Sunday, January 11, 2009

Venu, Vidi, Vici

It is time to tell the world about our friend Venu.

As some of you may recall, Venu is the young man who came to our rescue at the Internet stall last month, and I mentioned him in passing in the "Vonage Saved My Life" post. Over the last month, he has really gone out of his way to make sure that we are all okay and to help us out in any way he can. In many ways, he personifies the warmth and graciousness that is so typical of this place. After first coming to our rescue in the Internet stall, where he was able to translate to a startled looking staff that we merely needed to make an urgent phone call to Canada with our Vonage phone, as opposed to rewiring their facility on the spot in order to achieve our nefarious terror-based goals. We exchanged email addresses after our call, and if I'm not mistaken, he was very pleasantly surprised to receive an email from me the following day that thanked him for his efforts.

Venu is a young guy in his early twenties. He comes from a very small village about 6 hours away from Cochin by train, and another hour by ox-cart. He works night shift in a call-center, and makes about 10,000 rupees a month. In India there is a saying, which roughly translated, says "The guest is God". Venu really lives this maxim, and it brings him a lot of joy to be helpful to others. Surely a quality worthy of emulation. In the first week of our acquaintance, Venu helped to steer my through the labyrinthine process of securing a mobile phone. We hopped a bus and went downtown, where he and his friend took me to a few stores to buy the phone, and then to another store to activate it. At the activation place, it seemed that a passport photo was needed, so we trooped down the street, took a cel-phone camera picture against a blue wall, and had a fellow print up 5 copies in passport size. Then we went back to the store to finish the activation process. As we were packing up the phone to take away, his friend was trying in vain to put the newly activated phone back in its original packing box for me. He was experiencing some difficulty. Venu realized how silly that this was, as nobody carries their mobile phone around in its original box! He took the phone out and as he handed it to me he said "Sometimes, you must think outside the box". I laughed mightily. He looked at me questioningly and said "You are thinking that my use of idiom is correct?". I assured him that it was the best joke I had heard since I landed. Then they took me out for dosa before hopping the bus to come back to Kaloor.

He and his friend must have had a good time, because the next day I received an email saying that he had something very serious to ask Laurel and me. When we met in person, he said "I am asking this most sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. Would you attend the wedding of my sister next month in Kannur?" I was a little taken aback at the intimacy of the gesture, given our relatively fresh association. I said I would talk to Laurel about it and get back to him. Laurel and I talked it over and thought "Yeah!". When I called him back on my new mobile phone (which I think surprised him even more than the email...) to answer in the affirmative, I got the distinct impression that he was a little shocked that we said yes. Who were these people?!?!

He then got down to business and forwarded me all the train information. We've been wanting to take the boys on an Indian train trip, and this was one of the factors in our decision to go. Its about a 5 1/2 hour train trip. Last week, we went to the train station to buy our tickets in person, as we were once again unable to use the India Rail website, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of frustrating it's customers. Venu was even more surprised that we had actually gone out to purchase tickets! I must confess here that we have an ulterior motive for going to this Hindu wedding. It's a 3 day long party, and there will be over 500 guests. Venu talked to his family and we have complete permission to film all aspects of the food preparation!

Venu recently called me to tell me that he is moving to Bangalore at the end of January. He has taken another job at a call-center for Capital One, and his salary has been doubled. He is excited, to say the least. In an email a couple of days ago, he let it slip that we were the first foreigners ever to visit his village, and apparently the whole village is quite excited about this prospect. Actually, excited may be the wrong word. Let's just say that apparently we are the topic of much discussion. That really helped me put this into perspective for Venu. Here's a young guy from a small remote village. He moves to the big city to try and make something of himself. He gets a good job, and then another for twice the cash. Laurel and I both suspect that he will be swelling with pride when he returns to his village with news of his employment and a contingent of new foreign friends.

So we're off tomorrow for Kannur with all our camera gear. Up and out of here at 5 AM to make the train at 6:30. It will be radio silence for a few days while the five of us go off for a bit of real adventure. Then when we return we will be filming Mrs. Roy making a Kerala Fish Curry dish and a Bitter Gourd dish on Sunday in Fort Cochin. Monday the 19th sees us heading to Haritha Farms, which is an organic spice farm/cooking school about an hour and a half out of town. Haritha Farms ( has generously donated their time and facility to Laurel and me in exchange for a mention in our credits. Things are going to be very busy and exciting for the next several days!

But first, let's go to a wedding!


Sam said...

I finally caught up on your adventures... Sounds like everything is coming together beautifully - I love how the universe offers what we need, when we're clear about what we're asking for. Perfect. I can imagine you now, gloriously robed in your wedding clothes, in the midst of love and celebration. And warm! I'm going down Main for some fresh supplies next time I'm in Vancouver - it's been inspiring. Oscar refers to Isaac often, we have to determine if he's talking about "big Isaac or Little Isaac?" he wanted to e-mail him and I never got 'round to it - give him a cuddle from us. Love to you all, Sam

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, glad you caught up with us! I did pass on the message and cuddle to 'Little' Isaac who is getting more than his fair share of attention. He has rockstar status here. Everywhere we go people want to touch his cheek and take pictures of him. Both the boys, after some initial reluctance, are coping really well with all the attention and have learned to say their names clearly and slowly! Several people have responded to Isaac's name with, "Isaac Newton!' (followed by the ubiquitous head-wiggle). Kids break down a lot of barriers...