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Bhopal City of Lakes

Bhopal City of Lakes

I want a king sized cafe latte: “mai raja akar coffee chahiye”

In fact I need it

A child bangs her hands on the window, face flattened on the glass.

“Do not feel sympathy. Give charity if you want but do it freely. It is their job. I used to invite kids to my home for food. They asked for biscuits for their brother and take the back to the shop to be resold.”

It sounded heartless, but I had only yesterday watched an adult direct children where best to sell squeezing through packed intersection of MP Nagar.

Clearly Romano is very upset. Our Swiss volunteer has had enough of office politics, Indian style.

“Rajbir uses a few words in English then switch to Hindi .. I don’t have to be at that meeting” for hours he had sat useless, unheard feeling as if he were a trophy kept to show that a skilled white scientist commended the company.

The feeling is not racist. I had attended a festivity and found out later the host had told my business partner “Tell him to bring other white monkeys.” A strange type of prestige by association. A reverse racism?

“I travel to work. So I can learn then give them my experience. Do some practical thing. I knew when I am coming it would not be like it would be in Switzerland.”

Advity explained that the architect took it on himself to draw plans without consulting Rajbir or the farmer.

Mr Patidur had warned them at a meeting that there was water logging in a depression nor did the architect consider pre existing trees, designing a building in a field that will be harvested in six weeks time..

“Rajbir is cost effective. That’s why I stick with him. His knowledge is worth it. Other partners like Rajender think of business only. Same with Ashish . He rushed his plans demanded payment before the land was surveyed properly.” This added costs to the farmer not in the contract.

How he got away with it seemed to me incredible, except that he is well known as a local. They did not question his prestige or his family connections to Bollywood royalty. Neither guaranteed the common sense of his design.

“The energies of the farm are ruined” she said thinking Feng Shui. Then added “To you I will stand up for Rajbir. To Rajbir I will stand up for you.”

We wind down a narrow alley where Khan Bhai takes the old TV. If he can fix it it’s his. A bike is parked away from the wall blocking our way. The young man moves it smiling. Into the inner street another must move his bike. Oblong drops in the road – as if missing six inch slabs of cement – limit manoeuvrability

“it is so much like a ghetto. I used to worry mew now I dint give it a thought” Advity says.

The car bottoms out on a concrete rise that rises like an oversized speed bump some 2 metres wide. We reverse back as men manoeuvre things in the gutter as children tearing at each other over a prized possession are pulled a part by women covered rose, saffron or blue matched with gold appliqué.

Woman’s searching eyes from beneath a tightly warming wrap. Clearly Khan bhai knows them.

“She looks like manna” I say. Advity disapproving scowl as if to ask “how could you think she looks like that? .. My daughter is perfect” remains unsaid.

One road is full of shops selling farming implements .

Then we pass plastic buckets in a window and pulling in enter under a Yamaha emblazoned sign. But filled with plastic bowls, pots even boxed vegetable slices. But to the side is found motorcycle fuel tanks on racks.

There is nothing we need we move on.

At Mukesh Seeds Khan bhai is laughing as I imperfectly spellout the name. Impressed by my effort, the owner offers me his visiting card.

But as night is darkening the roar of traffics seems louder. The call to prayer begins on the nearby right, then distantly to the left.

Khan bhai shifts anxiously, approaches Advity.

“Brian, you watch car? I go Namaz.”

No one tells the office where the car has been.

I pay to top up the fuel

Explanations will be too explosive. I have had enough of office politics.

“mai raja akar coffee chahiye”

I need a king sized cafe latte