Rainy Night in Rajasthan.

I don’t understand your relationship. I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.

It’s like 1 AM. Or 1:30 AM. Thereabouts.

We’re sitting at a table in a dimly-lit restaurant.

It’s this strange open-air restaurant that looks like someone set up chairs, tables and a kitchen in a roadside space intended for a fire station.

Is it still raining? I’m not sure. We’re sitting next to a concrete wall on one end, so I don’t hear anything to my right. Around me to my left, there are voices of people chattering in Hindi. Or maybe Rajasthani, I’m not sure.

There are Indian voices here and there. Someone exchanging pleasantries with the cashier at the entrance. Groups of Indian guys discussing in a local language. A waiter yelling details of an order at the guy making food in the kitchen.

I’m low-key wondering why this otherwise normal-seeming restaurant is open and is this active at 1:30 AM, but right now that’s just one of the things that feel strange.


I’m munching on my bowl of Pulav.

I think the bowl is weird. It seems like stainless steel, but the thickness feels strange to me. It feels like it was made out of the exact same sheet of metal as a bunch of stainless steel spoons. I’m not sure how exactly to explain it. The metal just feels the way a steel spoon or a fork does in your hand.

It’s strange. I feel like I’m eating from a bowl that really should be a number of spoons.

Very strange.

He responds to my comment on his relationship.

“Yeah- when it comes to money, that’s a different matter. We think of things differently when money is involved.”

I’m still pretty perplexed.


About an hour ago we were at their lodging in Old City – in more central Udaipur.

He was telling me about how his Kenyan girlfriend could get pretty possessive of him. Not wanting him to get too close to Indian girls. Apparently he was still sneaking around though – he said someone still gave him her number earlier in the evening. An Indian girl. That he had to save it under a male-looking name, or something like that. To throw off suspicion.

About thirty minutes later we were standing outside Glanza– a nightclub/bar on the outskirts of Udaipur. We were both very drenched from riding on his moped through the unexpected rain – giddy from jumping up in the air when we hit speed-bumps on the highway. Speed-bumps we could barely see coming through the blinding army of stinging raindrops that assaulted us.

We were standing in a more enclosed area, drying ourselves out and getting some respite from the downpour. He was telling me about some drug-dealing trouble he got in, back in Jaipur.

He said people did different things to earn money. He said there are a good number of married Indian women who aren’t sexually satisfied in their marriages. And so they pay younger men to have sex with them. He said he did that every now and then, and that it paid well. That they really liked black guys. He said there was even an app for it.

In my head I was like Okay, don’t even bother telling me the name of the app pls. That’s enough info right there, thank you very much hah.

I personally prefer more fulfilling and inspiring ways of earning money.

It just seemed strange to me that his possessive girlfriend who always tried to keep him away from Indian girls, was fine with him having sex with older Indian women for money.

“Yeah, she knows about it. She’s okay with it.”

Hm.

I heard what he said, but it did not make sense to me.


He was on a call about five minutes ago. We were sipping on beers, waiting for our food to be ready.

I was in a conversation with someone a few days ago who mentioned something I found very interesting. He said a good number of Indians enrolled in PhD programs in public Indian universities, just for the accommodation. He said tuition in government universities was so subsidized, that people enrolled in Doctorate programs just so they would have a place to stay while they worked on something else – possibly studying for International exams so they could travel out of the country. They wouldn’t attend class, nothing. Just make use of the school lodging. And he said it was normal. That even some of the lecturers had done that.

I thought that was really interesting, and I brought it up while we waited for the food. He just completed his Master’s degree at a private university here in India. He came from Nigeria for school. I was curious if people also did that stuff at private universities, or if there was some other variant of it there.

We were discussing that, when the call came in.

He answered his phone. It was his girlfriend.

When we headed out for food and beers about an hour ago, she said she was going to a nightclub.

She was now calling him from the club.

Oh. He’s asking for that? Tell him he’s going to have to pay extra for that.

Hm. I’m not sure what “he” is asking for. I’m not sure what “that” is.

But I have an idea.

Someone at the nightclub is requesting for paid sexual activity with her. She’s calling her boyfriend for negotiation advice.

They discuss on the phone a bit more, and then the call ends when they come to some sort of an agreement on what to do.

Our food is here now.

I’m munching on my Pulav, scooping up interesting spoons of rice and vegetables from the strange steel bowl that should be spoons.

He’s sitting across the table from me, munching on some unrecognisable Indian dish. Hearing my perspective on their relationship.

I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.


Image: Somewhere in Udaipur.

Desert Meanderings. 1.

It’s a random night in January.

I’m walking along Sal’s major highway – the one that extends along the island’s longitudinal axis like a vein.

I’m headed towards Santa Maria, at the southernmost end of the island.

The road is smooth and empty. Population here is low relative to land area, so the road is usually empty at any given instance in time – as far as the eye can see.

I enjoy playing dreamy surreal songs from Wildlight while walking along this road at night. Autograf too. I like their music too for stuff like this.

I walk along the edge of the road as it wraps over a hill. On a good hill you can see the edges of the island. During the day.

I think it’s an interesting feeling: Standing on a highway and being able to see the water lapping against different shores delineating the island. It makes you much more keenly aware that you’re really just standing on a piece of land surrounded by water.

Any piece of ground anywhere on the planet is a part of an expanse of land surrounded by water, but it’s just never really something you’re very conscious of- until you’re staring at the different edges of the stretch of land you’re standing on.


I’ve just come across someone. A guy. He’s about the same age as I am. Thereabouts.

There’s a tall structure off the highway. A little into the desert. I’m not sure what it is. It looks like something in-between a lighthouse and a telecommunications mast.

I think I was walking towards it out of curiosity when I came across him. He works security there. He’s on a night shift.

We talk for a bit. He’s from the Gambia I think.

There’s something of a language barrier, so we can’t communicate extensively. We spend some time hanging out in his living quarters. It’s a small room at the base of the tall structure. We’re talking about Santa Maria, and watching some Youtube videos on his phone.

It’s strange seeing technology from the perspective of an insider-somewhat. To a lot of people an app is really just a name that they generally associate with the emotions they experience from using it.

And the company behind the app, the people who build are maintain it, are really just this nebulous, extra-terrestrial and omniscient “They”. “The YouTube people”, “The Google people”, etc.

I recently spent about a year living in Silicon Valley, and so that gave me something of an insider perspective into apps and software technology in general. There’s the insider perspective you get from learning about how the tech works, and there’s the social dimension you get from living in a place that’s renowned for software development.

The people behind the apps are neither nebulous, nor extra-terrestrial, nor omniscient. They’re people. Like everyone else. Things that generally happen to people also happen to them.


At some point I feel like I should head back on the road. I mention that to him. We talk a bit more as we head out of his quarters.

He looks like he could use some company on his solitary nights shifts. He also seems to miss his family back in The Gambia.

We exchange our goodbyes and I head out into the night.


Image: Hanging off some weathered rocks somewhere on the western edge of Sal island.