The Coconut Telegraph: Jan 1st
India has 12 times the density of America. Imagine your house in America. It might have 4 people. Here it would have 48. We have a staff of six people, plus another twenty or so assorted workmen, hangers-on, children, and street urchins. This means we have no privacy. None. Our maid, anxious to make 1 rupee, will lay out our rubbish in the street to see if anything can be sold for scrap. The guard’s open-air bathroom is two feet behind our bedroom window. When we wake up in the morning...well all I can say is we are very quiet. The worst is when I’m sitting with my computer, and get the uneasy feeling I’m being watched - I turn around and will find the guard’s nose pressed against the window, looking at me and my computer.
Jimmy Buffet’s "Coconut Telegraph" is alive and well on our street - our actions are observed and communicated to all the guards on the street, some true: "They’re having a party and he bought some whiskey worth 1500 rupees!" (a month’s salary for our guard); and some just downright malicious "madam’s cook has a boyfriend who waits for her". Because there is no privacy, and because I am "boss", a remarkable transformation has occurred. We have no "private persona". We can only say and live a life that doesn’t require any forgiveness. Transgressions of Indian values will be instantly communicated to the street, and will make managing that much harder.
Nagaraj, one of the two security guards, made a pass at our married cook Mercy. We wouldn’t have known anything about this sexual harassment, except that Nagaraj started to brag about it to the other security guard Ramesh. The Coconut Telegraph went into action. Eventually Sue found out and asked Mercy what happened. Mercy denied it, saying she was a "good girl, madam", and didn’t invite such "rubbish". In the Ramayana, Rama the protagonist king condemns his wife, queen Sita, to the fire, because she might have been unfaithful during her imprisonment by the demon Ravanna. Sita denies this and professes her undying loyalty, but in obedience to her husband, she steps into the fire. Agni, the fire god returns her to Rama, untouched, along with a stern lecture to Rama about power, duty, and compassion. Indian marriage has deep roots in this myth about infidelity. Poor Mercy would have been damned if she even hinted at sexual harassment. The Coconut Telegraph has saved her, this time, but I suspect it will be a while before her life returns to normal. Sue called the security guard’s boss in and had Nagaraj removed.