I hate seeing beggars in any country because I don't know how to deal with it. I can't give every man a fish and I have no time when travelling to teach even one to fish. I feel it's better to ignore them so they'll find a way to deal with their own problem, and when possible to help those that are able to pass on the favour. I manage to harden my heart enough to ignore them when they tap me and show me the starving babies, but my last day in India took the challenge to a new level. I was sitting on the beach after seeing a Bollywood film in a Mumbai theatre, when three kids approached me. My camera was out, displaying my wealth to everyone on the beach and making me an obvious target. I tried to ignore them by looking through the lens at what was going on around me. I thought the beggars would try to stand in front of the camera, forcing me to look. Instead, they politely stepped out of the way whenever I moved it near them. Earlier in the day, I'd been for a walk along the beach and found a slum camp on a section of flat sand above the beach. A change in the wind brought a repulsive smell. I looked back down towards the sea and saw a line of squatting people, squeezing their bowels onto the wet sand. I guess the idea was that the sea would carry it out, but a line of dark shapes at the tide line showed that not to work. The children eventually left me alone, but were soon attacked by a stick woman who
An article on the front page of the paper this morning condemned the Mumbai police force for not taking a molestation case seriously. Two couples were ac costed when leaving a show on New Year's morning, a gang fondling the women and tearing their clothes. The police didn't try to file charges and claim the media is making a mountain out of a molehill. The press in turn point out that at the same time, the police are getting upset at the debauchery of young couples kissing in public parks. They let the couples off this time, but have let it be known that such obscenities will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in the future.
The Roce is apparently a Catholic ceremony from the Bangalore region. In typical Indian style, it turns into a party for hundreds of wedding guests, but the focus and raison d'etre is for guests to bless the couple with sacred oils. Guests take turns holding a saucer full of the white oil and walk down the line of singles. At each person, they did a finger into the oil then draw a cross on the recipient's forehead. Some guests get carried away and I noticed one girl valiantly ignoring oil dripping off her nose onto her silk sari. As usual, I couldn't bring myself to join the ceremony because it felt hypocritical to do something I have no belief in. I am shamed to think that I have no issue with prostrating myself before a Buddha statue, yet couldn't make the effort to bless a friend's marriage in a way that would mean something to him. The rest of the evening was taken up with speeches, dancing (local and a variety of western style music) and admiring my friend and his gorgeous fiance in their various traditional outfits.
Indian Road Poetry - posted by the Indian Border Roads Organisation, mainly on steep windy mountain roads. Enjoy the Scenery Don't join the Scenery Don't mix Drink with Driving Alert Avoid Accident Accidents Don't Happen They are Caused Speed is a Knife that Cuts Life Speed Thrills But Kills Drive Don't Fly and stuck cheekily between the rest Don't Gossip Let Him Drive
I'm home, but the trip has left me exhausted and angry â€“ violently angry if it wasn't for being exhausted. Perhaps it started with the rusty nail in my samosa, but I think I was still laughing at that stage. More likely it began with the bicycle rickshaw trip to Varanasi Station. The driver wanted Rs40 for the trip, but I'd been offered one hour for Rs20 earlier in the day so I settled for that and told him that I only wanted to go to Balia Bagh just round the corner. I'd walk but I'd never ridden a rickshaw and thought it should be done. We were stopped at the intersection as the army and police held up traffic to allow a police escort to go through. Probably a minister, my driver told me. He'd be going to Balia Bagh, so there'd be little chance of getting an autorickshaw from there. I should trust him and let him take me to Varanasi Station. It wasn't much further anyway and there'd be a bus going to XXX Station where I'd get my train. Once the escort had passed, we headed out into the mayhem of traffic in the intersection. No one wants to be at the back of the traffic in a situation like that, so they come up the right hand side of the road as well and then everyone rushes out together, from four directions. It took time to untangle that mess, but I figured I had some time and stayed on the rickshaw. There were demonstrations on the street outside Balia Bagh and the driver urged me again to follow his advice. I accepted. But as I handed over the money at
So many memories they're running away from me. We've eaten every meal at the Alka hotel where we stay as it's too hot to go out much. Bought ticket for trip back to Siliguri from a guy in the corridor of a shopping arcade. He had his own shop (sitting outside it) but if he sat inside, he'd have to pay a government tax. No other shops were open either. He paid 20 rupee of his profit to Raj, the young guide who follows us almost every time we leave the hotel. I took the others there to get their tickets, but he asked us not to tell Raj. We did and hope that he gets his cut. I was offered a shave on the beach yesterday for 5 rupee. My chin was itching terribly, so after assuring myself it was a new blade, I agreed. He did a pretty good job, but when he'd finished, he started massaging my head. All for 5 rupees, I thought? Sophie, my brother's travelling companion thought it was ok, so I let it go. Then he moved to my shoulders then back... Finally another joined him and before long, they'd seduced Sophie and Geoff - Brady had gone off to find a swimming pool. The massage became one of gripping and twisting but I endured, now sure it wouldn't be 5 rupees. 'Are you happy?' the guys asked me and got a grunt in reply. Finally it was done and the expected request came for 300 rupees. I offered 200 firm. They tried for another 50 on the basis of the shave - originally meant to be 5. This is India, the money hungry culture. I went to
Wrong keyboard and foggy head so will keep to bullet points. back and forth to get ticket but still waiting list 1-4. climbed balcony to escape hotel, still WL1-4 saw chief reservation superintendant to get general ticket on 11:40 train stuffy, hot, humid, reminded me of Romania train, so I started talking to locals. university students, no, working for Forever multilevel marketing for 2 years, no, just starting. taught me Hindi - e do chi cha pach.. talihad, chagalaga - all wrong by now, I'm sure. Big crowd gathered around to watch. Kicked out of seat, stood up for 6 hours. Hari Krishna grinding chewing tobacco and lime. Raining in vestibule. Invited to sit down around dinner time with family including beautiful woman in blue / gold sari and henna hands/feet (bride?) that stared at me but wouldn't smile. Ordered thali dinner and had to eat with hands - first time - that made woman laugh, holding sari in front of mouth. Stood up again. Invited to sit with family that would leave at midnight. Took their sleepers. Got up at 3am and off train at 4am. Into hotel at 5am in time for sunrise over Gange and a family swimming 20m downstream of a dead body.
We spent most of last night in Joey's pub having a drink, eating a Sunday roast and watching the world cup. It was great to see Australia hold out Brazil so well, even if we lost. The loss was made worse by the Indian bartender who was a really sore winner. We'd bet him backing Australia just to shut him up, even though we knew Brazil would win, but his gloating annoyed us all. Especially when he had no real connection to Brazil. He was simply backing the favourite team to get some easy money and could have been gracious about it. I took heart from the excitement the Brazilians showed at each goal and on winning the match - as though they'd been genuinely worried about the game and the strength of the Aussie team. This morning was an occasion of mixed feelings. We had an extremely greasy breakfast on a balcony of a snack bar - the sausages seemed to be oil held in shape by a bit of pig flesh. But while we were eating, the mist cleared to give us a sight of the highest mountain in India. I've seen more impressive views from Dochula, but it is the highest mountain I'll probably ever see, a great view in itself and Brady's excitement was infectious. We've booked a train to Varanessi for the day after tomorrow. It will be my first train in India and I'm very excited by that.
I managed to meet Brady by leaving an email for him arranging to meet at the local tourist pub for the Iran / Portugal game. He'd taken longer than me to get up here the day before, so was waiting for me a couple of hours after I actually arrived. He'd actually managed to get through the youth hostel security but balked at staying in what he described as a haunted house when he found it didn't have any hot water. Darjeeling is at about 2000m, close to the height of Thimphu, but it's not high enough to breach the clouds and it's wet, misty and miserable. That doesn't make it a bad place. When the clouds clear enough to glimpse the steep valleys with houses tumbling into their depths and the gaps a patchwork of tea trees, it's spectacular. I went for a walk down the mountain yesterday before I met Brady and watched a group of children playing soccer on a flat patch of dirt with a backdrop of mist. Soccer has become a craze here now and most Indians are watching the World Cup rather than the cricket match the Indian team is playing in. What happened to national loyalty? They're not even going for England who most of them look on fondly, but fly flags of the team they think most likely to win - Brazil.
This is my first timd in rural India. I left Phuentsholing this morning on a bus to siliguri then came to darjeeling to meet brady at the youth hostel, but it seems to be closed. Now I'm in an internet cafe hoping to find a message from him. Losing travel partners is a frexuent event for me and one I can no longer blame on others. I must be doing it myself. I should have realised that it wasn't going to be a good day when the bhutanese customs officer tried to have me arrested for still being in Bhutan even though I'd checked out yesterday. He grudgingly apologised when he found out that I was a resident. Darjeeling is much friendlier than delhi or Kolkata on first impression, but it's just as crowded. Not a surprise given it's built on a slope steeper than a bhutanese road. More to come when I get to know the place a bit.