A girl. A journey. A new start.
Some say charity begins at home. I say charity begins in our hearts. “No good deed goes unpunished!”. My ex boss, Tammy Nutman would always say this when we tried to do someone a favor and it landed us in the pits.
By the time we left Goa, Sips said to me, ‘ I have never heard that term being used so often’. I had every reason to use it. But of all the reasons, this one takes the cake!So, on our second visit to Carmos, which was fast becoming our nice-to-be-at spot, we had a waiter by the name of Akbar. I don’t know how to spell his name. But it doesn’t really matter because by the end of this story, he has a new, and more suitable name.
Akbar was seemingly sweet and genuine. So as he was serving us, he conversed with us. His English wasn’t great but we could understand him. He told us about his family, how his Mom had passed on, how his Dad worked in a tea plantation that didn’t pay much and how he was the eldest and only son. His responsibility as the eldest, and being a man (even at just 26 years old) was to provide for the family in Karnataka. His sister would be getting married in a few years to come and he not only needed to take care of his family, pay for his sister’s college education and take care of himself. He also had the responsibility of saving up for his sister’s dowry….which is not cheap! As he told this story, our hearts bled, feeling so sorry for him. We asked him if he wanted to go to college and his response was that he had to provide for the family. He didn’t even entertain the thought. Almost as if he had given up on his dreams completely.Then eventually he said he would have loved to go to college, but with all the financial commitments he already had, it just wasn’t possible. Sips and I saw this as a sign to intervene, get in touch with some people at home and help Akbar and his family out. We ere so touched and so amped to do this bit of good to help out someone in need. We exchanged numbers so that we would see him the next day during his siesta to discuss how we could help.
That evening we went back to Carmos for dinner – myself, Sips, Shailesh, Philippe and Irina. At some point I needed the ladies (not really sure if you can call it that here when it’s so filthy). When I came out of the loo, Akbar tried to pull into me and I pushed him away and said a very firm ‘No Akbar’. I completely brushed the incident aside and continued with dinner at the table. Mostly because I believed that he had understood me, loud and clear and because I didn’t want to embarrass him.
When Sips and I got to our hotel after dinner I received a phone call. It was Akbar. I tried listening to what he was saying but i couldn’t quite figure it out. So I put him on loud speaker. What followed was so shocking in left us both speechless. I can’t go into the details but he kept on saying ‘give me 5 minutes Keke’. I couldn’t believe that sweet boy from the afternoon was now using the number we had given him in kindness for such unpalatable behaviour.
Sips and I decided to keep it to ourselves but made up our minds we would no longer be helping Akbar and his family out.
The next day Philippe, Irina, Shailesh, Sips and I spent the entire day at Club 21 followed by dinner at Carmos. Our waiter was none other than Akbar. Everything was going well until he had the gall to ask me was I was not looking at him or smiling. You would think that the day after that phone call, he wouldn’t have the audacity to ask me that question. For those of you who know me, you would also know that I am never short of words to tell someone what I think of them; especially when I am upset. I very quickly put Akbar in his place and told Irina what happened. That was the end of his name as we knew it. From that day forward, he was only referred to as ‘5 minutes’ among us. When addressing him directly we called him by his ‘good name’. Amongst ourselves however, Irina would have nothing but to call him ‘5 minutes’. It kind of put the humor in the episode and as days went by….it became lighter on my shoulders.
So if you ever ask me to wait for 5 minutes, or say you’ll be back in 5 minutes….don’t be surprised if I roll on the floor with laughter. The term ‘5 minutes’ has earned itself a completely new meaning with me now. And it will never be the same :-).
Laugh, gasp or cry….thanks to my Goan gang we can all laugh about this now. But it wasn’t always this funny as you can imagine.
Akbar may have been the first but was certainly not the last individual of such character that we were unfortunately exposed to. They were everywhere….on the beach, on the street while we walked, in the restaurants with their wives and families while making the deceitful effort to stalk us to the restroom, at the spa, everywhere. If there is a place where the words beautiful, gorgeous, fit or sexy have lost their meaning, and actually ring trauma in my ears, India is that place for me.
I will never be able to understand why Akbar behaved the way he did. I will also never be able to understand why when we offered him help that so many would be so grateful for, he chose to gamble with it for a male urge. I never cared enough to ask him why he did what he did. I was too disappointed and felt utterly disrespected.
Over the years I have learnt that no matter how good (or bad) you are to someone, they see or perceive what they would like to, and will reciprocate you according to their perception. You can give someone all the love you have in you and they are capable of reciprocating it with minimal to no care. And that works the other way around too. In Akbar’s case, we offered him a life-line, some way to help change his life and that of his family; and even that was not enough to earn me basic human respect.
This episode simply took me to one of my favorite quotes: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” ~ Maya Angelou