Archive for December, 2004

Spices

market

“As you are my very first customer of the day, I am going to give you a special price.”

“Depending on the city that we’re in, salesmen use different pitches to hawk their wares. And they’re quite persistent. They’ll relentlessly shout, “HALLO! HALLO!” Even an accidental glance in their direction would trigger their spiel: “Take a look! Looking is free! No need to buy anything!”

In Jodphur: “We make textiles for DKNY, Missoni, ABC Carpet!”

Carpet salesmen scratch their product with scissors and say: “See, they cannot be ripped! You can stomp on them, crumple them up, they’re indestructible!”

Clothing salesmen:”We have pashmina shawls!” We reply we have some already. “Ah, but not as good as ours! We have SPECIAL shawls.”

Journal Entry From My Trip to India in 2004

Schoolkids

innocence

“R. and I feel like rock stars in India since the children constantly stop us in the streets and yell “HALLO! HALLO!” They want to shake our hands and have their picture taken, or have their picture taken with us. I’ll show them the photo afterwards and they’ll always laugh when they see their digital reflection.”

Journal Entries From My Trip to India in 2004

Cloud Bus

movement

“A writhing, restless throng packs Delhi’s streets. Masses of people crowd every inch of available pavement and it seethes with their energy.”

“The traffic hierarchy in India reminds me of chess match, in that it requires a lot of strategy and forbearance — as least to a tourist. Cows are the kings and have total freedom. (One of Rishi’s friends said to me, “I’d like to reincarnate as a cow and not a dog if I come back in another life to India, and the reverse if I’m in the U.S.”)

Then buses, due to their size, come next, then wagons, taxis, cars, autorickshaws, mopeds, rickshaws, bicycles and lastly pedestrians. Of course, pedestrians, like pawns, have the power to capture a queen if they’re in the position to do so. So there’s a constant jockeying amongst all of the players for forward movement. Everyone is incessantly honking in order to signal they’re barreling ahead. All of the trucks have signs hanging above their bumpers that say, “honk please,” to encourage this noisy communication. Indian car horns are not the aggressively loud sounds like you’ll find in the U.S.; they’re short, endearingly cute beeps that make them sound like toy cars. But as there are hundreds upon thousands of them all sounding off at once, the din is extraordinary.”

“The trucks all seem to be manufactured by two companies: TATA or Ashkok Leland. And the backs of the vehicles are festooned with brightly painted murals, some of which are quite ornate and feature peacocks, cows and other animals.”

“Our favorite rickshaw driver was from Jaipur, a chatty 17-year-old teenager who spoke English rather well. He insured we became his regular customers by always waiting for us outside of our hotel, restaurants and other stops.”

Journal Entries From My Trip to India in 2004

communist rally in munnar

red

“When we reached Munnar, we discovered that a huge Communist Party rally was in full swing.”

“There were thousands of people who had been bused in from nearby villages all over the area. Munnar was decked out in red banners emblazoned with slogans and the familiar hammer-and-sickle symbol. People waved large flags and many wore red caps and carried posters of local leaders.

A huge parade proceeded to stop traffic for an hour. We saw one impatient driver that tried to edge forward through the crowds, but several men grew angry and began to pound on the hood. They forced him to back up, and there was a lot of shouting and honking. We weren’t sure if it was going to escalate into an ugly fight, but eventually the driver and the men calmed down and the parade continued.

R. & I climbed out of our car to take photos. Everyone was friendly and curious and eagerly posed for our cameras. Some women chatted with us for a bit. One girl pointed out her “several mothers” and asked if R. was my brother. Once I started to talk to the villagers, more were emboldened to approach me for a conversation and peppered me with questions. “Where are you from?” “America.” Telling them I was from the U.S. always produced a response of disbelief. “Noooo,” they would reply incredulously. “Yes.” “Nooooo.” This back and forth would continue until I finally relented and gave them the answer they were looking for. “Korea.” “Ahhhh.” Then they would smile, satisfied at last. It almost seemed as if their heads would explode from the contradiction of my answer. “She looks Asian, so how can she be American?”

Journal Entry From My Trip to India in 2004