Men Like Ike

What I learned About Men, Dog Bites and Women in India:

From the hut’s window I could see the cluster of brown, Lego-shaped buildings in the middle of the Great Indian Desert. For most of the year, these hollow earthen blocks are comfortable shelters from the scorching sun. Eventually, though, the rains do come, and villagers find themselves having to rebuild the life-size sandcastles after they dissolve into shapeless mounds.

I heard a knock at my door and swung the wooden slat open to find a skinny, bearded man staring at me. He, too, looked like he was made of earth. His honey-colored eyes reflected the desert’s highlights so vividly that for a moment I thought they were glowing. The effect diminished as he squinted and raised his hand to his forehead to get a better look at me. He smiled and introduced himself as Dinesh, my neighbor.

“Let’s take some chai,” he invited in surprisingly clear English.

As we walked on the dirt road toward the chai stand, he took my hand in his. In these parts, this is an innocent display of fraternal affection, but I saw it as an affront to my independence. Even as a child I hated the feeling of being tethered when forced to hold an adult hand to cross a busy street.

I worked his grip loose and crouched down to pick up a rock, pretended to examine it, and put it in my pocket where I kept my hand out of his reach. Satisfied with my manoeuvring around a cultural slight, I relaxed as we continued our stroll. A few moments later, though, my new friend interlaced his arm through mine. I sighed and resigned myself to walk bromantically arm in arm with my new buddy.

“Why do you put rocks in your pocket?” He asked.

The habit had not originated from an aversion to hand holding. A few weeks before, I had been attacked by feral dogs in a crowded street. People around here do not fear dogs, and as an aspiring intrepid traveler I was ashamed that I did. “I like to practice my juggling with stones,” I lied unconvincingly.

“Oh, I thought it was because you were afraid of dogs,” he said as he squeezed my arm a little tighter.

Maybe it was the uncomfortable novelty of having a man hugging my bicep that prompted the uncontrollable urge to confess. “Yeah,” I said, “I’m terrified of dogs. Take a look.” With my free hand I picked up the hem of my shorts to reveal the nasty wounds the sharp teeth left behind.

“Wow, that’s bad!” Dinesh chuckled. “Did you get the six injections?”

It’s the question everyone here asks when you tell them you were attacked by dogs. Even children are aware of the anti-rabies prescription.

“I’m on my third one,” I replied. I then told him how I used to ignore the dogs like everyone else, but now launched rocks at them at the slightest hint of a growl.

Dinesh’s hazel eyes narrowed as he shook his head. “But my friend, you cannot beat all dogs simply because one bit you. It is wrong and cruel!” He exclaimed indignantly. “Last year, my wife flirted with my cousin, and I did not beat innocent women in India. I only beat my own wife.”

“Oh,” I said uneasily. “You’re a wise man, Dinesh. Like… Ike Turner.”

“Who is that? He asked. “A famous wise man?”

“I think in some circles he probably is,” I replied.

“Then let us be wise men of peace,” he concluded, “let us be men like Ike.”

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