‘What do they think of all this?’, I asked, referring to the Indian servants.
‘Think? Why, my God, Ken has got them seduced too. He treats ‘em right. Doesn’t overpay them, or coo-coo to them like they are children or idiots like most people do; or worse degrade and debase them. “Do your job”, he says, “and I’ll be good to you”. And he is. And they’re the best damn servants in Madras. Some people say he just knows how to train people, just like dogs. But not Ken. He comes on with them just like he does with women – understanding and respect. And they’ll do for him just what the women do’
At that, Hanks closed his already half-closed eyes and rolled his head around and around. ‘And oh, what those women do…..Ooo-oo! He swayed back and forth like a chanting sadhu, rocking himself until he heard the music and began moving with it. A big smile came on his fact, and he rocked and swayed like a graceful tree in the wind. “Mmm-mmm’, he said over and over again. ‘Mmm-mmm’
The next day I met Hanks in the office. ‘Hugh, how’re they hangin’ this fine morning?’ I told him they were very, very low. ‘My, oh my’, now that is sumpin’ else. Let’s you and me go get ourselves a beer to take the sting out of Thursday’. I agreed to leave the office, but not to have a beer, and when we had gotten settled into the dark and slightly rancid-smelling restaurant, I looked on with disbelief as Hanks thirstily gulped down two Golden Eagles. ‘Christ’, I said. ‘How do you do it?’
‘There’s nothing else to do, for God’s sake. The only good way to cure a hangover is to get drunk again. Why anybody knows that.’
‘Don’t you have to work today?’
‘Work is a relative term – relative to how you feel. Now, you take yesterday. That was what I call a prime work day. I got up at eight o’clock in the morning; shat, showered, and shaved; pumped and dumped my bodily systems and felt fine, just fine. I was ready for anything. Now, unfortunately yesterday was the day I was travellin’ – coming back from Delhi, so there was no work to be done. A real shame; so on the airplane I decided not to waste the day and had myself a pitcher-full of Bloody Marys. When I got off in Madras, I was feelin’ just right. Today, on the other hand, what with last night and all, work is simply out of the question. Oh, I’ll show my little Southern head around the office, like I did this mornin’, but nothin’ heavy….You know what I mean? A little flirtin’ with the secretaries, dictate a few letters in the cool of my private office, then of to my little grass shack.’
"’Tell me, is it always like that?’, I asked, referring to the party the night before.
‘Like what?’, Hanks replied, frowning as though he honestly didn’t know what I was talking about. Then, shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Oh that!’, and put is head into another head of beer. ‘That’s just a little diversion Ken and the rest of us have cooked up to help us make it through the tropics. Nothin’ serious going on there at all.’
‘Then what’s serious?’, I asked.
‘Everybody had their clothes on, for Christ’s sake, man. Now that’s nothing serious.’ He laughed until he coughed, the long, wheezing, gasping cough of a heavy smoker. When the spasm had passed, he reached, red-faced and perspiring into his pocket and pulled out a Charminar. He lit it, dragged deeply, lifting his head and eyes to the ceiling. He saw me looking at him and said, ‘Hugh, it’s just like drinking. The only way to cure one of these goddam coughs is to suck some more smoke back into the lungs. Why, my God, they get used to it. That’s why you cough…It’s the ol’ lungs gaspin’ for some more good stuff.’
TO BE CONTINUED…..