Monday, June 1, 2009
I was in India with Spouse and learning how to tune out the various voices. Wherever we stepped there were people calling us to buy this or that, or to beg something from our wallets.
One afternoon we set off for a stroll around some chaotic and crowded streets while our driver- what a rarity and a luxury- waited for us in the shade.
Spouse had urged me to ignore the calls that tumbled one after the other- the pleading tones, the business-like greetings- and to keep moving no matter what I saw or heard.
"You can't help everybody," Spouse said, and I knew he was right.
Still, my heart broke at the first pitiful "please, Madam" that came from a tiny child. I strode forward anyhow, determined to be ruthless. They would dance around us, run between Spouse and I, follow us for entire street lengths, tug our sleeves and attempt to shake our resolve.
They succeeded, of course, and when our pockets were emptied of loose change and all sights had been exhausted, we decided to return to the car.
I became gradually aware of a rather persistent person who insisted on speaking to our retreating backs.
"Madam. Sir. Madam."
It was for all the world like an echo. Spouse heard it too, but we marched onward and took in our unique surroundings as tourists.
"Madam. Sir. Madam. Please. Madam. Here!"
We began to walk a little faster in order to lose the voice.
I would not turn around, no matter how he bellowed. He called and even whistled for a couple of minutes; one had to admire the man's patience, whatever he might be selling. Pearls? Peanuts?
It was only when we heard the sound of frantic footsteps behind us, and the breaths of a running man, and only when that same man took Spouse by the shoulder that we understood his cries.
We walked behind the driver, back the way we had just come, and we got into the waiting vehicle. We were suitably mortified.
Our faithful driver had jumped to attention when he saw us, oblivious pair, streak past. For our part we had increased speed and led the bewildered fellow on an almost-futile foot-chase through the streets.
As our driver took us back to the hotel, I suspect that he wondered about us and perhaps spared a little pity for our strange affliction; but as they say, you cannot help everyone.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:47 PM