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03 November 2005

a randomness of india

it's not uncommon to see two men walking down the street while one has his arm around the other's shoulders. sources tell me this is merely an expression of comradery. i've definitely seen this behavior in both the us and europe, although not as frequently as in india; what i've not seen however is two assumedly heterosexual men holding hands while walking or standing together. the same sources tell me this too is merely an expression of comradery in india.

99% of all trucks on the road have the following words painted on the back of the truck: 'horn OK please'. as if drivers weren't using their horns enough, these signs _request_ others to use their horn to alert the truck driver in case he has his windows up. [?]

okay... the next bit of randomness is interactive. imagine a bindi in the center of your forehead. now, imagine an elongated sideways figure eight (take the number 8, squish it so it's long and thin, and then tilt it sidways so it looks like an infinity symbol) about a meter in front of your forehead. here is the interactive part... i expect all of you to do this no matter where you're sitting right now: loosen your neck muscles and move your head by using the imaginary bindi on your forehead to trace the imaginary figure eight in front of you. congratulations, you have mastered the indian head wobble... a sort of meshing of the 'yes' nod and the 'no' shake. i've not seen this head movement anywhere but india and i've seen it used to express the positive, the negative, and countless other expressions.

i've seen the swastika symbol throughout mumbai and goa. surely this symbol does not represent the national socialists of germany, but something far different. i need to do some research.

i've been trying to do my job as american ambassador in goa... while walking on the calangute beach i picked up a water bottle that someone had discarded. i could _not_ find a garbage bin. no wonder there is so much litter in india... there aren't any garbage bins. now, granted, garbage bins would mean unavailable money would need to go to workers who had to drive around and empty those bins, but they would go a long way to help cut down on litter. litter is a very large issue in india and piles of garbage on the side of the street is not an uncommon sight, even in goa.

i've seen both women and men carrying some immense things on their head. i've taken a few pics and will try to post them when i'm able. speaking of pics, i feel the photos i've taken so far in india have been less than stellar.

i've seen four people riding on a two person scooter... typically families. from front to back, the typical order is older child (standing), father (driving), younger child (completely squashed), and mother (sitting sideways).

i want to go on a guided expedition to dig a king cobra out of the sand. if any of you have time to do some research for me, let me know. i'm completely serious about this.

i got my first mosquito bite yesterday. no worries; i've been taking my malaria medication regularly.

the straws in india are very flimsy and i haven't used one that hasn't seemed like it's had a hole in it. half drink, half air.

the trees in india have the most character of any i've seen during my travels. one type of tree has a trunk made up of many smaller trunks and grows to massive sizes. another type has small branches which grow downwards from the main branches. other trees have trunks which are gigantically contorted and twisted. very beautiful.

posted by paul on Thu 03 Nov 2005 at 00:00:01 est (-05:00)


i have noticed the indian head bobble many times, seeing as i work in the IT field (surprised you haven't!!). i even asked someone indian that i knew quite well, and she had no idea what i was talking about, even as she was executing the bobble.

posted by donna on Thu 10 Nov 2005 at 15:48:54 est (-05:00)

donna: ha! yeah, i'm sure i've probably seen the bobble once or twice in the states but i guess i never identified it as a cultural thing. yesterday i tipped my rickshaw driver and he bobbled, so i suppose 'thank you' is one of the myriad meanings.

posted by paul recon on Sat 12 Nov 2005 at 02:59:02 est (-05:00)

I have seen entire conversations take place in India where neither party is saying a word. If you head wobble it usually means 'yes', 'ok', 'no problems', 'fair enough', 'I like it', 'I know', 'I don't know', ' thankyou', 'sorry', and sometimes a few other things. If you head wobble BACK to an indian while talking to them, you're showing respect. You might feel stupido but I recon it helps negotiate a better deal!! :)
(by the way, this is Em who you met on msn, just reading about your experiences!)

posted by Em on Fri 13 Jan 2006 at 09:18:53 est (-05:00)

oh another comment (you don't have to post these!) - is that the straws in India are recycled! Nothing is chucked out, so essentially the reason the straw is so crap is because its been used by someone else many times before. I'm sure you noticed that the Indians always drink holding the bottle OVER their mouth and pouring it from above with no part of their mouth touching? Well suddenly there is a reason!
There are few garbage bins in India and I hated that too... yet at the same time a lot of their rubbish IS reused. If you hang around til it starts to get dark, you'll often see street kids (aka 'rag pickers') who'll come out and collect all the bottles, fabrics, paper etc out of the rubbish. There are shops that actually pay money for bottles and papers to be recycled, and sometimes the poor also keep things to use for themselves.
Also, when you go for your drivers licence in India they are actually taught to honk the horn! The instructor will say, "First thing you should do in any situation, is use your horn". Since no-one follows the rules this is really important life and death stuff..... One friend of mine over there lived in this dodgy narrow laneway with a totally blind corner. Apparently heaps of people died in car accidents on his street, so you can only imagine how many times he honked his horn at that corner!!
Gosh, I have to stop writing comments in your comment section - you will hate me - but I have so many useless facts for you. Hitler took his swastika symbol FROM the swastik. It is an ancient symbol with roots to Buddhaism and Hindu religions to mean 'peace' or 'let good prevail'. Ganesh the Elephant God usually displays it. Arian is another word (concept) that Hitler borrowed from the Hindu culture, and subsequnently poisoned the true meanings behind them.

posted by Em on Fri 13 Jan 2006 at 09:38:31 est (-05:00)

em: aahhh! aahhh! recycled straws! no! say it isn't true. i had no idea. thanks for all the info. since i visited india, i have done some research into the swastika symbol. i had no idea. thanks for checking the site. hope you come back.

posted by paul recon on Sat 14 Jan 2006 at 02:14:45 est (-05:00)

Not only did we get recycled straws in a bar in Calcutta, but my wife sucked up a baby cockroach with her cocktail and spit it out on the bartop. Lovely. To her credit, she kept the straw and finished the drink. It was, after all, our date night:


posted by Joshua Berman on Sat 21 Jan 2006 at 05:40:47 est (-05:00)

So Paul when are you coming back to the United States? You never wrote me back at my e mail address like you said you were going to. So how has everything been? I just had a birthday. Can you believe I'm 27 you must be like 33...right? Time has gone by so fast. Well I have to go to work. W/b if you want....later

posted by Jennifer on Mon 06 Feb 2006 at 14:47:30 est (-05:00)

hey jennifer! sorry, not much time for email on the road. i get back into the states on 05 april, exactly a year after i left. i'll fly from auckland, new zealand, to san francisco... then buy a motorcycle and bike across the states back to boston. i should get back into massachusetts sometime in the middle of may. 33? i just turned 25 last april! :)

posted by paul recon on Wed 08 Feb 2006 at 06:49:44 est (-05:00)

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