, poured a glass of beer for both of us. We started to drink and talk. After two classes, he became tipsy. Then he open up to tell his trauma over the first breakup that took place four years ago.
The story started six years ago. Sachin was assigned to install broadband wires in his ex-girlfriend’s home. For some reason, his ex-girlfriend’s mom was out. There were only Sachin and his ex-girlfriend in the house. They started to talk to each other. then the girl asked for his number and whether he had girlfriend or not. From there, they became lovers.
” We were madly in love with each other. One day, we went hiking. It rained heavily. We were soaked. She suggested going to a hostel to change our clothes. We had our first sex there. She has an amazing body.” Sachin recalled. I felt a bit uneasy, wondering what the discussion topic would lead to his next move. I have full knowledge about what alcohol can do to men.
He continued, “So, I am no longer a virgin now. After we had been dating for two years, she proposed:” Sachin, let’s run away from our families and start our own family in a place where nobody knows who we are. OK?” I rejected, ” No, I can’t leave my family. I have to take care of them.” Then we grew apart. She refused to talk to me and see me. ” He said in agony. (Note: In Hinduism, there are four major castes, namely: Brahmins ( Priests); Kshatriyas (Warriors); Vaisyas (Merchants and minor officials); Sudras (The Untouchables). Inter-casted marriages are strictly prohibited. Sachin and his ex-girlfriend both were born in Hindu family. As they belong to different castes, it is impossible for them to get married. That’s why Sachin’s ex-girlfreind asked him to run away from their family to start anew.)
After a pause, he resumed the story, ” I think I have broken her heart. Later she left Mumbai. Her friends said she married to another guy. I lost her.” His voice shivered. “If I could turn back the clock, I would have said yes to her proposal. I was too young then. I am thinking of her everyday and there is not a single day that I don’t feel guilty and remorse since we broke up.” He covered his eyes with his right hand, tears started to roll down on his cheeks.
I was shocked, then searched words in my mind to comfort this sunken man, ” It has been four years. You should let go. Try to fall in love with another girl, Move on!”
He was agitated, cried out, ” No, I don’t want to forget her. How can I forget her? I can never find another girl like her. Her smile, her eyes are the most beautiful thing in the world.”
“No, I am not telling you to forget her. Let her become part of your life, learn the lessons from the relationship and move on. Don’t find a girl looks like your ex, or it is unfair to your new girlfriend coz she is mere a substitute for your ex, she will live under her shadow.” I explained.
Such a bizarre moment, in fact, it is a tragedy with black humor. Dwelling in a slum kitchen, drinking cheap beer, listening to the underprivileged guy’s breakup stories while I was trying to counsel him, what an absurdity of life.
All of a sudden, he came to hug me, then started to kiss my neck.
Startled, I pushed him away and slapped him, ” Fuck you ! Asshole”
Being slapped, Sachin gained his sanity, asked innocently, ” what happened?’
“What happened ?? you were trying to have sex with me. mother fucker ! I am telling you, If you touch me again, I’ll cut your penis off. ” I really meant it coz there was a knife near the pot.
Having grasped the situation, “Oh, God. what have I done? I am sorry, I am sorry.” Sachin apologised. Then he walked towards the wall and banged his head against the wall. ” I am sorry. That wasn’t me. It is the fault of alcohol.”
It felt like a scene from a soap opera. ” There is no use for saying sorry. Get out of the kitchen.” I demanded.
“If I go out, I don’t have a place to sleep. I promise, I won’t drink wine again. I’ll stay near the door and I won’t touch you.” He begged. Then he walked towards me and kneeled down, ” Please forgive me, that wasn’t me. I promise you, I won’t drink wine. Never.”
I softened my stance, ” It is ok. Let it go. I forgive you. ”
He raised his head with his face twisted, then rushed to the bathroom, started to throw out.
Fuck ! The entire scene is a bloody black comedy. I handed a bottle of water to Sachin so he can clean his face and drink.
The sober Sachin went to sleep behind the door. I dozed off at the other corner of the room.
The next morning, I packed my stuffs and went to my second host’s house. Sachin still regretted for what happened last night.
” It is over, Let go. Move on.” I said to him before I left.
Sachin called me few times when I was in Mumbai, saying things like:
” I have wronged you. If you want, I can marry you.”
“I want to go to Rajasthan with you, I really want to go traveling with you. If you allow, I can take holiday to go. I haven’t taken holiday for the past two years. ”
What a weirdo! After that, I just ignored his call. Then he sent me text messages, one of them is as following:
Your Project is really nice… When you left from here, I think every time about you. I can’t forgive myself till I am alive. But you know from now, I will take camera do same project. I want to tell you once again, I am in love with the person. I think this time I will not get her. But anyways, keep it going, you are the best. The way you understand things, the way you interact, it’s amazing… I loved it. You are the real human being. I promise you I will not take wine again. Take care of yourself. Remember there is always light after dark. Lots of positive thoughts for you. that’s all from my heart.
I appreciated his nice words, but they won’t change the fact that he is a twisted psycho.
My second host in Bangalore has become a good friend of mine, so I wrote to him about the incident, Sachin’s CS profile.
He wrote the following:
I could see from the pictures that he is from a lower-middle (or slum) class. Try and avoid staying with such people. I understand that you might want to experience the rustic, rural, slum India (and in that case try to stay with families) but never get hosted by guys like that. They are unsophisticated and uncivilised and have no idea how to deal with women. They are almost always influenced by Bollywood and the filmy, unrealistic romances. I guess, he tried to exercise one of the filmy thingies on you.
Awww, no wonder I felt like I was a character in some cheesy soap operas. This is the story of my slum experience.
As a story collector and a storyteller, I like to hear personal stories. But there are times I would expect people to hold back a little bit, like Sachin this time.
I am not always ready to share their stories anytime, anywhere. It is more like a universal rule to communications. Even though when it comes to sharing my stories, I will keep it to myself when I don’t feel fine. Masks are not necessarily bad. There are times when we are expected to wear them. Too much nakedness can be rude. Learning when to hold back is doing a favor to yourself and others. 😉
Of course, how naked we have to get so it is sincere not so ugly while how many adjustments we have to make so it is presentable and not so pretentious, there’s always a delicate and fine balance to make.