At our office at the Dental College, the same scene is repeated as at the house. The door opens and people appear and do things like wash the floors, fill our water thermos, bring tea. Where they come from, where they get the water or the tea, and where we find any of it ourselves are all Mysteries. So we just say “thank you” or “namaste” and go on. (They seem startled and flattered that we say anything at all).
We do most of our food shopping right in Bengali Market, in little shops that are semi-self service. Some things are out on the shelf, but many more are hidden away in nooks and crannies, so you tell one of the people what you want and they disappear into back rooms and overhead lofts and come back with whatever it was. Then another person jots up how much it costs, and still another person takes your money. Since they see us every day, they have concluded we live nearby, so now, unless we insist otherwise, they take the bags of food right to our door. Two cases of bottled water were stacked on the back of a bicycle and brought to our house this morning. Dave’s pressed sports coat was carried on a hangar to the house from the dry cleaner. No tips are expected for any of this. The landlady and others tell us, “just call up and tell them what you want and they will bring it, and then you don’t have to go to the store.” Trouble is, we don’t know what we want, and we like seeing the people and the show at the store.
Today we went further away to do some shopping. The autorickshaw driver told us where to find the store, took us there, waited for us, took us back home. We paid him the 40 rupees (90 cents) that had been agreed on as the price. When we said “thank you for your help”, he said, ”No, no, it is my duty.”