Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bookslides and Cracker Theft


Monday at work there is the afterglow of the book sale. Everybody has a story. Shinjini is the winner with four cartons of books. “You lose your sense of reason,” she says, starry-eyed. Jonaki recalls seeing her pop up from a pile of books in a daze. “I could only see the top of her head and her eyeballs and she was saying, ‘Is Angsuman here? I found his book…’” Daniel was seen sprawling out on another pile of books with his arms out as though he were on a pleasure cruise. Jonaki had a rougher time of it. She got hit in the head by a flying hard back someone in a pile was throwing to someone on solid ground. And someone also stepped on her foot when they were climbing. “I wore my track pants,” she says, not just jeans. It seems like she should have worn a construction helmet and steel-toed shoes as well. Shinjini had a close scrape too. A book pile collapsed around her so she was buried up to her hips. She couldn’t move her legs for a while there. Someone had to come dig her out.

The author of the finance book has finally responded to our query about the passages that are duplicated on the Internet. He is pleasant but somewhat evasive. He tells us that if the passages are similar to what is available on the Internet that we should feel free to re-write them ourselves. He tells us also, perplexingly, that we should “make the sentences more comprehensive.” I have no idea what he means, but Amar thinks he’s telling us, basically, that if we don’t like it, we should revise it. Authors have tried this before, he says. There was one man who requested that two editors be sent to his home in a neighboring state so they could visit with him for several days and then rewrite the book for him. Some authors, it seems, want more than editing to happen to their manuscripts, which is strange. I would think the opposite would be true: that authors wouldn’t want people to change their work at all. I know I would be a little touchy about having people rewrite my material for me.

Amar tells Shabnum she has to call the author and clarify with him that he can’t use more than fifty words without getting permission and he has to go through all the chapters and make sure this isn’t happening elsewhere. I don’t envy her that phone call.

At lunch Amar and I talk about the new bomb that went off over the weekend. It wasn’t as bad as the first attacks, but it was still an attack in a crowded market. “It’s getting worse I think,” Amar says. And people in this country blame Muslims for it. Amar’s wife is Muslim so he must have an informed view on the issue. I think of the survey I saw on CNN IBN last night. I was surprised by the numbers. It said that 58% of Hindus link terrorism to religion. The overall number of people linking terrorism to religion was 39%. I thought the number was low. I think it would be much higher in the United States. But still Amar says it’s a problem here. Muslims have not been made to feel welcome as part of the community in India. You walk into a bank lobby and there’s a big Hindu shrine. Companies pass out sweets to everyone on Hindu festival days but don’t acknowledge other holidays at all. People do this without even thinking about it, and Muslims feel alienated, and it exacerbates the problem.

After work, I go to Mystic in Bali, it’s a restaurant owned by the same people as The Big Chill. This restaurant is covered in colorful masks of gods and goddesses. It’s got a menu full of Asian food from Japan and Hong Kong and Malaysia and about five other countries. There are about six hundred items on the menu. I’m meeting Katie and Susie and Julianne and a few other people here. It’s Katie’s going away party. She leaves India at eight in the morning tomorrow. Everybody’s getting ready to leave. I leave in less than two weeks. Julianne’s friend Roxanne just went back to Hong Kong yesterday. Susie’s selling off all her furniture. It seems like Julianne is the only one not packing up.

I tell Palminder I’ll be done by eight thirty, but we’re not quite finished. We don’t have the bill and people are still picking at their plates. I run outside to tell him it will just be another half hour. He shakes his head and winces and leans forward like I’ve just put a sword in his gut. I tell him it’s just another few minutes but he won’t even make eye contact with me. He just shakes his head. I go in and throw down some money on the table and hug Katie. She’s on Facebook. I’ll have to find her that way. Keep in touch and good luck with your art and travel safe and it was so great to meet you, goodbye. We hug again and I run outside to find Palminder sitting waiting for me. I climb in the car and notice the snack crackers that I left in the backseat are gone. He’s eaten them. If he needed a dinner break, he could have taken one during the hour and a half that I was inside, but maybe he needs to be dismissed by me. I don’t know. I feel bad but I’m also at the end of my rope with his tantrums. People in India eat late anyway. It’s not like I’ve kept him until one in the morning with no food. It’s not even nine o’clock when we arrive at C-83 and he is off duty. And I would have given him the stupid crackers, but I feel somehow violated that he just took them from me. He stole them. If he’ll take the crackers, what else will he help himself to if I leave it in the car? It’s inappropriate.

When I get home, I call Ms. Sonu. “Is it okay to keep the driver after work every once in a while?” I ask her.

“Yes, absolutely. You keep him for as long as you need him whenever you need him.”

“Because he doesn’t act like it’s okay at all…”

She says maybe I should tell him he can take a dinner break so he knows it’s okay, but other than that, he shouldn’t have a problem. She’ll talk to him.

I hate to get anybody in trouble, but every time I go out my evenings end this way, with a Palminder tantrum and me feeling guilty and harried. I don’t want to end my time in India like that. I’ll make sure I tell him he can eat from now on, but I’m not taking his grouching anymore.

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