Five men under the blanket. They were cozy. Snuggling in fact. Just their heads popped out like little smurfs. I was surprised but it wasn’t the first time I accidentally found gay sex in India. This seemed different though. They stared back at me, the 13 year old American who just dropped out of a window on a bed sheet. In America, they called me a genie. Now I knew why.
But here, they thought I was weird. All five of them.
I was on a beer run. Godfather. They were rickshaw drivers. We were neighbors. I had tied bed sheets together to rappel down the side of the building. My mission was to buy booze and then climb back up the bed sheet without detection. They were squatters. It was midnight. We waved.
Turned out, I knew these guys. We would fight incessantly over rickshaw prices into Amritsar and across Ranjit Avenue. They were vicious. They had built a cartel to charge us American’s an extra high rate. When we first arrived to A block, the market would fluctuate for transport costs. Realizing they could gouge us, they banded into a union. They then raised rates on us in a disciplined fashion.
We were now neighbors. They moved into the half finished building next door. The Fabulous Five now lived in my prime escape path. I was forced to reexamine the combative nature of our relationship. They could rat me out to the school and take all my money. They had leverage.
Turned out these guys pooled their money. They would hire a lady to come cook their evening meals. They all slept together in the same bed. They worked together to milk us as hard as they could. Their level of satisfaction with life seemed high.
We became friends. Later on I would occasionally join them for meals. While they would charge me exorbitant amounts for rickshaw rides, they would invite me to dinner for free. One day I asked them why they give me free dinner but then hustle me on pricing. One answered that he works hard so he can be generous. I liked that.
I thought about these guys recently when I dropped my daughter for the day with our cleaning team in Mexico. My wife commented that they have it good. They have 3 generations under one roof. They have numerous cousins and siblings all living together to share the duties of the household. They help us with Siana along with the maintenance at Casa Om. I like Siana to see big families together. Obviously they have their stuff but the level of camaraderie and support again, seems to lead to a high level of satisfaction.
When I reflect on my most satisfying work, it largely revolves around working with a group of people for a shared purpose and then to succeed. The unconventional living situations of the people differ. However this maxim seems true: find your group that you can band together with to build mutual success.