The huts of Karni Singh´s Guest House
I awake after having slept for 12 hours. The beautiful daughter of Dr. Karni Singh serves me breakfast with her sweet, shy smile. Then I decide to walk around the sand dunes near the town for a while. I enjoy the solitude, shoo away some gazelles, roast in the scorching heat, try to meditate in the shade of a lonely tree, even though I have no clue how meditation works.
I head back to town, take a look inside a school´s class room, sit down at a shop and talk to its owner for a while. Then I keep on walking through the village, always accompanied by a few kids, who are watching me curiously and almost stumble because they don´t watch where they´re going.
As I´m passing houses, the children stop playing and even get their brothers and sisters to take a good look at the foreigner. They stare the same way we would stare if we saw an alien. Some of the kids dare to say “halo” or “naam?” (name?) or “city?” (meaning: which country?). Others seem to be a bit frightened, yet still curious.
a lonely tree
Later I sit down next to a sewer and a doctor and about 15 other people who had been following me. They all want to know the price of things in Germany and why English women have such big boobs. And I´m thinking: Men are the same everywhere, aren´t they? Then they ask me how much Dr. Karni Singh charges for a bedroom. I tell them 400 Rupees. They earn about 3 000 Rupees per month. That´s why they don´t like Dr.
Singh, cause he charges to much money from the tourists. And I have to agree. Dr. Singh doesn´t fit into this village, he´s different, he´s lost the connection with the people of the village. And it´s him of all people who is Kakku´s only representative in the government.
Kakku seen from a sand dune
They ask me how many girlfriends I´ve had and are surprised when I tell them that in the western world it´s perfectly normal to have sex before you´re married and even with different partners. Now they all want to come to Germany as they imagine it as the land of sex.
Later in the day I buy a bottle of fake coke and I notice that I haven´t seen any Coca Cola advertisement in Kakku yet, which is very rare nowadays.
I buy some tomatoes, which taste like tomatoes are supposed to taste, without all that genetically modified stuff. As I sit there eating my simple lunch, I´m thinking that most people who come to Kakku only do so in order to do a camel safari. They arrive, start their safari and leave again without ever having any real contact with the locals. But the fact that I´m here just for the sake of being here and the fact that I speak a little bit of Hindi, opens up possibilities for me and for them; possibilities of communication and a mutual exchange of information, tales of our cultures and our respective idiosyncrasies.
man striding through the desert
At the shop that I sat the longest yesterday, the old man greets me again and his friend, an even older man, asks “yeh kaun hai? (who´s that?).
The old man tells him, whereupon the older man grabs me with his weak and scrawny arms and wants to pull me towards him and says something about goras but I don´t get it. The other guy tells him that I´m okay and the old man finally let´s go of me.
I keep on walking but two persistent kids keep on following me. Suddenly the oldest of them says “mujhe das rupaye dijiye” (give me ten rupees), but when I ask him “kyo?” (why) he doesn´t know an answer and stops asking. And I wonder whether in the end it´s not the hunger in India that causes begging, but the tourists. Has the tourist made India into what it is today? Which huge effect do we really have? After all, aren´t we really just those aliens that land here and spend money like water. After all, it was the same in colonial times, wasn´t it? Only that today the colonization is a lot more subtle.
What would it mean if I lived in Kakku for a whole year? How would it change their lives? Would they be susceptible to manipulation or would they, after a while, continue living the way they used to and not notice me anymore? Would they be happy about it or would they feel disturbed?
Right now, Kakku is still a beautiful, small place unspoilt by tourism but if more guest houses would start their business here, then this idyll could be destroyed quite rapidly. By now I´m not so sure anymore whether I would want to stay here for a long time. How long would it take till people stopped staring at me? The film “Dogville” comes to mind. Around 2.30pm I´m exhausted and don´t want to see anyone anymore for a while, don´t want to be an alien anymore, so I walk back to my room, my shelter, where I can simply be me.
guy with sewing machine
Half of my Indian journey is over. It´s been like a rollercoaster ride. Many people speak of a “hate-love” when they talk about India but I don´t agree. I´ve never felt any hate here. There is indeed lots of love but it´s opposite is not hate, it´s the stress and it simply takes a while to get used to that and block it out. If you want to feel love in India you have to surrender first.
At 6pm I politely ask Dr Singh if it was possible to have dinner and how much it would cost. He says 200 Rs. And breakfast costs 150 Rs. I ask why it costs that much. Thereupon he starts being a tad awkward: why would I ask for the price, it wasn´t expensive.
I tell him that in a city like Nokha or Bikaner I could have a big dinner for 70 Rs. Breakfast was omelette, toast, jam, cay and juice. I tell him what the ingredients would cost if bought on the market but he doesn´t want to listen. He constantly interrupts me, saying I should “listen” to him, which I do but when I want to say something, he doesn´t listen at all and interrupts me again. He doesn´t want to talk and just walks away, then for some weird reason brings me the bill, no kidding! He tells me I should go and find another hotel. Then he asks me why the two French girls and me didn´t pay the rickshaw driver yesterday and I ask what, how do you know that and he says the driver called him. I tell him that the driver lied to us and despite promising us to drive us to Kakku just drove around in a circle and that´s why we didn´t pay him. Then we talk about prices again. I tell him that the price for the room is perfectly fine and the price for a bottle of water (30 Rs) is still acceptable as well, my simple question only was why breakfast has to be 150 Rs and dinner 200 Rs.
And he says that it would cost this and that much to buy the stuff in the city and get it here and then he adds: “We´re suffering.” And that makes me really angry: “You are suffering??! A family in this village earns no more than 3 000 Rs per month and you just earned 1 500 Rs in two days by three tourists, so you want to tell me you´re suffering? You are kidding me! Look at this big house you have, you´re not suffering, the people in the village are suffering and guess what they do, they invite me to their house for dinner and wouldn´t ever want my money for it because for them it´s general hospitality. What´s wrong with you? You´re making me sick!” Okay, I don´t say the last two sentences but that´s what I feel like. Now I can understand why people in the village don´t like Dr. Singh. People who have money are always complaining and are greedy to have more, while people who have next to nothing are simply happy and would never even dream of complaining.
me and some children of Kakku
huts in Kakku
I´m still hungry but don´t want to give Dr. Singh any more money, he doesn´t deserve it. If he had explained in a normal way why dinner was 200 Rs, then I would have paid it because for me 200 Rs is still cheap but what annoyed me was that after I asked this simple question he totally freaked out as if I had asked him about his sex life.
After sunset I walk through the dark streets of Kakku in search of a place to eat. I ask random people where I could go and they either shake their head or point in some vague direction. At the bus stop I meet a guy in a muscle shirt who seems to know where I could get some food, so I follow him down the road towards a shop, where people are sitting around a stove, happily munching away on some rice with vegetables.
I ask if I could have a bit of their food, I would pay them as well. They point towards a big pot with vegetables and I say that that would be lovely. But my new friend instead takes me to the petrol station, the “pump” as they say, and tells me that those people are not friendly. At the pump I meet three other people who offer me a chair and give me some water. We communicate in broken Hindi and I understand that later on there would be some food coming from Nokha and they´d be happy to invite me. The guys take out two bottles of whiskey and top up my cup of water. They do the same and down the whole thing quickly, so I do the same. Every time a car stops for some fuel, they quickly hide the whiskey bottles. They are all between 18 and 22 years old. They ask me if I wanted some beer and I say sure, so they get some from somewhere. When the beer is here, they also pour it into the cups and down it again greedily. Of course this way the only bottle is empty quickly, so I suggest that we should have a bottle for everyone.
sunset over Kakku
I give some money to the youngest one who sets off to get some more beer. He comes back about half an hour later and my new friends gulp down the beverage as if there was no tomorrow. Obviously they are not used to drinking that much and therefore get drunk quickly. At 10pm the food arrives: chapatti, spiced cherry tomatoes, ghee and salt. They put it all on a big plate and mash it together, then want to feed me, so I let them. It makes them happy to feed me and by now I know that for Indians it´s a sign of friendship. And I don´t feel like an alien anymore but more like a brother. I didn´t ask for much but got so much in return. And again I´m thinking: This is India and I´m loving it. And sometimes you have to be annoyed and stressed before you can find the love again.
me and the guys at the petrol station
At 11pm the three guys walk back to the guest house with me, leading the way through the pitch-black darkness.
When we get there we hug and agree to meet again for breakfast tomorrow morning.
me and guy at the petrol station
Alone at Dr. Karni Singh´s place I notice that the main door is locked. I knock and knock and I´m sure that he can hear me but probably doesn´t want to let me in. So I decide to climb up the walls to the rooftop, where my room is. With some struggle I finally manage to climb all the way up, smoke another cigarette while watching the stars and then fall asleep happily.
To be continued…