I'd like to tell the world about my friend Rishi.
I met him in Pushkar, the holy town in Rajasthan and somehow this young man touched my heart. To be honest, he was the first Indian salesperson, who didn't forced me into his shop and gave me the feeling of playing hide and seek with the selling item or the reason for the conversation.
To tell the truth it was me who asked the first question. When I went by his shop he just watched me looking at his items and it was not before I asked him about price and material of a purse when he started to talk to me. And everyone who's been to India can tell that this is a very rare situation.
He told me, it was camel leather but after a while, inside the shop he whispered: „I said before it’s camel but to be honest, it’s not. It’s goat. I don’t feel good to lie and this is why I tell people, when I see they’re good hearted“. This was, when I started to love this little Rishi.
Rishi was born here in Pushkar and works for a leather shop. But actually he doesn’t like this job. He’d rather work in the job he had before, when he helped at meditation classes. At least he likes the selling way more than school which he skipped with 14. For now – so he told me – he works in the leather shop until he finds a new position in the meditation field. First of all, because he needs to work to support his parents and his 6 brothers and sisters (they all live in 2 rooms together and, as Rishi said, this can be very very small.). Furthermore is Rishi„only middle Hindu“, so he can work with leather. His shop neighbor for example can not touch the leather items, what makes it difficult for Rishi to go to the toilet sometimes, because no one can take over for him in the shop then.
Rishi spent hours with me, we had a very interesting conversation about the differences of cultures, he showed me how the leather gets dark, when you put oil on it and gave me the first meditation theory class :D We just sat and talked for 2 hours. He was very impressed that people in Germany can have more than 1 girlfriend in a lifetime and smoke in front of their parents and I was very impressed how the people in India live together no matter what age they have and about all his meditation and English knowledge what he got just through speaking to people. After two hours I asked him if I could buy this little backpack which he had oiled as a memory and his answer was kinglike: „Really? Actually I made this one for putting outside, now I have to oil another!“
No, I don’t think there is any better way to make friends and sell some stuff than to be like Rishi. Sometimes I wish the guys in the shop would just let me have a look before they start to “give me best price, best price, because you friend!” – I would buy so much more, if they’d just let me have a look. Rishi, Indian's calmest and friendliest leather items seller became more angry than me when some of his colleges asked me if I would visit his shop after Rishis. In fact I wasn't angry at all but Rishi was. I thought it would be about competition but when I heard him arguing with this man I came to understand that it was all about respect which is a very big topic in India.
Customers, visitors and tourists are treated very well and it is very important for most Indians to make sure everyone feels welcome in their country. I had several situations where I was offered a seat just because it was better than mine. In the sleeping trains was always some stranger next to me who ensured that I could sleep safe and whenever I moved I could see that he (happened with 5 different people!) was only half asleep and had a protective eye on me. In spite of all facts and prejudices concerning safety of women in India, I never felt safer in a country (maybe Nepal). However, according to a new study, 96% of all girls in Delhi feel unsafe in their own city. 96%! Isn't that riddiculously high?? And even if I'm sure Rishi would always stand up to protect a girl, we have seen that - unfortunately - not everyone does.
Rishi spoke about his sisters and that they have even less choices than himself. As a white traveller it is hard to believe that girls in India face so much harassment and fear. But I have seen the numbers and I have spoken to people.
When Rishi stood up for me I tried to stop him first, I like to defend myself. But he said we don't only need strong women we also need understanding men. So I let him talk to his collegue. And I will remember that we don't only need to empower girls. We also must help men understand about the importance of girls empowerment. And this is probably the main reason why I'm writing about Rishi.
When you come to Pushkar, say hello to him, we can all learn a lot from this sensitive and curious man.