Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Manali Edition — The Guide

I went around to Manali and Shimla with my family at the end of last year in dec.

Lots of thoughts about the trip. I did make some notes, this should be fun.

Since I plan to write this out in parts, let’s start with the guide+driver+ a cool guy who brought us lot of charas.

His name is Amar.

Amar works for some car owner guy in Delhi and my brother booked him for the Delhi to Manali drive and then the driving around in Manali itself. We had a hotel booking in the Vashist area. He picked us up at the delhi airport. The first look of him scared me, or let’s didn’t generate a lot of trust, it’s I think my natural paranoia of trusting people, least of bit drivers. It was a little hard to ascertain his muslim/hindu look from the face. His hair was medium length, not combed and hence all stayed in the downward direction and he spoke hindi with the delhi punjabi accent style.

As I got to know him he really became one of the highlights of the trip. On the delhi to manali overnight trip, on a break stop for some non veg amar offered me and brother his favourite of substances—charas. My brother actually had asked him for it before. He had became of an acquaintance with the guy by now. I had became more of a weed fan by now since I did not appreciate the cigarette mixing required with the charas. But what the hell, we smoke it up. My paranoia was still around by that time around 11PM. I had thoughts of what if he tries to rob us and here the only two men of fighting age are getting stone with him. Insanity.

Later in Manali this became a good ritual for nights at 10PM. Me, my elder brother and his wife would convene with Amar in the hotel open restaurant and light up. The view was splendid, but not visible because of the dark. The ambience was amazing, shivering cold and silent, with the mountains to our side and with dim orange lanterns above our heads, just enough light for amar to roll his professional slim but broad-at-the-end joints.

This open restaurant wasn’t a terrace but a long horizontal balcony connecting to the dinner area and the kitchen. There was a pool table outside the kitchen.

Charas was so acceptable here. Straight away it was on display how any kind of govt bans are just useless, no one gives a fuck about them when the culture has alread approved of the banned entity. People everywhere here smoked up all the time. And some were definitely shocked to see the lady with us smoking it up. Obviously the cold harsh reality of life here didn’t allow for feminism’s silly tantrums like they play out in our cities with modern technology around men who have fries and coke for dinner.

Amar had amazing viewpoints for someone who makes around 8k rupees or $120 monthly. Adding tips to that he said his final salary comes to 15-20k which is around $225. He sends some of it to his home in some village which in UP. Says he left the family home as a child and rarely visits. He has a philosophy of staying away from home so that he doesn’t get too attached, then maybe he won’t be able to leave and continue his work. And the little he has to offer them is from his work.

I couldn’t figure out if he enjoyed the work. He is always on the road, traveling between states on national highways or else taking people around locally at some tourist spot. From his finances his condition was obviously bad, he said he couldn’t save much. By the end of whole trip, after our last dinner when amar joined us at the table, the only time he did, in a quiet moment with my brother he shared something which really broke me inside when I later heard about it once we were back in mumbai.

Amar would always make excuses that he’s already eaten whenever we would offer him to join us for lunch or dinner. I took his word for it and never pestered him. I explained it away that he feels awkward probably because my parents are along that time. Then my brother told me once home that amar just tries to have only a single meal a day to save some money. This was after we just had blew over 1000 rupees or $20 at dinner that evening. My brother thought he probably came to terms with the extent of his poverty and felt like sharing this fact of his life.

I wasn’t yet able to wrap my head around the fact that he makes only 8k as official salary for the huge hours of driving on those dangerous roads. And on nights sans sleep. Uber drivers make a decent 40000 rupees by just driving 10-12 hours in the cities these days. This new detail of his life was really a lot and hit me hard inside.

This was a life of suffering. There was no doubt. He had alread decided on not getting married given his bleak financial condition. That was some really smart thinking and insight. There are just too of men in this country married too young with no financial prospects and struggling everyday with the weight of a wife and mostly a child just for some vague societal compulsion of being married by a certain age.

I previously mentioned about him having a really good worldview. His views on politics impressed me too. I took him for sort of a modi fan given his background of hanging around with hindu gurus and babas during his travels to the temples and the gurus there and such. Far from it. His views in fact matched with bill burr’s answer on the recent trump election. He told me straight out “doesn’t matter who is in power, it is you who puts the bread on your table”. While things are definitely more complex than that, too many liberals do not seem to understand the simple fact. That it’s YOU who in the end does things, not the govt or the politicians.

I think it’s just the long hours at the stearing wheel on single meal a day that does this to a man. It makes you confront reality in a way most liberals just don’t have to while they are out there with their mac books and coffee bumming off the free (probably) unsecure WIFI connection at most phoniest of outlests—starbucks.

Even as I write in the comforts of my middle class indian household bitching about the very uncomfortable chair I am sitting in, that guy is probably out there on some national highway negotiating dangerous fucking turns with a steep valley on the side and no barricades. He probably complaints too, it’s just that there’s no one to listen to it. And in all probablity he will never ever have anyone either.

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