July 26, 2006


Filed under: India — Chris @ 3:40 pm

Everywhere we go, people* ask if they can take a** picture with us. What’s up with this? We’re not in Papua, New Guinea, or even in the less-travelled parts of India. There are always other white people around. Is it because I’m tall? Or because H is particularly pretty? Or do Indian boys collect pictures of white people*** the way American boys collect trading cards?

* Mostly teenage boys. But just yesterday (for the first time) we were asked by what appeared to be a couple of young married women.

** They always ask if they can take “a picture” but they usually take six, with every combination of people present.

*** Or just white women? They usually seem creepily more interested in H than me.

July 25, 2006

Qs on Haridwar, Ganges, Pilgrims…

Filed under: India — Chris @ 4:31 pm

Indian experts, please weigh in. We will append more questions as necessary…

[C] What’s the deal with bathing in the Ganges anyway?

[C] Does the Ganges form a kind of cloak of invisibility around the bare-breasted women who are bathing in it? Women who would never wear a skirt above the ankle or a sleeve above the shoulder on a non-Ganges-bathing day? Am I not actually seeing the naked breasts I think I’m seeing?

[H] Pilgrimages: substitute for a family vacation, or something altogether different? Do you take the whole family for a quick dip in the river, say a prayer, and then on to the amusement park? Or do parents and kids and all spend large chunks of time pilgraming together? Do you get pilgramage time off work?

[C] Might you take a quick bath on your way home from work, or is the Ganges a special-occasion-only bath?

Loud and Shrill

Filed under: India — Chris @ 4:19 pm

You would think it is a fundamental matter of human physiology that we are repelled by loud and shrill noises, and not a matter of cultural conditioning. Not so.

I’m not referring to the sounds of Indian pop music, which can be somewhat shrill to the untrained ear. I am referring to the sounds of that same music when played at top volume through a cheap hand-held cassette player on a train or a bus. I am referring to the man who, lacking a hand-held cassette player, decided to play monophonic ring tones on his mobile for six hours on the train. I am referring to the prevalance of the SOS ring tone on mobiles through the country (“bipbipbip BEEP BEEP BEEP bipbipbip”). I am referring to bus drivers who spend more than 50% of the time leaning on their (LOUD) horns*. None of this seems to faze the common India. Whereas H and I sit next to one another in various phases of homocidal mania.

* They spend an equal proportion of their time passing other cars, buses, pedestrians, and domesticated animals on the left, right, and middle sides of the road.

Indian Trains

Filed under: India — Chris @ 4:11 pm

The only thing worse than the Indian train reservation website is… the reservation booth at any train station in India. There is no such thing as an orderly queue at the train station.

H and I had a pretty bad day trying to deal with the trains yesterday, which I guess climaxed at the ticket window in Chandigarh where I put my arm over the shoulder of a man who had shamelessly cut in front of me, shoved the reservation slip through the window*, and exclaimed, “Look at me with my long arms! I guess I’m in front of you! How about that? I’m number one!” and then laughed maniacally.

I’m not proud of it. Much.

* This is the only factor which determines who is helped and when in the train station line. It doesn’t matter when you joined the line, where you are standing, or even how loud you shout and how hard you shove… All that matters is whether your reservation slip and cash are within the most convenient reach of the clerk.

Himalayas 1, Us 0

Filed under: India — Chris @ 4:04 pm

The bottom line is: you can’t “do” the Himalayas in 3-4 days. So we retreated after 2 mostly-pleasant days in Shimla, took the toy train down the hills in the unreserved car with a thousand Punjabi Boy Scouts and their alcoholic Sikh scoutmaster, and spontaneously jumped off the Delhi train in Chandigarh…

Question of the day: “How do you make chapati where you are from?”

July 23, 2006


Filed under: India — Chris @ 6:25 am

Who knew there would be rain and fog in the mountains during monsoon season? Cooling our heels here in Shimla for another 24 hours before we try moving to Kalpa, another 1,000 meters up, because we slept in and missed the bus. Enjoying curry and pooris for breakfast and samosas for lunch. Walked up a very steep hill yesterday to see nothing but fog and monkeys. Walked down with a nice boy who wanted nothing from us and even paid our bus fare.

And I am not blogging Hillearys freak out on the train. (Ask me over a beer sometime.)

July 21, 2006

Points North

Filed under: India — Chris @ 2:54 am

Blogging will be light-to-nonexistent for the next two weeks as we set off for points North: Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur, Agra… The usual suspects mostly. We’ll check in at odd Internet cafes along the way, but we may still be keeping the world safe for freedom and the tubes may be narrow. A happy, sweltering July to you all.

July 20, 2006

Virtually Singapore

Filed under: India — Chris @ 9:09 am

Adding to H’s previous post, one perplexing detail is I have been able to access the blog from work all week. This is because, through some routing trickery or other, MSR connects to the Internet via Singapore. So, if you want to plan a terrorist attack in India using a blog, join MSR*. If you want to chew gum** and surf the Internet at the same time, stick with Airtel.

* This is very, very obviously a joke. I have no desire to see the Indian version of Guantanamo.

** OK, that was supposed to be a lame throw-away Singapore chewing gum ban reference, but this is too weird not to point out: there is an exception to the Singapore law for “therapeutic” gum. There is also a proposal to allow the importation of small quantities for personal use!


Filed under: India — Chris @ 3:54 am

This is weird. We haven’t been able to read anything on Blogspot or Typepad on the internet connection in our apartment for a couple of days, although we could post just fine. We thought it was just a strange and irritating glitch. But apparently it’s because Indian ISPs have been instructed by the government to Block Blogs. You know, to fight terror! Um, okay.

Help, help, we’re being repressed!

(If you’re in India and having this problem, go here.)

Update: It was just a misunderstanding, says the Indian consulate in NY! ISPs were told to block Some blogs, and instead blocked All blogs. To be fixed soon, they say. So dumb, the entire thing.

July 19, 2006

Exit Tobi, Enter Pain

Filed under: India — Chris @ 2:49 pm

Last night was Tobi’s last in Bangalore. He’s off to Delhi to stand outside the Pakistani embassy for four days in the rain*. A bunch of us went out to Opus to bid him farewell. Tobi is a lot of fun; I will miss him.


When we left Opus, we went back to the office and set up some drums on the roof. Then we jammed.

Jamming on the roof

After jamming a while, we started playing with the kickboxing equipment. I put on some boxing gloves and hit this punching bag about as hard as I could.

Punching Bag*

Turns out the punching bag is filled with sand and has been sitting on the roof for months. So it’s filled with wet sand. Which might as well be concrete. My hand hurt.

It hurt really bad actually. But I could move my fingers and everything, so I figured I was OK. But when I went to work this morning and tried to type, I couldn’t really do anything without wanting to cry. Prasad recommended a doctor.

The Doctor Examines the Patient

Who recommended an X-ray.

Right Hand X-Ray, Oblique

It seems I may have a hairline fracture near my wrist. She prescribed an Ace bandage and some Extra Strength Tylenol. The total cost for my visit, X-ray, bandage and all, was Rs 620 (about US $14).

The Hand, The Bandage

Now I’m all better. Except I can’t use my damn hand.

* By choice. He wants to travel through Pakistan**.

** Also by choice.

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