Monday, February 13, 2006

India is....

(Sunrise at Puri)


... a wide empty beach and a man on a bicycle who stops a yard away and stares at you for minutes on end (or until you get up and move away)

... where men's underpants are, to judge from behavioural observation, ill-fitting and uncomfortable

... where there's a billion people and democracy

... where you advertise for a spouse (not just a partner/romance, of course) on the basis of location, income, qualifications, caste, profession but never tastes, interests or gsoh

... where you drink your tea short, sweet, spiced and often - and throw the earthenware cup down to break it

... where 13 Indians can enter Chennai Government Museum for less than the entry charge for a camera and 17 can enter for one foreigner (one of many many examples: 25 can enter some National Parks for 1)

... where mobile phone reception is often much better than mine at home and, with the right tarrif, you can text for 1/100th of a rupee and phone for 1 rupee a minute all over the state you're in. You even see people talking on mobiles in the rice paddies!

... where the cars are either very old or very new, more and more of the latter: someone's making money!

... where men are drab and women are rainbows (the usual story only much more so - in both directions)

... where the litter bin is conveniently just where you happen to be standing

... where the cows' diet is the rubbish heap

... where English is used and abused in strange and wrong-end-of-the-stick kind of ways

... where there are international phone booths (or equivalent) every few yards in many places

... where the use of the mirror by the vehicle in front is replaced by the use of the horn by the vehicle behind

... where "hello boat" and "hello massage" (for example) constitute complete utterances

... where "yes" can mean no or maybe but the word "no" is rarely understood unless repeated vigorously and with gestures

...where you never wear shorts unless you are dirt-poor

... where people, especially women, go bathing in their full clothes

... where a cow or two can create a total traffic jam

... where male film stars have to have moustaches and women stars have to have long hair

... where the government authorises the sale of illegal drugs in holy places

... where the vultures get sick and face extinction

... where you can book any significant train from any significant station (and on the internet) 60 days in advance and get your berth number etc. BUT if you want a reservation for tonight's train it's barely obtainable even by hook, crook or bribery

... where 999 out of every 1000 attempted conversations with tourists have an ulterior (commercial) motive: it doesn't help to make us friendly. [Now I'm in the south I'd have to amend thesew proportions a lot: quite a few people just enjoy a getting-to-know-you chat with no ulterior motive]

... where roundabouts are incovenient obstacles to be circumvented on whichever side is the easiest

... where you don't visit for pleasure (unless you're on the luxury circuit) but rather for the experience

... where men defecate and urinate publicly and frequently but women have somehow found another way

... where the beach is not for sitting or lying on but for standing and walking about on

... where on-screen copulation can be mimed in dance but couples may never kiss

... where the people take revenge for the Raj by imitating it in a 1000 little ways - the power of petty bureaucrats is one (can't you just imagine the colonials making the Indians wait all day for an esssential chitty? now we do!) and another is the use of initials to conceal the meaning of things (again clicque-y colonials may well have had their secret code to mystify the locals - now we are mystified by "Go to the TC Office" "It's on MG Road" and so on. The Ticket Collector - why of course! And MG must be the Mahatma himself!

... where you dont need to say "Excuse me, could I possibly squeeze past?", you just call out "Side!


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