there is no way to sum up everything that happened we met and stayed with mr.kunal. i think, for the sake of the blog, i'll try to sum things up quickly. sadly, i cannot transmit to you everything that was said and felt during our evening with him and his beautiful family. you'll just have to take my word when i say it marks a meeting with one of the finest souls i've met in this life.
(fyi, for visualization purposes, imagine ghandi and hemingway mixed together and you've pretty much got it)
so there we are, tired and hungry with only a dim hope that up ahead lies someplace, anyplace, where we can rest. we pull into a 'holiday house" to ask for directions. a deaf man waves at us and smiles, then motions to the big house. a smiling man in a blue shirt and simple sandals emerges and approaches us, smiling and waving.
we give him the standard speech. "hi, we're gringos. we're traveling india on bikes and we're looking for (insert poorly pronouced destination here)." we expect broken english and a vague sense of where the next town is. instead we get -
"kim beach is very close. but you may camp here on my land if you wish. here, here or over there - wherever. there are guest houses there you may use if you don't wish to camp. here is a double room. come inside. here is hot water. is this bathroom okay? the water is all filtered. i know how you westerners are about clean water. here is hot water for a bath. take one, it will work out all the knots. sit here, i'll get some tea."
we were stunned. he never insisted we stay, he only made sure we knew we were welcome too. "may we pay you for the room?" i asked. "why? just stay here, there is not trouble."
honestly, i was on the verge of tears. bleary eyed, i wiped my face and sat down to tea and biscuits. we had tea while the sun set in kunal's backyard. he left us alone saying he had a few things to do. when we were settled, we worked on the bikes for a while and both took a long indian style bath - basically pouring water over yourself from a small bucket. it's wondefully refreshing, a good exercise (as mr. kunal later pointed out) and oddly luxurious. we adjusted the brake pads and trued all the wheels before deciding that we should go thank our hosts again.
we were welcomed into the main house with smiles and were given the full tour. kunal spent years working as a wireless operator for different oil companies and ammased enough money to buy a little land, build a house and plant many trees to eat off of. his prayer room was beautifully tucked away and very cleanly swept. the kitchen was well used and smelt like fresh food. the whole place was spacious, comfortable and lived-in. we were seath and kunal and his lovely wife gave us rum and pepsi. we drank two rounds with kunal and talked about so much ... amnog the two hours or more throughout which there was never a dull or uninspiring moment, a few bright points stick out -
"europeans think too highly of themselves. you have to buy yours bread over here, not there. you are over there, i am over here. you are low. i am high. in France you must always be less than the french. france is a terrible place."
"churches can be very good but you must be careful - they like to build buildings and wear white robes, clean robes only. sometimes they are really good people but often they want some money or they say "you better think like me!""
"being on the bottom, being poor, is a very good thing. way up high on the mountain are the officials, the rulers and the priests and things. but from the bottom of the mountain you can see straight up their robes. so you know their asses are as dirty as yours."
"the world is a round place - what happens here, goes around to there."
"if you have stream that's flowing in one direction and you want to change it, you cannot cut it off, or just block it. it will explode and run over. you have to turn it very slowlyvery gradually and then it will go right where you want wihout any problems. this is how indians deal with things. when we kicked the british out, there were anglo-indians left who only wanted to associate with each other. so we said - okay. and we pushed them out a little. next generation, we push them out a little further. now, there are none."
"in america, decades ago, it didn't matter what you did, only how much money you made. we make the same? we're on par. it doesn't matter if he is a drug dealer or pimp or anything - money made you equal. now i think things are different. but here, we don't just move out the dealer. if you make it, maybe you sell it, or you use it. just like the stream - little bit at a time, we push them all over there. we kick them out. if you do any part of it, we move you over there, we move you out - slowly."
"there is no other woman than my wife for me, romantically. there are other women, i know. but sex or something - doesnt cross my mind. a son grows up and he says "this is my mom. this is my new mom. this is my new dad." and he grows up with that and he sleeps with whoever. i think you guys, your generation is better, but many americans and europeans grow up and they don't klnow what marraige is. i love my wife, she is my the only one."
"it's like benches or signs that say "no blacks or dogs allowed." a kid, maybe 6 or 8 he doesn't know, doesn't care. his best friend is black. but he sees that sign and his friend sees that sign. then about 10 or 11 he says, what is black? he is black, i am not black, like this. there are many examples. we shouldn't teach our children these things. but it's very important to know - something changes in the mind at ten or eleven. we stop just being us, our mind opens uand we start thinking and seeing other people differently. we should be careful what we teach children."