A short story about stuff that doesn’t make sense but then it does if you think about it.
There once was a little boy named Joseph. His was a happy family or so it seemed to little Joseph. His parents only argued when he was asleep. Diana and Peter were not the happiest couple on this planet. They had married young and now regretted it very much.
Peter was a Canadian. Because of the nature of his job, he got to travel all around the world. They were stationed in London for three years now but soon, they would travel to Jamaica, Egypt, France and eventually back to Canada. Diana had waited long to go home. She was tired of traveling, of Peter and to some extent Joseph. Joseph was always sick and Diana had forgotten what it felt to not be worried for once. The child was allergic to bright lights. His eyes would start watering. He even had epileptic seizures. When for the first time, Diana had seen the foam come out of her child’s mouth, she had felt more disgusted than sympathetic. She waited until the seizure got over. She did cry but some of it was due to fright.
The natural thing happened when they came back to Canada. They got divorced. Joseph was eighteen by then and able to take care of himself. He had taught himself some skills that kept him fed. He started living alone. His parents began their separate lives. Everything was sliced apart with a clean sweep. As a family, they stopped existing.
Joseph did well for himself. He remembered the one time he was really happy – it was in London. He had gone out with his parents to an Indian place. They had ordered naan.
‘I like this naan bread,’ he had said.
‘Maybe you should marry an Indian girl then,’ his father had said.
Joseph had remembered that.
‘I want to get married to an Indian girl,’ he had said to his friend Natalie.
‘That is nice. Hey, so I heard about your parents’ divorce. I am here if you ever want to talk about it,’ she had said. He had told her that it was fine.
After finishing his studies and working for a software company for five years, he used his savings to fund a trip to India. India was nothing like Joseph had imagined it to be. No exotic princesses were cooking spicy meals by the roadside cafes. It was all filled with hairy, pot-bellied, sweaty men. Naan was being made in kitchens by workers wearing dirty vests. The traffic and the bright lights were an assault on his calm Canadian senses.
Joseph rented a room for one month in Bhopal. He was charged exorbitantly because he was a white male. It was hard for the landlord to charge the man anything less than three times the actual rate.
Joseph walked around the streets of Bhopal looking for love. He bumped into strangers and became good friends with them. He tried different street food items at New Market area and got sick. He treated himself with antibiotics. All this while, he felt a gnawing despair. He was nowhere close to finding himself an Indian bride. And his savings were running out.
He also felt very unsafe. All the countries he had visited as a kid with his parents had been very kind to him. But that was mostly because he was with his parents. Now that he was all by himself, he felt like there were people out there to get him. The taxi drivers charged him extra, the fruit vendors sold him fruits at ten times the cost, and he couldn’t haggle because he did not know the language.
He told his life story to some friends he had made in India. Some told him to search a matrimonial site while others told him about the legal hassles of marrying someone with an Indian nationality. Joseph was too much of a romantic to try a matrimonial website. He was also told that it was difficult in India to go to bars and meet women randomly. ‘It doesn’t work that way here,’ someone had told him.
Finally the day came when Joseph was about to leave India. He looked around his room. And peeped through his window. The foreign sights and sounds were all too familiar for him by now. He saw the kids playing cricket, he saw the newspaper and recognized the politician’s face. He had just begun to belong.
He packed up everything and went back to Canada. He had met no women and had made only two or three good friends. All his savings gone and for what? He threw his backpack in a corner and made himself a nice breakfast. It was beginning to snow outside. He was smiling after a long while. ‘How was India?’ his friend Natalie had sent him a text. ‘It was nice actually. You should go there sometime,’ he said.
‘I am planning to go there next year,’ she said. ‘Come with me, maybe?’
‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Coffee?’
‘Sure, let’s get some coffee. I wanna hear all about your trip.’