Name: Sanju the Servant Boy
Encountered: WWOOF Farm, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
When we first began our would-be WWOOF work-stay on Farmer D_____’s organic farm we thought that small, smiley Sanju was Farmer D_____’s 12-year-old son. We later learned that dog-hating, filthy-mouthed Sanju was Farmer D_____’s undergrown 17-year-old servant boy. And over time that, although his preindustrial hand-scythe was dull, his wit, once translated, was sharp enough to seat wiley little Sanju smack between the likes of Churchill and Twain.
He also liked to beat dogs.
The following are some of Sanju’s bitingest zingers, most memorable interactions and all-around greatest qualities.
In The Beginning
Sanju didn’t immediately warm up to us. In fact, at first he was a hard jack-fruit to crack.
- He’s from Jammu and Kashmir somewhere; no one really knows. He won’t talk about it, on account of the violent fights he used to have with his previous employer.
- Works all day doing every possible kind of work arising, from redirecting rivers to irrigate fields to collecting cow patties to locking dogs in cages and slapping them.
- Couldn’t speak English and refused not only how to do that, but anything else academic. If Farmer D_____ sent him to school, Sanju threatened, he would quit. “He who teaches me is my enemy.”
- Rather than learn our complicated English names, Sanju gave us new ones. For his likeness to a moustachioed Rajasthani soap opera outlaw, Devon became “Loha Singh”. For his likeness to a recent French guest who addressed Sanju the same way, Steve became simply “Young Man.” Often when we were stooped over, immersed in our farmwork, we’d hear these names whispering through the lychee branches and look up to glimpse momentarily a sinisterly smirking Sanju before he’d turn and trot off to his next menial task.
- Recognizing this as our sole form of communication, we soon fought back, substituting “Sanju” for every word in an endless string of songs we’d sing in his presence. Sometimes he’d counter with a high-pitched “Lohaaaaa” or sing-songy “Young Maaaan”; other times he’d just scowl.
A week passed full of this semi-antagonistic nonsense, but then one night everything changed. That night, we started insulting each other openly. Sitting around the cluster of beds and chairs pulled outside beneath the stars with G____ and P____ — Farmer D_____’s son and daughter — Sanju kept passing, uttering something in Hindi, and each time leaving G____ in stitches. As we figured, “He’s talking about you guys!” Well, we remembered, we weren’t friends with an Indian since 9th grade for nothing. “Hey Sanju,” Steve began. “Mein kutti houn!” [I am a bitch.] G____ guffawed again. Not a beat later, Sanju fired back. G____ translated: “You are bitch? I am dog then.” And so it continued, a new comment each time Sanju passed, with an aggressive yet good-natured ironically homoerotic and juveniley scatological tone we hadn’t heard since leaving Danville, CA, home of the DickCore movement.
- “Ok, Young Man, open your pants now.”
- “He [Steve] is so beautiful, it’s easy to fall in love with him. Even for swimming he is so strong and flexible.”
- Regarding Devon and his sass, “He is bullshit. He is a crap guy. Let him die.””Put your ass and mouth in the fire now.”
- “Go away from my eyes.”
- We’d recently daytripped to a filthy temple-side hot springs by a river flowing with field runoff. After Sanju proposed to him, Steve asked where the honeymoon would be. “The hot springs,” Sanju replied. Then he called off the engagement.
- “Come here, slut,” he beckoned, before spraying us in the face with a squirt bottle.
It didn’t take long for Sanju to start down the Steve-and-Devon-are-a-couple path. But we were ready for him, complete with dirty finger gestures to drive home the points. The degree of disgust displayed for each proposed pairing proved culturally revelatory.
- Steve and Devon. [No disgust, just laughter.]
- Sanju and P_____. [Mild disgust.]
- Sanju and Christina the Cow. [Extreme disgust.]
- Steve and Beena the low-caste hired day-laborer woman. [Extreme disgust plus instructive scolding.]
- Sanju and Puja [Extreme, almost violent disgust]
Another way we got him wincing was when he brought us some chai. Through gestures, he let us know he’d prepared it himself, and wished to know if we found it tasty. Through gestures, Steve asked if Sanju had pissed in the tea. “Noooo!” he cried with a face plagued with shock, confusion, indignation, and fierce denial. Then he scampered off.
All Dogs Go To Hell (in Sanju’s book*)
Perhaps he had a bad experience with one once. Perhaps it’s because he occupies the lowest human rung on the Hindu social ladder. Who knows? What’s clear is that Sanju hates all dogs, wishes them to suffer, and has taken it upon himself to see that they do.
- One afternoon, unaware of his spectators, Sanju called the farm dogs, Zema the German Shepherd and Puhpee the mutt, over to their iron sleeping cage. Obedient things that they are, they came immediately and hopped in. Then Sanju gingerly pet their heads. Then he smacked Puhpee on the hindquarters. Then he punched them both. He did this several more times before locking the cage and hustling off.
- On a trip to the river, a local dog trotted up to Zema who amicably engaged it in a round of mutual ass-sniffing. Then Sanju slammed a bamboo stick down onto the local dog’s face and spine, ending the meeting.
- Minutes later another dog appeared at the crest of a sand dune, stood and watched us a moment, then sprang for dear life away from the giant rock Sanju hefted at its head.
Puja the Servant Girl
Sanju’s 14-year-old female counterpart, Puja the Servant Girl, was new on the farm, clumsy, spent 80% of her day cooking chapattis over a fire in a poorly-ventilated porch, preferred to wash her clothes and hair in the pooey irrigation ditch over the bathroom, and above all hated Sanju. One fight we witnessed went thus… Sanju: I hope you die. Puja: I will burn you in the fire.
There’s a lot more we could say about Puja, but instead we just wrote this song about her. Sure, she’s getting the short end of the chapatti-flippin’ stick, but hey! She’s a servant girl. She’s used to it!
*This would have to be a picture book. Why? The kid’s illiterate, dummy!