January 21, 2010

The guilt of friendship

As I was writing in my journal the previous entry, a German friend, Katya, came up to me and said, "I have to talk with you about something." She told me about how Padma is always trying to get people's sympathy so that they give her things--she receives so much money from this family, and she had lied to me about the low earnings she gets. It was startling, after having just had my heart wrenched a few seconds before by her story. Clearly, her ploy worked. She had done the same to Katya, who had given her money and gifts to help her. But when Katya refused to give her all of what she asked for, Padma stopped speaking to her anymore, turning cold. She lies about how much money she has, her poverty. This family supports her, since Troy has so much money. It is all an act, she told me, just watch out, and hold onto your valuables. Now, I don't know what to do, who to trust. This woman comes to the house every week! What did I get myself into!

I have to say I have been disillusioned by the idea of friendship here. Only earlier today, I met some children at Simpark to go to the zoo. I had been asked by this 17 year old boy named Vicki if I wanted to go. When I met him a few days ago, I thought it to be a friendly gesture, since he wasn't interested in a girlfriend, and he seemed just to be good company. Little did I know, I was ambushed today by him and 8 other friends (notably, 3 of whom were named Vicki) who held my hand and smiled away cutely. They asked me to buy them a new cricket bat. As much as I wanted to, it was too much--I just don't have that money. I thought it a little suspicious that they would be so forward at first, but of course they were so young and innocent looking. Then I realized, his invitation to the zoo to me had actually meant, Do you want to take me and 2 other friends (also named Vicki) to the zoo and pay for us? They told me that the metro was closed on Sundays, and we had to take a cab. They asked if I had the money for one, and I had no choice but to give in, considering we had no other option. Only later did I learn that they had lied--the metro runs on Sunday. In this way, they got me to pay for the transportation there. I wasn't too suspicious, but when we got to the zoo, they pushed me ahead and said, "4 tickets," forcing me again to pay. It was another small but again unexpected assumption on their part, a gift I would have been happy to offer if it hadn't been an obligation and a presumption. At that point, I was still thrilled to be so loved by these 14 and 17 year olds, so I tried to enjoy the zoo, with the Indian lion, tiger, and elephants. It wasn't anything special, and I hated seeing the animals caged up. As we left, they explained it was Vicki #1's birthday next Sunday, we should go to Nico Park, an amusement park in Salt Lake. I thought, sure, that would be fun to celebrate his birthday! But then I realized how it probably meant that I would be the one treating them on this excursion, the taxi and the tickets, and who knows how many friends, and I just couldn't pay. I told them so, and tried to explain why in as simple English as possible. Because I am only here through the help of a fellowship, volunteering, I have no job, no real place to live, I am about to enter a ridiculously expensive school. I was honest with them to sort of test them, and I found that instead of understanding, they tried harder to convince me to take them to Nico Park, saying how much fun I would have there (not much I am certain). "Only buy me tickets for 3 boys and we pay you lunch." Like that wsa equivalent? Then they searched for alternative ways to get me to buy them things. QUite clever, I'll admit, as they took advantage of my guilt. After giving up on the park, they asked if I could buy them cake to celebrate instead. I conceded, but immediately they specified that I should buy for all of them and their friends, and they must pick out the cake. Thankless brats. Then they asked if they could come over to my house. Luckily I refused. They dove boldly into asking if I could help find Vicki a job in America and if he could stay at my house. I repeated that I don't have a house. Can he stay at your parent's house? What is your parent's salary? They asked with no hesitation. I could tell they had some mischief in their minds. I declined giving them anymore information, and would not pay for their take out dinner they requested, and finally gave them a fake phone number. They kept on asking for dinner, and I muttered frustratedly, "You can't just ask for things like that!! It's not fair!" And I left my comment unexplained as I escaped.

After talking with some real friends, I learned that these are just shit kids who do this all the time. I feel so dirty and taken advantage of. Even by children for crying out oud!!! It is like a conspiracy where everyone wants pity, money, and then to get to America!! I feel so hateful at the reality that I literally cannot trust anyone anymore. I feel selfish and stingy, and paradoxically tricked and stolen from at the same time. People can appear so honest, but yet be so deceptive. Where is their conscience? How can I justify helping the poor when these people are so totally immoral? So two-faced? I simply can't do anything anymore. I just want to lock myself in a room. But at the same time, how can I blame them? It is a society where everyone is trapped, victimized by inevitable and inescapable poverty. Can I really judge them when they have no where else to turn but fraud for their own survival? Is this the real India? Deception, mockery, and betrayal?

1 comment:

  1. When Usha told you not to trust anyone there, you never thought she really meant ANYONE. Now you know.