Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Gardener Named Babu

Shortly after we moved into our new house, an Indian man came by and asked if we needed a gardener. I knew we would, but I just wasn’t there yet. I don’t think we had been in India for twenty-four hours and I had a lot more pressing things on my mind then finding a gardener.

Our yard is covered by a thick tree canopy. Many of the trees flower, and within a few days, our driveway was covered in a leaf fall nearly an inch thick. Beneath the flowering trees it looked as if it had snowed. Within a week or two, it quickly became apparent that finding a gardener would have to move higher up on my to-do list.

Fortunately, the man who had come to our house in those first bleary-eyed hours returned. Though he spoke no English, I was able to ascertain that he had been the gardener for the previous occupants of the residence and was also the gardener for our neighbors on either side of us. His name was Babu.

Not that I couldn’t sweep my own leaves from the driveway, but it is a big driveway and there are a lot of leaves. Anywhere else, myself or the gardener would be using a gas-powered leaf-blower. Here, he uses two stubby brooms fashioned from palm fronds, and Babu quickly sweeps the drive way by taking one in each hand and rapidly swishing one and then the other alternatively like the Karate Kid doing “wax on…wax off”.  

Babu is ageless; there is no way to tell how old he is. Though I later found out that he is old enough to have a son who owns a flower shop in Poe’s Garden. I bought flowers from him for Elise for Christmas. He wears a short dhoti, the Indian equivalent of a kilt. In his pocket, he carries a small AM/FM radio and listen to Bollywood music as he works. He has a carbuncle-covered nose and dark skin. He presses his palms together, prayer-like, when he greets me, and makes me feel a little like Rudyard Kipling circa 1889 and as though I am not deserving of the kindness and respect he shows me.

He plays with the children when they play outside, and now they want to wear dhotis, too. Both Peter and Clementine brought me their blankets this morning and asked me to tie them around their waists so they could wear them like dhotis. Clementine holds her blanket out and says, “Babu…Babu.” The next thing you know she’ll be carrying around a transistor radio in her pocket, too. 

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