Thursday, March 28, 2013

Meet Satbir Singh of Lima (South America Omnibus 6)


I again come out of the hotel and take a bus to Miraflores. This is upscale area of Lima and coastline is visible below the cliffs. I walk in its colorful bazaars. This area is like Connaught Place in Delhi.
Here are just 2 Indian restaurants in Lima. One is Guru Kebab and Curry run by Mr. Waheed Ashraf, from Punjab, Pakistan. Other is Mantra Indian Cuisine run by Mr. Jay Patel. Mantra is in Miraflores and is more expansive than Indian cuisines in USA. It costs at least $20 to have dinner there. A small roti or naan is at-least 3 dollars.
In Miraflores I walk into Mantra. A very pretty Spanish girl is on the reception. I ask her if here is someone from India she goes in the kitchen and fetches Mr. Patel, he turns out a strictly business minded person and he anticipates no business from any person from India because of the pricey menu. It appears that he came to Peru from USA to open this and only one upscale Indian Cuisine.
He comes and asks very professionally, “how can I help you?”
I tell him that I wanted to see a fellow Indian here in Peru and he is the only one and first one I am seeing. He tersely pushes the menu in front of me and I decide not to eat there.
I walk out of the restaurant and then a desi comes running after me. He was visiting a friend in the kitchen of Mantra and then he saw me leaving the restaurant. He is Satbir Singh from Hoshiarpur, India. He asks me if I have some time, that I always have in plenty. We walk together in the colorful Miraflores area. One agent offered to bring him to USA for 30 lac rupee. Half money was paid in advance and rest was to be paid once he get into USA.
Agent brought a group of Punjabi boys to La-Paz Bolivia. There he took them to the Amazonian at the Bolivia/Brazil border. He was to get help from some drug cartel to get the boys to USA from either Bolivia or from Brazil. Their group of 7 boys stayed hidden in the jungle town of Cobija for 3 months. They left their room rarely and only at nights to avoid detection from people and police. Somehow police found about them and agent had to bribe the police. That money came from their homes in India. Agent was in negotiations with the carter but carter was asking for more money so more money was asked. Parents of the boys had no choice but to pay because their sons were stuck in the infamous drug area where murders was a routine thing. Police wanted more money now so agent brought them to the town of Epitaciolandia of Brazil by illegally crossing the river.
One day agent disappeared, he was never found.

Govinda Restaurant in Miraflores

It is believed that the cartel robbed him and shot him. Now group of boys were on their own. They had no money and no passports. They were stranded in amazonian area bordering Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. They surrendered to Brazil police, Brazil police beat them up and overnight threw them back in Bolivia. Bolivia police caught them as vagrants and put them on a boat to Peru. They were beaten by police and several people and were always hungry. Boat dumped them in the amazonian jungles of Peru. They wanted to get arrested but there was no police. They became scavengers. Some catholic mission sent them to Cusco and then police sent them to Lima so they may contact Indian Embassy and obtain travel documents to return to India.
An Embassy staffer arranged a message to be sent to their families for some money and they arranged some cheap accommodation in Lima.
Money came from India and losse-passe travel documents were issued. Satbir Singh found a girl and married her so gained some Peru documents. He hated to go back to India because of him his family was now poor and landless. He was simply ashamed to return and in Lima there is still hope to get to USA one day but once in India, his all doors are closed. It is easy to find a girl to marry in Latin America. Girls are after boys here whereas in India it is reverse. It is understood that girl was also from very poor family and not much educated. This made two miserable. They both had menial labor jobs and life was difficult. Their marriage was about to break because of the lost hopes from both sides.

Govinda Restaurant in Miraflores
Satbir says to me that he wants to stay in Peru for a while because agents also promise people here in Peru to take them to USA or Canada on bogus papers. Price is just about 20 thousand US Dollars.
As he knows that I have US Passport so I become his hero immediately.
I cannot help him much. I ask him to join me for lunch at Govinda restaurant but he says that he had his lunch. I can only promise to him that once he arrives in USA, I will find him work. He says that he cannot offer me to visit his home because they live miserably.
He says, “The main reason that I cannot return to India is because my family has no money now. Because of me they sold all lands. I am very ashamed to return to them. No money is left for my 2 sister’s education. They want to go to college but they cannot.”
He works with painters and day laborers. I give him my hotel address and ask him to join me for few drinks.
Tonight he has to work, he asks me if he can visit me tomorrow night. I say yes.
He shakes hands with me and departs.
As I am walking in the market, he comes back running to me and asks me for some money and I give him 50 Soles (about 20 US Dollars)
I walk to Govinda Restaurant in Miraflores.

Upscale Miraflores market
Govinda Restaurants can be found in many large Latin American cities, these are are run by ISKON. It is a very simple and restaurant and food is also very simple and also served in a simple way. Prices is also not high. After I eat my food I offer my help in washing dishes that is happily accepted. I spend two hours that helping in various errands. As I am about to leave, they give me free coupons for 3 free meals that I have no intention to use because this restaurant is run on charity.
Then again I take my final walks in the bustling bazaars and then catch a bus back to Old Town.
One thing that I forgot to mention in my post about Lima is that as I arrived here from Tumbes, I see the posters of Radha Soami Satsang (Beas) in Spanish with the picture of their Guru.

Upscale Miraflores market
Posters were all over Lima including the upscale area of Miraflores. However someone meticulously drew horns on Babaji’s head and wrote CIA Agent on each of them. Hardly any poster was left intact.
At 9PM I again check my email at the cybercafe.
Everybody emailed me except My Señorita.
I threaten her in my email:
If you are not coming tomorrow then I am coming TOMORROW.
Your Pravee.
I leave her my hotel phone number.

Old town near my hotel
I got out in the cold night of June and have four more glasses of Aloe-Vera tea in the bustling transport market at the other side of the river, where night buses to all over Peru and South America are beginning to leave off one after the another. A bus is going to Buenos Aires, and out of curiosity I ask the company about how long it takes to get to Buenos Aires. They say at-least 60 hours. Another will reach Bogota in 46 hours, another will be reaching Caracas in 70 hours, and one is bound for Uruguay.
I’d rather walk.
Wait a minute . . .
I won’t be single anymore.
No more walking only except going to shop to buy dubble-roti etc.
Being single is no life at all.
You are not free but a donkey of your desires.
When you are married, you are a husband, you are a father.
You give orders, you are a Malik.
I sing the song: Born Free.
At night, in my room I fall in the dreams that she and I are in Bhatinda – hand-in-hand – and my friends there are now very envious of me.
They are saying about me: This Bhatinda-Murphy —- !@#%^&$#*(% . .

Children dancing in a plaza
I tell them that still I am bringing Shilajit from Himalayas.
Now snakes are rolling on their chests.
Old Fools.
चले हुआ कारतूस.
I wake up at 7am in the morning and run to cybercafé in the old town. It will not open before 9am so I sit on the threshold but a police man gets suspicious of me so to avoid the troubles I walk towards my favorite haphazard area after the river. This area is called Javier Prado Este in La Victoria.
Let’s see the buses arriving from Caracas, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Quito, and Montevideo and let’s look at the faces of passengers who spent days in the buses.
At transport area, I drink several cups of aloe tea and then have breakfast. Mostly tea sellers are Indio or natives (also called Red Indians).

Cocaine Leaves in the market
Peru society or rather whole Latin America Society has also a cast system like India.
There are four main categories of race:
Criollo, a person of pure Spanish descent.
Indio, a person who is descendent of the original inhabitants of the Americas.
Negro, a person of black African descent.
Mestizos, mixture of European and Amerindian,
Mulattos, a person who is born from one white parent and one black parent.
Zambos, a person of mixed African and Indio ancestry.
Whites rule the country. Whites hold all top jobs and dominate the politics. Basically the society is based upon the color of people where black color is at the bottom and white is at the top. Most of the riches are White but there are some poor whites also. Isabel’s family comes into that category. Balwinder Singh of Ecuador is also married to an utterly poor white woman. Most repressed people are Indio or natives.

Traditional Andean Dance
They do all menial jobs and these are very silent people.
A bus has arrived from Bogotá and passengers are not really interested to get down. Now they love the cage of the bus and showing no interest in leaving it. I wonder around the area and then return to the cybercafé and sit on the stairs. Same policeman comes to me and asks for my business there.
I point him to the cybercafé signboard.
He does not believe me because signboard says 9am to 9pm. He hides in the corner of the streets to keep an eye on me. Everybody is suspicious of a single unmarried man. I have no choice but again I walk to La Victoria to check on the Bogotá passengers, if they are still sitting in the bus after theirs 60 hours of journey or are kicked out of their seats? They are now out of the bus but hovering around it as they don’t want it to go away. I watch them while drinking another 2 cups of aloe-vera tea because I love it. Another bus just came from Santiago (Chile). Only driver and conductor come out and have a double cocaine tea.Passengers are not interested to leave the bus.

A woman eating cocaine leaf
Finally it is 9am and I drink another cup of herb tea, this time Cocaine Tea.
Cocaine was discovered and cultivated by Peru natives (Indio) for thousands years before it became a major drug nuisance on this earth. Cocaine is illegally grown in mostly Columbia, Peru and Bolivia mostly. Cocaine increases alertness, feelings of well-being and euphoria, energy and motor activity, feelings of competence and sexuality. It is a hunger suppressant and poor people in Peru chew cocoa leaves to suppress their hunger and also to work inhumanly hard and walk great distance in the freezing temperatures of Andes. Cocaine Tea is legal in Peru and Bolivia. Once I chewed a single leaf of cocaine in Tingo Maria (Peru) and I walked for whole day without getting hungry or thirsty. It leaf is of the size of sheesham leaf.
I return to Cybercafé and it is open, I check my email and no symptom of her. However I got an email from airhostess. She says if it does not work out with Isabel then she has a sister. She has sent me her sister’s photo.

Cocaine Tea
She says that her sister wants to settle in USA and she is 25. She also mentions that age does not matter in love.
Wow! I am a hot commodity. It is good to know that I have a backup now. I forward her email to Harsh because he is 27 and he needs a wife too. But when he was in Peru with me, tens of girls were after him anyway. They found just any excuse to sit with him in the buses etc. Whenever we walked in the plazas girls walked with him.
In each Latin America city there is always a city center or rather several lavishly arranged city centers. City center is mostly a Cathedral and area around it is called plaza. It is an old Spanish tradition that girls of marriage age use to come in the plaza in the evenings with their friends and they use to walk around plaza. Interested boys use to sit on the benches in laid around. After several days, interested girl begins eye contact with the boy she is interested.

A couple dancing at a wedding
If boy is also interested in that girl then he reciprocates her with smile. In the next stage she gestures the boy to walk with her. Boy begins walking along her, initially girl and her friends also walk in a group along with the boy, and boy keeps a distance from her. After some days talking begins. If girl decides the boy is not suitable after several days of acquaintance then boy is asked to not walk with her. If everything goes well then she walks alone with boy. This courting may go on for several months.
Then a stage comes when they hold hands. In the final stage families are informed and engagement is arranged.
A crowd of girls used to walk in the plazas and crowds of boys used to sit there waiting for their chance. But Things are changing now because of the arrival of information and cell phone age. Most boys and girls do a virtual walk with each other on internet or cell-phones.
Well whatever; I want to sit in the plaza where Isabel makes rounds and I want to smile on her forever.

A Dance at the street
My famous ear to ear smile (that also I learned in Ramlila) that she cannot ignore.
She does not email me or come on line till 10. 30am. I give up because she is now at her job and will not come to internet. I come back to hotel to take bath.
Baldie is at the reception and tells me that a girl called asking for you.
“What did she say?”
He hands me a slip. Some address in Miraflores and 7 pm.
Good enough for me. My day is made.
Dream will come true very soon. No more harassment for being a single.
Freedom is very near.

A Plaza in Lima Suburbs
Baldie asks, “Así que ahí se encontrará con el partido de Tumbes?” (You will meet Tumbes party at this address?)
“Yes.”
He asks, “Tengo Gat?” (Got Gat?)
“Cat?”
“No – No – No. Gat. ”
“Bat?”
“No – No – No. Gat.”
“Hat?”
Baldie shouts, “No no no Señor, GAT, GAT, GAT, GAT, G A T.”
I don’t know what a Gat is but I shout back, “Sí, tengo Gat.” (yes I got Gat.)
News is so overwhelming to me that I want to celebrate.
I want to shake my legs.
Lima O Lima.
To be continued …..
Last part or Epilogue …..

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