Well, Ms JennyD resurfaced after some years of personal torment, which I sincerely hope is at an end for her, and her comment on my last post served to remind me that I hadn’t really said anything about how It All Turned Out. Giving a nod to the public’s demand for sequels, (although in my case, the public demand has been just a tad on the minuscule side), I shall post a sequel of my own.
I left India on New Year’s day, having in one short trip managed to avoid Thanksgiving, Christmas AND New Year’s Eve - three pluses easily worth the $2000+ that the whole thing cost (a cost I more than recouped by living three months at Indian prices instead of those here at home). I was looking forward to getting home, partly because I like my place here and partly because I really wanted to have a spate of time alone, just to evaluate my feelings about Priyo and my future.
For the first month after my return, I had some ambivalent feelings about my home here and living with Priyo over there. I really like my house for all the reasons I mentioned in my last post. Priyo and I talked - usually twice a day - which I occasionally felt was just a bit more than I wanted to come to the phone. It wasn’t that I didn’t care as much as I had before for Priyo nor second thoughts, so much as a kind of desire to be alone with my thoughts - or more exactly, not wanting to set aside blocs of time each morning and evening without fail for telephoning. But then, after about a month, I became aware more and more of how empty my life here is. There really isn’t any person or group here upon whom I can rely for chat beyond the mundane. “How about them Yanks?” is not my idea of a fun conversation. I do have people I can talk with - and even more so when I include those available by phone - but that certain feeling of coming first with someone, of them really wanting to hear what’s up with me, including trivia and moods is just not there (or here, I should say). My Mom said, when my Dad died, that she had lost the person she came first with. more and more I understand exactly what she meant. It is a special loneliness that crowds cannot take away.
I amused myself by doing some home clean-up and getting rid of accumulations (but, oh, how much is left!) I bought a new dishwasher which really made me feel good. I scheduled some care for my spruce trees which are badly infected with a fungal disease and am also having someone restore my gutters which are no longer doing their job. But I am intensely aware of being here alone and of wasting hours on TV shows and reading things that just barely manage to hold my attention for a short while. But every day I miss Priyo more. Incredible as it seems, he centers everything he does around me being in his life. I am beginning to return the favor. I can’t wait to see him again, which, alas, will not happen until roughly October as current plans stand.
As I said before, Priyo was scheduled to enter the police academy in January. So, within a week of my leaving, he shipped his goods, including his motorcycle, to his home in Manipur. He had had a tailor make most of the clothes he was required to bring to the academy, and had purchased the rest. He was anxious to begin his training for which he would be receiving a salary much greater than his prior earnings. Alas, the best laid plans…
I have often thought that the USA was as corrupt as any country, its lawmakers and public officials for sale to the highest bidder and so forth. While I still think the corruption here is rampant, I now have a new appreciation for what corruption in other lands can be like. Here corruption touches us indirectly - sweetheart deals enrich some and drive up taxes or costs and so on. But in India, corruption has an immediate and visible and direct impact on everyone. One pays for anything one needs to accomplish. Sometimes one has to bribe police to merely proceed beyond a traffic blockade out in the boonies. Priyo’s Dad had already paid a couple of hundred thousand to get Priyo to the point of being considered for the police program. But the greedy politicians had done two things that threw a monkey wrench into the plans to begin this particular academy class. The first was that several candidates were appointed who did not even bother with the pretense of qualifying physically and mentally. Blind and handicapped candidates were accepted and allowed to forego interviews and physical tests - these were people who could not in any way fulfill the duties of policemen. So egregious was this practice that even the Indian media felt it worthy of publishing, resulting in a halt being called to the actual beginning of the class. Many candidates were married and many had left jobs on the strength of getting their letters detailing what to bring to the academy (as had Priyo) and these were left without means to support themselves and their families. And, since bribery is illegal, they had no recourse for getting back what they had been forced to pay. Secondly, even without the corrupt qualifying candidates, the greedy powers that be had over-enrolled the class. There is a district of India called the Northeast States which consist of eight small states which in some areas, including police training, work together as a single unit. There is one academy for all the states and this class had enrolled so many Manipuris that there was insufficient space left for the other states’ candidates. So even if the unqualified candidates were removed, the rest - all of whom paid big bribes to be enrolled, but who at least met the requirements to be policemen - could not be accommodated by the academy.
Priyo, being a person who is intensely practical, soon saw that the police job was nothing to bet his future on, and set about finding alternative means to support himself. He first found a job doing what he had before done in Panchkula - medical transcription. He is good at this, after six years of doing it, so his former employer kept offering him inducements to return to Panchkula. Eventually they offered quite a raise and agreed he could work remotely from Manipur. Priyo got a sufficient internet connection and began doing this remote work. Additionally he found another employer for whom he could work mornings before he received his daily files from the Panchkula. He is also looking into an opportunity where he can purchase unfinished brooms formed from shrubs found in Manipur and resell them to a merchant in another state at 100% profit. But even without this he now makes more than he did in Panchkula, which is a much higher-paying area for employment.
I plan to return to India - this time to Manipur - in the autumn, and to stay for four to five months. The six-month wait before me seems to loom before me longer and emptier by the day. I have come to the realization that the possessions I have accumulated over a lifetime are merely a heap of things unwanted by others, which will be dispersed or discarded when my time comes. The one thing I can’t give up yet is my house and land which is just as I want it and is where I want it. Since his police disappointment, Priyo is much more amenable to emigration, but even so, the amount of difficulty in doing so will cause this to be years away even if it can be done at all. I am ever more aware that life is short. When I think how close I am to 80, I feel almost panicky. Should I waste a minute hemming and hawing before I decide to move to where Priyo is? Apart from my reluctance so far to give up my house, there is one other issue. Medical care is free to citizens in India, but I would be a non-citizen. Although medical care is vastly cheaper there, I would be required to pay the full amount for any doctor visit or medicine. With Medicare, my out-of-pocket annual cost still runs to about $5,000 a year - with my pharmacy costs I gallop through the so-called ‘doughnut hole’ in two months time. My most expensive medicine (of three), without which I would be headed for Pine Hill in no time, costs about $3000 per month here in the USA. Even at half, or a quarter of the price, I would be pretty skint if I had to pay the whole cost.
I am hoping that after my next visit to Priyo, I will feel connected enough to him and loosened enough from my situation here to make it clear what course to pursue. Meanwhile the calls, which I found in January to be a bit excessive, have become the best parts of my day. We really can talk about anything. I badly miss Priyo, who in every way exceeds my hopes for someone to love, and who cares for me more than I can understand. I always thought a perfect relationship was one where each thinks he or she was the lucky one who got way more than he deserved. I seem to have this. Now I just have to grab it.
When I was that young man who was standing by the roadside and suddenly decided to hitchhike to Californian or even when I was that middle-aged man who saw a notice for a job in Saudi and walked straight to HR and said, “Take me!” there seemed to be so much time to resolve any negative consequences. But I know if I give up this house, there will never be another, and there is something so satisfying to me about saying, “This is mine; I can do as I please here.” I don’t want to end up cussing myself for giving it up. That Priyo and I might not last forms no part of my concern; all relationships of this nature require a trust and a leap of faith which I have already made. I want one more bit of prodding to give up this house and all that is in it; or I want to be sure that I want to remain here and to work to bring Priyo here, despite the years of effort that might take. I also have some concern about following my Mom’s path into Alzheimer’s - she is the sixth of her sisters to develop it, so it is clearly in the genes. It might be nightmarish to be in a land I didn’t recognize with nowhere to return to. But mostly it is a feeling thing that I can’t quantify in a list of pros and cons. I want to have an irresistible desire to choose one course which makes me lose all concern for the negatives. I am almost there, I think.
What a lucky, lucky choice to have. I have a genius for complaining about everything, but really this is a dilemma well worth having.