Between generosity and fatalism
The story of India and stereotypes in a way is also a story about Bibi, a former Irish journalist who lives here in Alleppey for six years. Alleppey is a small town settled as a narrow strip between the sea and inland waters. At one point it was the main port of Kerala, until these functions where passed on to Cochin. There’s something elusively real about this city…
Residence of Rahim, which was six years ago bought by Bibi, has been turned into a small eight room hotel. It’s located a bit aside from everything else, on the beach road. Residence was initially build by Englishmen in 1869 and then passed over to Muslim Rahim family. At that time it was well know in whole neighborhood, probably cause of the magnificent wedding hall where wedding ceremonies and other events like political discussions were held. Atypical to Indian families, Rahim family had no children, so the property is in Bibi hands now.
Little bit about Bibi.. he is a women of small stature; she uses a lot of expressive gestures when talking. I find out she has worked as a tv journalist in Ireland and London for years; at one point she was a hostess of a talk show. She was strongly appealed to Ayurveda and was dreaming perhaps some day she will have a chance to visit its homeland – Kerala, but never had the time to do it. One day, after 5 years in London, she decided to quit the job and write a book in countryside. Month later she realized writing was not her thing and decided to move back to London. But, like it happens in such moments, she got an offer from a friend to go to Kerala. She didn’t have to think for a second and accepted the offer. First impression? It was a complete disaster! She is used to and loves beautiful, well maintained roads and clean streets. She was depressed seeing the chaos around. Two or three days and everything suddenly changed, she began to feel that the place had some sort of strange magic.
The idea of a small hotel was born after a year or so. The beginning was very tough; at that time Indian law stipulated that foreigners may own only up to 51% of any local business. So I needed an Indian partner. Now the laws are more liberal, most of share capital can be redeemed. Bureaucracy in Kerela is huge and endless, so in a way she is happy having somebody to help her. And one more thing, people here are not accustomed having a women as a business partner. At first, Bibi thought they simply act very impolitely – didn’t answer my questions, didn’t greet me and simply behaved ignorantly. She was mad, how can it be that after investing so much time and money.. Thankfully everything turned out great…
Even after spending years here, she still is confused by Indian fatalism. Regardless of religion, everything here is in God’s hands. She recalls a youngster who quit job at her hotel to start his own shrimp business. When confronted about possible risk and necessity to mitigate them, he said something like: Look up in the sky, God will take care of me!
Speaking of Kerala, she reveals that life here has taught here a lot of valuable things. For example, the importance of punctuality. In India, no one is punctual; so why should I? Life in India teaches patience, here everything happens slowly and it’s useless to be angry about it. Just go with the flow.
When returned back to the US, I suddenly start to understand the true essence of the Indian peace. Although movement occurs according to its own system (probably frightening one for an American or European), this whole mess is functioning almost perfectly. Nobody is trying to outdo others, they simply need to move ahead and that’s it. Happy to cross out another point from my bucket list.