Escaped

Friday came so soon. Oh wait, it’s only Monday and I’ve already left Ganthi. A few years ago I would have cowered miserably until the end of the week to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation, then left with false smiles and promises to return. Not now. I couldn’t take it any longer and stood up for myself. It was uglier than I had imagined.

I woke up this morning dreading seeing John. I began drawing with my headphones on and managed to avoid him until midday, when he and Sangita came to see what I was doing. I was trying to explain to him that the drawing I was working off of did not show the property lines as continuous; I wondered exactly where they were and suggested that they should be shown. An innocent, straightforward question, I imagined. John wasn’t listening and didn’t understand me and started telling me angrily that I was stupid and his forty years of experience blah blah blah. When I calmly tried to explain further he errupted, then left the room.

I snapped. I didn’t lose my temper, but I told Sangita evenly that John’s and my working styles were not complementary, and that I thought I should leave. I thanked her for her hospitality. A moment later John came back into the room and Sangita told him what I had said. The world exploded! He called me every name in the book, saying it was bloody typical that the moment I encountered a snag I quit. I said that being verbally abused wasn’t a small snag to me.

I shut the door and started packing my bags. Sangita came back, trying to make peace, and was startled that I planned to leave the same day. She came back again and asked me to finish what I had been working on and burn them a CD, so I unpacked my computer and did so. I was ready to go when John came storming back in. “You know I can’t do anything with this file.” Of course he can’t — he doesn’t know AutoCad; in fact he doesn’t know anything about computers. I assumed it would be the next architect who he could con into working for him who would open it. He yelled: “You did this on purpose. You came here on purpose to fuck things up.” Uh, yeah, that was my plan. All I could say was ‘what planet are you from?’ He then said that it was people like me who were responsible for all the evil in the world. I said that when everyone who ever works for you is an idiot or tries to screw you, at a certain point you have to start looking at yourself. To my satisfaction, he was speechless.

I think those were the last words we spoke to each other, though my adrenaline had risen so high as to affect my memory.

Sangita, trying to make peace, asked if I would stay for lunch. I said I thought it wasn’t a good idea. Mostly because I knew that John would do nothing but snarl throughout the meal, but also because I am reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, and enthralled by his descriptions of bitter emotions passed on in food. Sangita’s lunch would have been full of reprisal, anger, hurt. I preferred to go hungry.

The Martins’ driver was instructed to take me to Oni and drop me at the stop for the Ratnagiri bus then proceed immediately on to do shopping in Rajapur. Actually, he took me to town and bought me some cashew cookies. Then he started talking with the rickshaw driver who had picked me up a week ago, Raja, and they agreed that it would be much better for him to take me to the nearest train station.

The driver knew what had happened: “Sir always angry.” Raja concurred. “Always fighting. I want to leave job, but I need money.” They agreed that ‘Madam’ was nice enough but always took Sir’s side.

I wonder about Sangita. She’s been married to John for forty years, and they seem to have a harmonious relationship. She’s the peace-maker, but she also seems to have convinced herself that John is always right. A number of times they had both talked about how much they deplored the Indian custom of the man being the God of the family. How ironic.

The first day I met John in Panjim I couldn’t find a trace of him on the internet except on his own website. For someone who claims to have been involved in every major project in India for the past forty years, this is a bit suspect. Shades of Clark Rockefeller. I may have to adopt a new rule: don’t get involved with anyone who doesn’t show up on Google. Of course, this would include my own mother. I may make exceptions.

Anyway, Raja took me to the station where I got a slow local train to Margao. We hung my washing out the side of the rickshaw to dry (the housekeeper must have told the driver that I was leaving with wet clothes) and barreled down the road blasting Indian pop music. I felt giddy with relief. I went to give Raja a 100 rupee note, far too much but the smallest bill I had, and found a few minutes after he was gone that I had accidentally given him 500 — at least a few week’s wages. I laughed. At least I managed to give something back to the people here who I had hoped to help.

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1 comment
  1. Holly said:

    I’m so glad you’re out of there! Besides the fact that it was making you miserable, you never know what could happen.

    And yeah for newly rediscovered freedom and peace.

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