Page 53

roads with his large Nikon camera, he would stop by a beggar whose black-andwhite picture would shortly appear on Manju’s Instagram. #India #storiesofindia #nikon700d #travelgram #wanderlust #travel #photooftheday #likeforlike #old #man #beggar #poverty #followforfollow. In one nation a man begged for a meal, in another a man begged for a white man’s arousal. But Manju wasn’t a white man—he was one of the shades of brown between Morocco and Myanmar, yet strangely manicured, exfoliated, affluent looking. Not that he dressed in American clothing, not that he wore boots on a sunny Delhi day; still, one could tell from the perfection of his skin that every pore was New York and not New Delhi, and held a desire to return rather than emigrate. Manju clearly enjoyed the weightlessness of blending in. For once he forgot the burden of exotic elephants and Slumdog Millionaire, or when his boyfriend Toby had asked: does your mom wear sari to sleep; or when his friend Ezra’s mother made chicken-tikka masala for his bar mitzvah; or when Toby had assumed that in his family, marriages would be arranged. They sat together for breakfast, the old man with a newspaper, the young man with his cellphone. “How do you book the Uber?” Mr. Nair asked, devouring his bowl of cornflakes. The idea of this Uber animated him, making him feel younger than other men in his circle. Mr. Nair was the only one not sick or lazy or dying, though showing up to events got challenging with his arthritis. With the Uber, however, he could go anywhere. Even if, as with many his age, anywhere meant a funeral. “You put down the destination, and the car comes.” “Won’t the driver need to my address?” he asked, closing the newspaper, staring at Manju. “Nope. Just enter where you have to go. It takes care of itself.” “So it knows where I live.” Unsettled, he finished his bowl of cornflakes. The Uber indeed knew where he lived, and one afternoon, he decided to take his first step towards dying by getting an Aadhar card. The Aadhar scheme, the government’s new mission to register every one of the billion.2 citizens of India, took the nation by storm. Without an Aadhar card, you couldn’t open a bank account, you couldn’t apply to a university, you couldn’t even buy a SIM card for a new phone. And as it seemed to old Mr. M. M. Nair, who had vivid imaginations of his demise, you couldn’t even die: the government had mandated this card even for death registry. If he didn’t register for this card, he’d live for hundreds of years according to the government of India, unless someone from his family decided to register him later, which he thought was quite unlikely. Only two minutes after he requested a cab, it arrived. The driver parked the car as though it were a palanquin waiting for its princess. For some reason Mr. Nair shook hands with the driver. A man from his caste would never stoop to shake a driver’s hand, let alone a Muslim; but he wasn’t just a driver, he was the Uber driver. The driver’s name, Indrajeet, was Hindu, but a snippet of Arabic writing hung from the rear-view mirror. Mr. Nair found the situation funny: Islam highly discouraged

GROVER

OAR

53

Profile for Oakland Arts Review

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Advertisement