Big Gora

Big Gora

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chal do...krpya

चल दो.
[chal do/go away]
I said it, and I'm not proud of doing so.
Back when I first started falling in love with India, I started imagining going there; and when I imagined going there, I pictured one big fat greasy fly in the ointment. Namely, though I'm not at all wealthy by American standards, I would be by India's standards--so I'd be swarmed by people (I mostly imagined children, but why not adults also?) who are positively crushed by poverty. How could I say no, but then, how could I help everyone? There was no helping the problem: I would stand out, as a very white 6'4" American tourist, and I would seem wealthy, and actually be so relatively speaking, so I'd be in a pickle every time I went out in public. (I apologize for the selfishness built into this train of thought.)
But when my wife and I went to Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai in 2012-13, this hardly happened at all. Mostly we encountered beggars at red lights in Delhi, one at a time and through the glass of the car window. We spent our time in monuments, restaurants, and middle-class establishments of various kinds, so we were never overwhelmed by crowds of the tragically poor as I imagined. Our driver and our travels insulated us.
During my recent trip (December 2014-January 2015), Oklahoma Study Abroad and my travel group ventured farther afield. We spent a couple of days in Pushkar in particular, and encountered a wider variety of people. This is where I learned to say "चल दो."
We took a fantastic camel safari--a one-hour camel ride, beginning about sunset, during which we rode out into the desert. There a local group entertained us with some local music and dancing by firelight, accompanied by platters of delicious Rajasthani food. Anyway, the camel handlers included several children. One little guy in particular, about seven years old, I'm guessing, stuck to us with unbelievable tenacity. He mimed an eating motion, putting invisible food from his fingers into his open mouth, then holding out the open hand in our direction. He wore ragged, dirty clothes and no shoes. His face was dusty. He would not give up; he begged for a solid hour while the safari got set up. He stood looking at me, begging, for many minutes. I grew more and more uncomfortable. I had only 500-rupee bills on me (about $8.20 American each), and that seemed too much for the circumstances. I finally said the thing I'd heard our Indian guides say to the aggressive hawkers crowded around Amber Fort and Delhi's India Gate: "Chal do." Go away; get lost; scram.
"चल दो." But I felt so bad saying it that I added, a couple of beats later: "क्रप्या" [krpya/please].
"Get lost...please."
भगवन मुझे माफ़ करें. [bhagwan maaf karein/may God forgive me.]

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