Drunken Dadas at the Gates

Dada actually means brother in Bengali, older brother, as Didi is older sister.  But Dada is also the term for the men who rule over the neighborhoods.  Some rule by guns, others by political influence.  The two are linked.  It's been a long time since we had serious trouble with the Dadas.  I've paid a lot of protection money but I have refused to hire the people they want me to hire.  I paid extortion money just before the children came because the gov. official connected to us made it clear that we wouldn't get the kids if there was trouble.


Unknowlingly, I had hired the chief Dada as my building contractor for the renovations.  He and his men turned the house into a clubhouse of theirs and I had a major fight to get them out.  Then they wanted access to the home any time they wanted, even after the girls were here.  I've had threats against my life.  And I'm pretty much on my own in fighting them.  I've been told they own the police.  I don't know.  My single largest budget expense is security.  I may move to armed security which will cost even more.  I will also set up meetings with higher officials.


One of the dangers of having the Dadas living so close is that over time my security men become friends with them, and then cannot provide security I can trust.  Yesterday and then over the course of today I discovered that my two guards (two twelve hour shifts) we lying about how our pandal (the temporary temple for Saraswati Puja) got to be the insulation of a neighbor's ceiling.  We had put it together and decorated it and I'd planned to put it in our back garden for the kids to use as a playhouse.  Then I discovered it was gone, and then that it was the ceiling insulation of a neighbor's house.  The "big deal" of it was the evolving lies that made it clear I was not being told the truth.  I had three interpreters, teachers who speak English helping, so it was not a matter of translation.  One of the teachers came with me to the house of the neighbor to find out.  It's a great use for the woven and covered panels. The woman understood I was trying to find out how she got it….   Yes, this is how I spend my time…. but I have to know who I can trust and when my securit is lying.  In the process I also discovered they were faking the books of their times.  I called the boss and he said he had been remiss in not changing them earlier, as is policy.


I assume my guard let the Dadas know he might be moved and they came to his rescue and thus we had a screaming match at the gate.  Before I got outside, the girls had gone out and had heard one of the Dadas saying he would send me back to America, that I couldn't stay here.  So the girls were terrified and crying and I started yelling at the Dada for upsetting my girls and in the course he said he could do anything he wanted to me because he is Indian and I said the only way he was getting me out of here was by killing me and he said he could do what he wanted and no point to call the police because he owned them.  And I also threw in his stealing my money in the past and trying all this before and he accused me of misusing public money (really drunk and derranged) but I truly wanted to girls to see I was ready to fight him, and I did not back down. 


I made a call to the local councillor and he said he would come tomorrow and talk to them.  I called a couple of other people I thought would be helpful but they weren't.  I sat and talked with the kids about it all.  They are used to drunken men, or at least they were used to that in their lives.  We have talked about that before.  I laughed and made it clear I was fine, and that I was calling people because when men try to intimidate you, it's better to tell people, not to hide it, to fight back… not to slink away.


I will change the guards…. but I won't let them stay so long.  I used to have a hard time with getting guards, etc.  Our first security company (arranged for by a member of our Board) was a fake company.  If I have to bring in a new company I will… it's just draining.   I know what to do though.


Well, after all this trouble, now well after bedtime, Bijoy and his wife still here… I came up with the only logical solution.  I asked Bijoy if he felt safe going out (this was a joke) and suggested he bring back ice cream!  We had a great ice cream fest and I gave two pops to two of the local men still outside….  In the end the girls giggled about it all as we ate the ice cream and looked at pictures from a wedding reception we had all gone to yesterday.


I don't like this stuff.  I had started the day on a really happy note.  Yesterday I'd remembered a children's story I'd written in 1971, and realized the girls would love it… and I found it on my computer and read it, just a low key story from when I lived on a sailboat in the Bahamas and I wrote a story about two girls in a village not unlike villages here… and a kitten they found.  It's a peaceful story with about as much tension as I can manage to enjoy in a story, which is almost none.  It felt like I was living in this wonderful peaceful place.


The story, A Trip to Turtletown…. This is my Turtletown but today the harsh reality of violence, power, greed, anti foreigner, anti woman, came full force.  But that's why I'm here, creating a bit of Turtletown for my girls and teaching them how to be strong and careful in the face of drunken Dadas.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Saranee Mitra Sen
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 03:52:20

    Michelle, I am sorry and ashamed that your good intentions and efforts don’t receive any support from the local populace. I am from Calcutta and now I live in Michigan. One day I hope to return to Calcutta and start something of my own and I am sure I will have to put up with as much resisitance if not more.


  2. Heather
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 20:12:05

    It is so sad that something that can be so good — a dada — is also the word for something so bad. Keep up the work Mom.


  3. Travelingcloud
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 21:47:22

    Saranee, no reason for your shame. Such people are everywhere in the world. Hope you will visit, and happy to help in any way I can (I have a lot of experience with these dadas)


  4. Travelingcloud
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 21:49:20

    Dadas can be SO good! Happy Birthday Andrei Dada, from all of us at Shishur Sevay.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

February 2009
%d bloggers like this: