Interviewing Akshay – 8pm Starbucks
I walked into Starbucks and noticed a man sitting by himself. His name was Akshay. I sat at the table next to him and initiated a conversation. I wanted to know his take on homelessness. Naturally, I shared some of my experiences with him. He was keenly interested in the stories I was telling. Out of all my stories so far, John the Firefighter is still the most powerful one.
After finishing that story, I showed him a picture of Mike’s drawing. I still couldn’t get over the fact that they were all painted and drawn on a napkin! In fact a few minutes later, Mike entered the store. What perfect timing! As if choreographed and scripted to perfection, Mike entered the scene. He grabbed himself some napkins and started to do what he usually does best, draw.
Akshay was a visitor from the United States. To be more precise, he was from Baltimore. He also had a very interesting story to tell. But let’s be honest here, who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell? Every human has amazing stories to tell. And every human is able to teach you something.
He was studying for his Ph.D. in Political Science. He was really interested in Afghanistan and actually spent some time there as an expat. This experience allowed him to see what life is like in a war-torn nation. The military were treated like kings compared to the locals there. At any moment, he could have called upon 15 SUVs or ordered the cook to make him any nation’s cuisine with a snap of a finger. Of course, none of the locals had any of these luxuries they had.
He had a very specific interest in how tribal cultures behave towards one another and how they resolve their conflicts. Akshay continued on saying that the more bloodshed during a battle, the greater chance of reaching diplomacy. Unfortunately, this belief is a major part in our society and I do not subscribe to it myself.
The more powerful tribe tells the weaker group “to do as told or to face the consequences.” Our society believes that war precedes peace, even though they are polar opposites of one another. We often resolve issues violently without regard to our opponents’ feelings. If we were to split the Downtown Eastside into two groups, the poor and the rich, then the more powerful group are the wealthy who dictate the future of the unprivileged parts of our society. How do we go about reaching a diplomatic solution between these two ethnic groups?
My philosophy on this issue is very simple indeed. I do not believe that we can make friends through violence or fighting one another. If I came up to you and punched you in the face, I am sure that you may do as I say, but it would be out of fear and not out of love. Clearly, you would have anger and resentment towards me.
The equation I present to you is even simpler in writing and it goes as follows:
Hate + Hate = Hate
Love + Love = Love
Hate + Love = Less Hate
After sharing all of my positive experiences with him, Akshay mentioned that Baltimore was different from the Downtown Eastside. Akshay said that there are frequent homicides in Baltimore. In fact a few weeks ago, a boy was stabbed in his neighborhood.
At this point, even Mike joined in on our conversation. Keep in mind that the Downtown Eastside is often considered as being one of “the worst parts in North America.” It’s been given a very bad reputation by our media and our citizens alike. Mike confessed that he’d been walking down Hastings Street for about 15 years now and never had any altercations with anyone in the past.
Next, Mike shared with us his newly learned life lesson. He said that “the greater the amount of eye contact one makes with another person, the better.” Mike used to believe that we should never look each other in the eye, because it could potentially start an argument. But he recently refuted that old fact of his.
Anyway, the theme seems rather similar each time. If you do not steal money from someone here or if you are not involved in the drug trade, people will generally mind their own business. I’m sure that there are some unlikely situations that can erupt at any given moment. In general, fights usually start with the words “where is money?”