Umesh called today. He called to wish our son a happy birthday. He sang “Happy Birthday” on the phone message.

Last month, he called to wish Paul a happy birthday. He will call at the end of this month to wish us a happy anniversary.

I never pick up the phone when I see his number. Even so, his messages are unfailingly upbeat, perpetually cheerful. He invited us to his son’s wedding last year. We didn’t RSVP.

If that seems heartless, I should explain that I’ve only spent a few hours with Umesh. True, they were very, very memorable hours, but that was 2 1/2 years ago. And I paid for his services.

Got your attention now, eh?

Umesh was one of our guides during a month we spent in India. He was, to be specific, our guide in Jaipur, and his tours through castles and tombs and marketplaces added a true grace note to our trip.

He was a Brahmin philosopher, always smiling, freely dispensing anecdotes about life in the hamlet where he lived. He told us of his mischievous boyhood, and the trouble it merited him in school. He told us of his wife’s modesty (”If you came to visit,” he told Paul, “She would have to wear the end of her veil over her face.”). About the scandal when his son turned down the first marriage prospect his family had arranged (”She was a little bit fatty, and he didn’t want to marry a fatty girl.” Umesh cast his eyes to the heavens. “My God, it was terrible!”). And how the boy’s grandfather had disowned him until he redeemed himself by caring for the old man while he was dying. And how this son finally agreed to a match with a young professional woman who was not fatty, and was of the suitable caste and sub-caste for marriage (”Thank God! She was such a good prospect, I was afraid of competition. I gave Ravi a cell phone and told him, ‘Talk to her. Make her fall in love with you.’ And he did.”).

Umesh was, in short, entertaining, informative and personable. Sure, like all guides, he took us to shops that paid him commissions, but it didn’t seem to faze him when we bought little. He considered his profession a sort of Hindu holy calling, and he did a bang-up job at it.

At some point in our tours, he told us about how he had traveled to Seattle and Minnesota (”I have seen the Mall of America. The parking lot-oh, my God! All those cars!”).

Did he travel with his wife? I asked.

Oh, no. He waved his hand dismissively. His wife doesn’t travel. “She is,” he said, “a very particular vegetarian.”

“So am I,” I said. “There are lots of vegetarians in America.”

He did not look enthused.

What, then, did he do by himself in America?

“I visit all my clients,” he said, his smile brilliant. “I only have to pay the airfare; they never let me pay for anything.”

On our last day in Jaipur, Umesh took us to the Mantar Observatory, a massive 270-year-old outdoor complex of pits and walls and arches covered with intricate bas-relief measurements that permit one to find what sign the sun is in when. This is particularly helpful for Hindu families when it comes time to gauge the compatibility of a potential marriage match. At some point, as we climbed up and down and around, he asked our birthdays and those of our kids. He also asked about our anniversary date which, he agreed, surely had been an auspicious one, given the length of our marriage. It all seemed natural enough, given the setting.

We came home. Then, a few months later, came the first call, wishing our youngest a happy birthday. I answered, and we chatted briefly. Quite the businessman, Umesh, I thought.

Then he called for our older son. Then for Paul. Then for our anniversary.

I stopped answering.

It’s 2 1/2 years later. Umesh still calls. I still don’t answer. He sings. He tells us to return to India, please, and hire him as a guide.

It’s kind of creepy.

I know he’ll show up some day on our doorstep, smiling, needing a place to stay.

Looking for old clients.

Who won’t let him pay for anything.