Sunday, January 20, 2008

little tales for little people

A selection of short experiences from my last few days:

A Day No Kites Would Die or: A Great Opportunity for a Spoof Public Service Announcement
Sankranti is the festival of the harvest and, even better, kite flying day. All of the kids get off school so they can fly kites. I look up in the sky and see dozens of kites, some up in the air and some (OK, a lot) hanging forlornly off the power lines. It's a carefree wonderful day filled with cheerful children. (next line to be read in ominous newscaster voice they use when warning about danger) But you never know when this kite might be your last. This year in Gujarat (a small state in the northwest), ten people died in kite related accidents. How often do you get to use that phrase? (see below) Three people got their necks sliced open by the sharp lines people use so no other kite will get entangled and 7 kites hit the power lines to electrocute their owners. Do you know where your children are on Kite Day?

Zero results: 'snake charming' and 'haberdashery'.  (Things like 'car' and 'boating' and such are of course the highest, by a huge margin.)

from xkcd - best geek comic ever

Stupid Police Interview or Brown Bacon
For some reason, the owners of our flat had to take us to the police so they could see us. We had already met once to do this but last time, we simply didn't go to the station. I don't know why. In fact, I'm not sure if I have ever seen a more poorly executed plan for arranging to rent a flat. I feel the worst for our roommate because he's home more. Every day, somebody comes around to bug him about some detail that's already been worked out. Then, every few days, a bunch of people come over to sit around and jawbone about the plan that's already settled until everyone who doesn't matter finally understands the details.

Anyway, I forgot we had this meeting so I'm at a friend's house and a little hungover when I get the call from my roommate. I decide to throw my money away and spent $1.50 on a tuk-tuk ride back to our place. Huge mistake. The traffic on the one highway is not moving. We could have walked home faster. So now I'm hungover, hot, hungry and late. The last one bothers me the most. We finally get to the house and walk over to the station. Luckily, I really like the owner, his wife and their oldest son. They called during our first few nights to offer good advice (a rare thing) and ask if we needed anything.

The cops look at the rental papers for a few minutes. Then they amble over to ask what we're doing here. Tessa says bollywood, Mandela says teaching french and I say looking for a wife. They laugh and ask if I want an Indian wife. I'd said I would take anyone stupid enough to settle down with me. In retrospect, that's a bad answer. Apparently, once you start making friends with locals, aunties and uncles with marriage proposals come swooping in fast, furious and uncomfortable. I should not be advertising my single status and certainly not expressing interest in changing it.

I'm still annoyed by being dragged in for a waste of time of interview but I felt better after I swiped one of their little police hats. Alright. Impersonating a justice of the peace, here I come.

Train in Vain or: Looking for Clever Title (best in comments will be put here)
The trains here are crazy. If you're not used to it, the people look crazy too. During busy times and at major stops, it's a hard shoving match to clear the doors. They only have 20-30 seconds to disembark a lot of passengers and take on many more. It's violent but it's necessary. I rarely see people lose their tempers.

However, for a people that exhibit amazing patience with flabbergasting red tape, long queues and glacial multi-tier bureaucracy, losing a little time on the trains or highway make them lose their shit. I have not seen any traffic accidents but it's an easy way to get killed or badly injured. I'm not talking about the impact either. If it slows up traffic, a mob forms quickly and whoever they decide to fault will have a rough time. My friends, both from Pune, were out driving when they got bumped by a tuk tuk. Bob hopped out and saw no damage so he just got back in his car. He looks in his rear view mirror and a group of five men had pulled out the driver and beat him to the ground. Bob had to intercede on the drivers behalf to stop them.

I saw something similar today. I stood in the doorway of the train (a coveted spot and getting more valuable as the temperature increases). Every time you get to a station, those of us on the outside had to hang off the door of the train or step off and out of the way so we won't impede the traffic jam waiting to get off. Two boys of fifteen, who looked new to the city although it's really hard for me to read anything about anybody here, just stood in front of the doorway with a dumb look in their face. This enraged a bunch of the passengers who had to shove by. The first guy punched one of them in the face while a few of the others delivered body blows. The boys hung onto the overhead handles for dear life as two men tried to pry them off and throw them onto the platform. One man reached back in and hauled on them until his young daughter, screaming Papa repeatedly and frantically, finally pulled him away. This last scene sticks in my mind's eye. He looked ready to kill as his daughter yelled and pulled at his shirt. When he came away, he threw one last irritated look at the men, smiled at his daughter and walked down the platform. As I got back on, everybody around me scolded the boys and then offered them advice about train riding. My advice: keep your head down and your body out of the way

Too late to review what I wrote. Yes. It may surprise you that I read it again to clean up the writing and spelling. You may argue it might need a few more revisions. Emily Ku might say it needs ten more revisions but nuts to you guys. They're shutting down this sucker. Let me know if I have any mistakes. Actually, you can always do that (as long as I haven't dated you).

1 comment:

Goody said...

Engine, Engine #9
On the Southern Mumbai Line.
If someone falls on the tracks,
scrape'em up!
scrape'em up!
scrape'em up!