The next morning is my last. The plan is for one of Ravi’s men to drive me to the airport. We leave in the late morning after a leisurely breakfast. The streets are empty compared with yesterday, so our journey is uneventful. As I sit in the rear of the car I find myself in a pensive mood. Having found my signature style I feel unexpectedly unsettled, like a sailor who has stepped off of a ceaselessly rocking boat onto solid ground. The quest for a signature style, which has been such a defining characteristic of my life, is now over. Undoubtedly a time will come when I will feel compelled to change my look again, but that time is in the distant future. What will my next move be now? Can I be content simply expressing the identity I have chosen for myself?
At the entrance to the airport, at the point where the rickshaw drivers patiently wait at that invisible but all too real barrier between powered and human traffic, I have my driver stop our car and say to him, “Can you please ask one of the rickshaw drivers over there who speaks for them?” I ask. He looks at me quizzically so I rephrase the question. “Please ask to whom they pay baksheesh.” He shrugs then rolls down the window, says something quickly to one of the rickshaw drivers, and then addresses me. “Their manager is not here, Madame.”
Perfect. “Please wait”, I say as I step out of the car and approach the cluster of rickshaws. The drivers are a thin, unkempt lot, wearing rude dhotis. Their shoes are made of some form of recycled rubber, probably old tires. I am impressed with the craftsmanship, but saddened. You can only do so much with such material.
“Do any of you speak English?” I ask. Most nod mutely no, but one man speaks up. “I do Madame. Can I help you? Would you like a ride to the airport?”
“No.” As I reply, I remove what remains of my money from my pocket and divide the bills into ten groups, one pile for each rickshaw driver plus one pile for my driver. When I am done distributing the money, the English speaker asks again, “We are all most grateful for your gift, Madame. Please, can we help you?”
“There is no need. Chatterjee’s man is taking care of me.” I nod to my driver.
The rickshaw driver rolls his head in agreement but nevertheless asks again. “Are you certain that there is no help that we can give you?”
I look into the back seat of the car, which is crammed full of packages. On top of the pile I see my carry-on suitcase, which I know contains my bouffant wig and tiara. “No thank you. I have more than enough.”
1. Bouffe is a reference to Opera Bouffe, typically a light, comic Italian or French opera.
2. The Italian phrase ”Abbiamo venduto la parrucca, ora puoi comprare la villa a Parma” means “Now you can buy your villa in Parma”, which is an indirect way of suggesting that the outfit Bexx has just purchased is expensive.
3. Sourav Ganguly was am extremely famous cricket star in the Oughts. This reference is added for the benefit of readers who are familiar with Kolkata to underscore the seriousness of the cricket riot.
4. Rosa Luxembourg was a famous German communist revolutionary who was murdered in January 1919. The child is named after her to emphasize that the wig manufacturing family is aware of the class ramifications of Bexx’s materialism. This is not such a stretch. There is a very strong tradition of communism in Kolkata. That’s why one of its main streets is called Lenin Sarani.
This story was originally written for a media and the law course. I hope that I have succeeded in parodying Kinsella’s series as much as is allowed by our first amendment rights – but no more. This is a friendly parody. I also hope that my work gently prods shopaholics everywhere to consider how it is that their relentless pursuit of style is harming themselves and our planet.
Because I am writing a parody of an English book, I have chosen to use English spellings. I have chosen to use Calcutta instead of Kolkata in the title to underscore the class divide between Bexx, Gavin, and the people of Kolkata.
If you see any grammar or writing errors, I would kindly appreciate your input. I find my paragraphs can get overloaded with moods, tenses and aspects!
I can’t believe you got this far, thank you for reading!