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  • Writer's pictureAditya Sudhakar

Cuba

Any town in Cuba. 

It's a non stop party. Salsa, rum, rumba. Gelled hair, short skirts. Arrribaaa!


Wow, screw the rat race. Sign me up. 

Tuesday morning. 

“Which way to tourist information?” 

“Straight two blocks right side”, pointing with a beer bottle. “Where you from?”

“India”

“Aaa eenjya, Indira Gandhi! You wanna taxi?”

“No, we're ok thanks”

“Really good taxi”, his bottle swinging in the direction of a Soviet loved Lada.

“No, all good thanks”

“Bien, have a nice days”


What a nice guy. 


Christmas Eve. A farmer's market blocks the intersection. Whole hogs, legs tied, howl. Weighed, they're dumped in creaky push carts. The hog’s last bad day. A good day for some family. Salsa music blasts from crackly speakers. People gyrate. Beer and rum bottles clink. 

“Sir you wanna taxi” 

“No thanks”

“Where you go. Food, rum?”

“Just walking”

“Mira, una cerveza y una rum”. $1.

Ha, cheap!


“Sir, taxi sir!”

“No”

“Where you from”

Hmm, heard that one.

“India”

“Eenjya wow, Indira Gandhi! Great taxi sir, AC. where you go”.

“Just walking”


Hustlers on every corner. Not the clever kind. Mechanical, like they're wound up. Well fed. Muscular arms, fat bellies, loud voices. Always extra money for much rum and beer. Always extra rum and beer for not much money.


“Sir, where you from! Cigar? Wha abou rum. Taxi?” 

We've walked a mile. Salsa music, beer, rum follow us through broken doors and cracked walls. The carpenters and masons took pride in their work you can tell. They looked grand once. Now the doors won't close, the walls won't conceal. 


Everyone is buzzed happy. They're cash poor, but no one steals. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone. It needs creativity. Che’s hypnotic eyes engage you from billboards. He will provide, you just trust.


An incredible casa particular. 100 years old. 20’ ceilings. Red leather, mahogany. Steps from a 200 year old university and a romantic ocean drive. Our host is dressed above average, the local dandy. 

“What do you do?”

“I take care of my grandmother. She's 93.” 

He’s 40. 

Didn't push it. 


“How does the internet work?”

“Why you need internet?”


Hmm, is he right, do I not need internet? 


“If you want to be zombie, you have to get a card, stand in that corner, there is wifi there, and you can look like a zombie. $1/hr and you have to wait long time.”

“Cool, thanks”

“Let me know if you need a taxi”. 


Everyone can put you in a taxi or drive you in one. 

“Sir taxi! Taxi sir, beautiful American convertible”

It's a 1958 pink Chevy with white upholstery. Missing door handles. Grungy chic. It shouldn't move, but somehow it does. Another pulls up. Smouldering with popped hood. The driver, a mechanical engineer, patches it.


Have the mechanics, like the brick layers and carpenters left? Everyone fixes everything. No one fixes anything. Rum fixes everything.


“Hola, piña golada? Upstairs balcony, beaudivul wyuw.”. 


That's a delicious piña colada, can drown in it. Our bartender used to write code, but bartending pays better. 

Heard that before, the engineer-taxi driver.


Or maybe the piña colada’s working. $2. I'm tranquilo. Time for another. Heaven.


The tour guide studies Russian. She's a CDR member. Committee for Defense of the Revolution. 


CDR sounds cool, like BMW.


She is cheerful. Cuba has always and will continue to do it right. 


Another piña colada? Sure, why not. 


“We've been unable to buy milk. Where do you get it?”

“Not everywhere. Houses with children under 7 get it first”.

A milk shortage. But not rum. That reminds me, “una mas piña colada por favor”.


We see a long queue. 

“What's it for?”

“Cash”

There's another long queue.

“What's that for?”

“Ice cream”

There's another long queue.

“What's that for?”

“Vegetables”


Cubans wait. They wait for everything. A sign above reads “Cuba, a true democracy”.


We wait for the sun to set. Salsa plays. People dance. I think they're enjoying it. Or maybe they're wound up.  Better to be wound up to dance than push paper. 


“How are we doing on piña colada?” One more? Of course. Ahhh, heaven! 

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