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10 November 2005

being pushed by mobs of men

yet another transport day. bus from bangalore to chennai. bus from chennai to mamallopuram. 9.5 hours of pure transportation inferno. rather than describe the ever so exciting journey, i'll use this entry for another installment of 'a randomness of india.' warning: inaccurate statistics and sweeping generalizations following. these are simply my observations after traveling in the country for just over two weeks.

. when trying to get the attention of another person, most indians tend to use a hissing, kissing... almost 'puckering' sound rather than a vocal yell or scream. very interesting. i would think screaming the person's name would be much more effective, but i suppose if you've been tuned to listen to the hiss sound since birth, that is the sound which yields the best results.

. fluency with english is extremely high in india. i've learned just a few words in hindi and tamil... 'hello' and 'thank you' for instance. every time i respond in an indian language, even with something as basic as 'thank you', the person to whom i'm speaking always seems so incredibly happy and surprised and i always get a big smile. i _never_ got that reaction while i was in europe; there it was almost expected that you would attempt to speak in the native language. this reaction makes me really want to try harder to learn more of the native indian languages.

. speaking of big smiles, i rarely see them here. most people walk around with expressions of absolute seriousness. even when apparent friends are talking, i rarely see laughter or smiles. it makes me that much happier when i can bring a smile to someone's face just by using the native language.

. there is a relatively higher number of male underwear ads on billboards and posters in india as compared with the united states or europe. they're _all_ over the place... and i'm not talking boxers; i'm talking bikini briefs. how sportif! i'm going to pick up a few pairs for myself.

. it took me a few weeks to understand why there aren't more rickshaw, bicycle, or motorcycle related deaths in india. the traffic flow is an amazing delicate dance in which the participants rely on pure timing. one driver must assume that the vehicle crossing his or her path will continue on in the same direction and not deviate course. despite the number of vehicles, pedestrians, and animals on the roads, accidents appear to happen infrequently, at least from what i've seen. i've been throwing off the balance of the dance during my travels here.

. all of the building scaffolding at construction sites is made of bamboo... even for the tallest of skyscrapers. an intricate interlaced lattice of bamboo tied together with rope. i know nothing about the stability or strength of bamboo, but apparently it does the job. giant wooden cages.

. restaurants here are one of two types: veg or non-veg. many display their type on their sign. whenever i ask someone for a restaurant recommendation, they always ask me 'veg or non-veg?'

. when i was waiting for my bus to leave bangalore for chennai, i watched a woman with a wisk broom cleaning the travel agent office. she diligently swept all of the trash into a large pile in the entrance to the office and then diligently swept the large pile into a larger pile sitting a few meters down the sidewalk. and there it stayed. have i mentioned that there is a large pollution problem in india? the men working at the travel agent paid her rs10 for her services.

. 95% of young school girls wear their hair in two braided loops. 95% of men wear moustaches.

. upon arrival in chennai, i saw the following things: 01. a cow had just given birth to a calf. my bus must have driven by this sight a few seconds after the delivery. the calf hadn't yet moved and amniotic fluid was still dripping out of the mother. directly beside the cow, a man was peeing on the ground. i saw about ten more men peeing into ditches further down the road. 02. a truck with a full load of bricks had fallen into a muddy trench on the side of the road. it lay there tilted on its side at a 45 degree angle with little hope of recovery. the rains had created a horrible mess of the dirt roads and i saw other trucks being pushed by mobs of men. 03. i've mentioned this before, but stores here are highly specialized. we passed a long stretch of stores which sold nothing but metal bearings and electrical switches. later we passed a stretch of timber and plywood stores.

. there are a variety of vehicle horn types. some pulse in an annoying pattern, some are high pitched electrical sounds, others sound like animals dying. the combination of horns and the frequency with which drivers use them is absolutely maddening. the bangalore to chennai bus had the pulsing horn type; one pulse at tone x, two pulses at higher tone y, repeat. the driver used it _constantly_.

. i haven't been reserving rooms in advance since i've arrived. seems there are never a shortage of hotels here... and if ever i should run into a bind, i shall devote myself to the rickshaw collectives who will work their magic.

posted by paul on Thu 10 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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