Calcutta – UK 4

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dog-dancing the day away Dec 19, 2006

I left Calcutta three days ago, but this street memory has stayed with me:

As I stood on a sidewalk with my post-lunch chai, just a stone’sthrow from New Market, a temporarily out-of-work rickshaw-pullerapproaches me, asks me to let him take me somewhere. I decline, hesuddenly transforms into a beggar. “No work, no one here today, no one. Hungry, I am hungry. Hungry, give two chapatis, twochapatis,” he says.

I decline. He persists, I decline again. (A few weeks after Iarrived in India I resolved, not entirely successfully, to give moneyonly to NGOs and temples that provide social services.)

A dog approaches, the man pulls its front legs up, makes thefairly hefty and incredibly docile street creature vertical. Therickshaw puller/beggar begins to dance with the dog; I stifle laughterwhile declining to pay for the performance I never saw coming.

The man spies a middle-aged tourist couple aproaching down thestreet, and walks with the vertical dog until he’s in full view,directly in their path. The dog dance begins again: the white womansees the odd couple, raises her camera in delight, begins capturing thesynthesized exotic experience. She is completely oblivious to thetransaction that has just begun, of which she is the integral part. Sheand her husband walk by the rickshaw puller/beggar/freelance dogdancer, the dancer turns, asks to see the picture, and then, of course,begins asking for rupees. Instead, he receives the woman’s boxedleftovers from lunch.

The dog-dancer sits down on the curb next to me, cracks open hiswinnings. Basmati rice, a curry. Lunch, paid for with a stray dog whoprobably sauntered off to find his own lunch in a pile of garbage. Thecompliant creature, as far as I could tell, was never reimbursed forhis services.

Posted from UK:

posted Monday May 2006

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