Monday, September 12, 2005

It has occurred to me (and I’ve also been reminded) that I haven’t written since I landed here on the subcontinent. Truth is, there’s not much to tell. Everyday life here in the city isn’t all that exhilarating. The first time here a few years ago I was pretty well amazed by everything and I surely couldn’t be stopped from noticing so many things weird; backward light switches, Indian driving techniques (inertia wins), the suicidal local railway system, the superb (or questionable, or inventive) food, the sidewalks (whose gaping holes hint at a quick decent to the center of the earth), the dogs that patrol these sidewalks, the mules that stand idly by on them, and the poverty that seems to flourish because of them. Oddly, these things have become familiar despite their profound presence and, given a day of readjustment after stepping off the plane, I was able to click back with relative ease to the state with which I deal with Indian culture (total confusion. total disregard for what might be normal. and total pleasure for where I am and what I’m doing). That being said I’ll rattle on a bit about the life and times of myself over these past few weeks for anyone that cares to know. I might even indulge in commenting about those things I just mentioned as “familiar.” After that, I’ll try and offer a clue as to what’s in store for the near future in the hopes that by writing it out for you it will seem a little clearer to me. So, here goes…

There has been a spur of motorcycle riding through town. I’m pretty sure too that I’m a horrible rider when it comes to busy Indian roadways. Honking takes the place of side and rear view mirrors, sidewalks pretend to be roadways, and individual lanes are dictated not by painted lines on the road but by the whereabouts of the largest overburdened trucks whose bodies display their many past collisions. With my spoon-fed everybody-follows-the-rules driving style I’ve come to learn in the States I try to navigate in the anarchy which exists here. It’s a little strange. As a teenager I probably would have loved the reckless abandonment of the legal system, now I realize that that legal system is what keeps traffic moving quickly and carefree (unfortunately such a system also breeds a driver who is unprepared for the unexpected whilst driving at speeds that can really hurt). Driving outside of cities and villages however is great a.k.a. exhilarating.

Food is wonderfully cheap, equally tasty, and available absolutely whenever and wherever. Though eating out or dinner at friends and families houses is often, we prepare most of our food at the house. And, like I did the last time I lived here, I am learning the proper ways to prepare Indian food. Wow!

We’ve come into festival season here which means about four months of seemingly back-to-back Hindu holidays. This week (time/lengths for holidays are varied and relative to whoever is doing the celebrating) is Ganpati which is an honoring of the Hindu god Ganesh (he’s the fellow whose father chopped off his son’s head and, in his horror and grief, promptly replaced it with an elephant’s…personally, I feel for the elephant.). At least one day is used to spend time with a Ganesh idol in the family house while the following day this idol is walked through the streets followed by a procession of dancing people and blamming drums. The walk terminates at a chosen water’s edge where the Ganpati figures are completely submerged and then left to the fish. Why? I have no idea and I don’t think the fish do either because these figures (some weighing hundreds of pounds and over 20 feet tall) do nothing but leach toxic chemicals into the water and stick pointedly out of the water. A push from the environmental community is asking that the Ganpatis be made from native clays and pigments from the lake or ocean.

To me, it seems a better finish for one’s god for it to dissolve naturally back into the earth rather than poison it and later be dredged out by a cleanup crews and stuffed into a landfill. Though, as I so often don’t have to remind myself, I’m just a casual observer without much idea as to what’s going on.

That’s evident from a celebration a few weeks ago; I’m not even sure what it’s called. This one centers on the strangest thing; imagine our (okay, not really our) tradition of beating up a piñata. Now imagine this piñata filled with water and strung on a static line 20-50 feet in the air. Rather than blindfoldedly swinging a bat around trying to wack the piñata, you and a bunch of friends build a human pyramid with which the smallest of kids climbs to the top and strikes the piñata with a hammer! That's 50ft of people and a hammer holding each other up swaying with the breeze and the cheers of the crowd. It usually takes quite a few tries for your pyramid to get it right, which…if you sit back and consider that sentence…means quite a few falls. That includes the kid almost 50 feet to the top. No worries though, there’s a cheering crowd of people below to break the fall.

I’ve always lost at gambling (I’m not sure gambling is even a word that applies as gambling implies not knowing the outcome of a bet). Ever heard of the card game Flash? Me either. It’s a little bit like poker but faster and when gambling with rupees the stakes are pretty low. Regardless, I still lost my shirt playing.

In conclusion, I haven’t gotten out of the city much and therefore the trees and things up north are driving me a bit nuts. So I figure on heading up there to see what they’re so worked up about. I'm hoping the monsoons are settling down (the last two days the trains haven’t been running well toward the ticket office that sells train tickets (that’s technology and nature bickering with each other again)) because I am headed upt to Delhi and into the mountains shortly there after.

The books I’ve been reading suggest that I be setting clear goals for future me to appreciate. So, if anybody knows what those goals are then I welcome your advice.

Alright, alright, I promised some vague idea as to what I’m planning. My all-encompassing excuse for being here is to work on creating a self-sustaining environmentalist-driven ski/board/wildlife/mountain-bike sanctuary/resort/retreat cooperative. I’ll figure out how to do that soon enough. In parallel to all that figuring out it will be necessary that I get a little more comfortable with the Himalayan Mountains via sandals and bicycles. So, hopefully the next time you hear from me I’ll be getting a little more comfortable.

I’m sure everything is well wherever everybody is out there. If not…then I don’t believe you.

1 comment:

halcyone said...

You know I want to see pictures of the donkeys, right?