Shortly after arriving, our friend Tara introduced us to Shiva: a 20 year old orphan who lives and works at the River View Cottages guesthouse in Rishikesh, India.
As Tara and Shiva’s friendship had developed, they began to refer to each other as brother and sister. When Carrie and I were first introduced, we immediately declared that such a relationship made us his cousins. Shiva was so thrilled by this idea that he bought us all little friendship necklaces.
Over the next two weeks living in Rishikesh, we would learn much about our distant relative. Most evenings, he would knock on our door to come in for a short chat. This was difficult, at times, due to his very basic knowledge of English: but we made it work.
Shiva’s Sad Story
During these chats, Shiva revealed to us that his parents had passed away seven years earlier. With his hands, he demonstrated that he had placed them in the Ganga River and had a puja.
Shiva also discussed his recent kidney operation and how he needed to take a daily tablet to recover. Every night, he would give us a recap of how many chapates he ate as well as whether he had his tablet: all while holding his stomach in the “full” gesture.
These tablets, unfortunately, cost roughly 1,000 rupees ($20) each, which led to a bit of awkwardness. In the middle of this genuine friendship, Shiva always found a way to let us know that he wanted money to pay for his tablets.
At one point, when taking the group shots seen on this page, Shiva pulled me aside and had me promise to bring him a new shirt, pants and $50 bill the next time I came to India. After a few days of this, I promised him that we would give him a “tip” when we left and he seemed to get the point.
When we finally checked out of River View Cottages, Shiva came to say goodbye and we gave him printouts of these photos, a Chinese luck envelope and a nice tip. I like to think that if I ever do find myself in Rishikesh again, I will have the chance to make good on my other promise.