Wednesday, November 21, 2007

These People

Roger Rabbit flashed a goofy smile as he handed over the pizza.

"Extraaaaaa pepperooooooooooooniiii," Roger Rabbit said, adding with a flourish a limber time step. I nodded hungrily. And then the cartoon rabbit did something strange. He started chanting fast and loud in a deep and distinctly Indian voice.

"Hooooooooooooooo! Do my do be do ba do ha do bo do bi, hoooooooooo!" Roger Rabbit chanted.

I opened my eyes. The chanting continued. The clock by the bed read 5:51. That's 5:51 a.m.

The chanting Hindu was several blocks away, but his voice was amplified by a megaphone that seemed to be of cosmic proportions. It sounded like he was standing right next to the bed. With a microphone.

Such has been our wake-up call for most mornings over the last two weeks. The time varies slightly, but it's almost always on the wrong side of 6 a.m. Finally, I asked our landlord a couple days ago what was going on.

Mrs. Aggarwal rolled her eyes at the question. She was clearly annoyed too.

"These people," she said, shaking her head.

Apparently, "these people" are members of a sect of Hinduism that Mrs. Aggarwal couldn't name, and that dutiful Wikipedia searches by me could not turn up. For a few weeks in the fall, when the weather in Delhi, in its transition from uncomfortably hot to uncomfortably cold, is somewhat pleasant, these people believe that they should enjoy as much of the beautiful day as possible. That means getting up very early. But they don't just think they should wake up early to enjoy the entire day, Mrs. Aggarwal said. They think everyone should.

It's thus no accident that it sounds as if there's a voice of god (absence of capitalization is deliberate and intended as mildly provocative, believers) alarm clock next to the bed. That's the whole point. It's not as if I'm accidentally overhearing one of these people's important ceremonies. The whole point of these people's important ceremony is to wake me up.

This strikes me as unfair, and really only a watered-down version of the sort of western proselytizing that so riles me. Who are these people to tell me when to get up? Who are these people to make me enjoy the beautiful day? If I want to lay in bed all day with the blinds drawn, eating Cheetos and watching reruns of My Wife and Kids, well that's my right, dammit!

Taking my cues from the great Mahatma Gandhi (wasn't it he who advised that opponents could be thoroughly vanquished by taking an eye for an eye?), I'm considering forcing some of my own habits on the neighborhood.

You see, to me, 8 p.m. on a Friday night is a really great time to eat bacon cheeseburgers. Why should I keep this knowledge to myself? After all, bacon cheeseburgers are delicious. But because the many cow-revering, meat-spurning residents of our neighborhood might disagree, I think it may take a bit of prodding to convince everyone. So I plan on hand delivering these artery-cloggers to homes throughout the neighborhood every Friday. If necessary, I'll shove them for several long minutes under the nose of whoever answers the door. Or, maybe I'll rent a van, park it near a school, sit in the back of it, and subversively hand out cheeseburgers to young kids.

Or I could just wait the whole thing out. After all, Mrs. Aggarwal said that within a week or two, it will have gotten cold enough that even these people will want to sleep in.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

During my most recent, and only, visit to India, god (yes, lower case on purpose,) spoke to me, also.
My response was similar, but slightly more "Fruminesque," as I return-chanted, "What the F---!" (yes, capitalization intended.)

the mom