Monday, February 20, 2006

A spot of domestic violence

Some experiences, you would rather never have experienced.

My final afternoon in Jari. My bags are mostly packed, I'm sitting at a picnic table outside, having a late breakfast and saying my goodbyes (bit by bit) to the mountain view.

And then - Mr Vinod, the guesthouse owner, walks up to me, and asks me to go and talk to one of the other guests.

It's slow season, and so in the last week, the guests have consisted of:

1. me.

2. Fabien, Minar and Mikon a french man, his Japanese girlfriend and her 4 year old son (previous relationship).

3. Sylvia - a french woman, and borderline opium junkie - who left a few days before.

And so, on this sunday afternoon, Vinodh asks me to go and talk to Fabien, the french man.

It seems that Fabien had been arguing with his girlfriend, leading to some kind of physical struggle. It was enough for about 6 village people (who heard the screams) to approach the guest-house with sticks (to protect the woman). They only went away when the guest-house owner said he'd take care of it.

I'm not quite sure where I was when the screaming happened, as I don't really remember hearing it...

In any case. What does one do in this situation? Bthe time I got involved, any and all hitting was over - thankfully.

If it was an Indian man beating his wife, no matter how much I wanted to step in, I wouldn't. It's just a bad idea to mess with another culture.

Interestingly enough, the couple weren't married - but were pretending to so that the Indians wouldn't think they were living in sin. Also, Mr Vinodh later said that were it not for the presence of the 4 year old child, he would have called the cops straight away.

The situation was complicated futher by the fact that the police in this area spend the vast majority of their time trying to catch foreigners with drugs (and are thus chasing the bribes that result). Mr. Vinodh hardly wanted to bring the police to his guest-house, esp. not one where tiny cannabis saplings grew everywhere (outside the toilet, under the breakfast table, etc).

It seems that he poor lady hurt her neck in whatever kind of physical struggle happened. She didn't want to leave her bed due to the pain - but the threat of further problems caused mr Vinodh to urge them to take a taxi to the hospital 2 hours away. I told him to call up the cops and have them meet the couple at the hospital - thus avoiding any nasty situation at the guesthouse.

And so, I did what any reasonable person would do... I avoided the long and bumpy walk (with my huge backpack) down to to the bus-stop, and instead....

I caught a ride in the taxi-cum-ambulance down to Jari proper, where I began my journey back to Delhi. With the lad sitting on my lap in the front seat, and the two foreigners in the back - she reclining and trying not to move, and he trying in any way to make amends... That trip completely and utterly defined the term 'akward silence'.

A few disturbing things worth noting are:

1. I'd spent the last week with these people, noticed nothing strange, and had been happily playing chess against the chap every evening. Suddenly, the man I considered very reasonable was a total wanker (by any legitimate definition of the term). It's not pleasant to realize that you've made a poor character judgement (or, that good people can do bad things).

2. At one point in the afternoon, Mikon, the little 4-year old runs out of the room shouting "My Mummy has died. Fabian has killed my mummy. I stay with you, ok?". Sure enough, the kid was wrong (thank goodness) - but hearing those words, in that voice, is something I would never ever like to hear again.

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