The phone rings while I’m at the library. I’m the only patron in the four-story building, so I take the call. “Hello sir, we’re doing a survey on married couples so I’d like to ask you a few questions,” says the lady on the other side. “Okay.” “Are you married?” “No, I’m not married,” I reply. “Okay, thanks for your time.” I return to my books, a treasure-trove of regional data, for the next few hours. The light fades as the sun sets; past the window I see construction workers still working at restoring this theological center. Beyond the work site is the church steeple, and the greying hills. I leave quietly in the night when the building closes, staring at the statue of Jesus, centrally located in the roundabout. Two plastic flower wreathes adorn the engraved scriptures on the ground. The candles have been melted down, flames extinguished. Back home, my host parents are listening to themselves on the radio, to a recorded taping of a valentine’s special on the show, Love Zone. Later at night, I watch a clip of La Vie en Rose where Edith collapses on stage in New York. Something feels unfinished.

music: john coltrane – too young to go steady



  1. So I was wondering, when you answer calls in India, do the random people who don’t know you but are calling anyway speaking in English? In your blog, they’re always speaking English, but I don’t know if you are just translating it for us or not? And if not English, does that mean you speak to them in, uh, Indian? (Yes, I am aware ‘Indian’ is not actually a language.)

      1. Do you answer your phone in Khasi or Hindi then? Or do all people in India answer their call with a, “Hello?”

        I always got a mild anxiety attack when I was living in Japan whenever I got a call from an unknown number. I was never sure if I should answer with, “Hello?” or, “moshi moshi.” So, as a compromise, I came up with the ingenius plan of answering with “hai,” so it could be interpreted as ‘hi’ for English speakers or ‘yes?’ for Japanese speakers. I sometimes still find myself answering my phone at work this way. It’s kind of funny in a not-really way.

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