My Uncle pointed out this stout young man at the head of the procession. He said “This guy is the local tough. You want someone to be beaten up or dismembered, point to your victim and pay this guy, he’ll take care of it.”  I was taken aback by the directness of the MO and the ease with which something like that could be done.

The chap didn’t seem the sort. He was a local but I really wasn’t able to place him till my cousin pointed out, “this is the chap we used to call ‘Marugan’ – (the one with the birthmarks), he had a big splotch of a birth mark down his back and his legs” . The local elders used to pull this wisp of a kid aside and amuse themselves by studying it as though it held some Rosetta type secret.

This chap showed up at my doorstep on Saturday evening. I wanted a driver, and another cousin had promised me he would send someone reliable. The horror. If my uncle was to be believed, then this was the last guy I wanted driving me around. Pushed to the wall and not willing, wanting or wishing to drive in India, I handed him the keys.

Later on my cousin briefed me. “He is a qualified male nurse. He’s just wasting his time here.” I agreed.

In the evening, the two of us went into town, driven by the male nurse, when my cousin asked him more in detail what he was up to and why he was hanging around here instead of working at a good hospital. In a defeated tone, he replied “I was working in Chennai, and now I am attending IELTS coaching classes.” He went on to add how the classes aren’t too great, with the one-on-one English practice sessions turning out to be nothing more than Malayalam gossip chats.  My cousin approached it in a more pragmatic manner and advised him to get out of here and make something of himself.

“I guess everyone must be telling you this” I quipped. That broke the ice. He was more relaxed and laughed too, conceding that everyone thought he was wasting his time when he was actually trying to improve his English skills. “The best way to learn English is to watch movies” I said, adding my two cents to his future.

He is a regular chap, decent, educated and working hard to make ends meet or at least contribute to the economy of his family, by doing odd jobs or whatever he can. His head is screwed on the right way.While I am not sure how he got that rep, he will make a great responsible male nurse once he is out of Kerala, if the cops don’t arrest him for being a tough and beating the hell out of people, first!!!

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