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11 November 2005

waving with a wrist twist beauty pageant winner wave

this morning a rickshaw pimp named raghu told me that the closest atm was 10km outside of town. this evening while walking home after dinner i passed an atm not more than a 10 minute walk away from my hotel. tomorrow i will seek out raghu for comment.

rewind. last night i got caught up in a book and didn't get to sleep until 0300, so this morning i was dragging a bit and didn't get the early start i would have liked. i'd planned to rent a scooter or moped (killer!) to transport me out to the croc bank and snake catcher co-op but during my search for a rental place i was approached by a rickshaw posse. it's been my experience that the best english speaker is typically the rickshaw pimp; the pimp is accompanied by three or four drivers who crowd around eagerly during the initial conversation. it is the pimp's job to snare the prey; once he's set the hook he dispatches a driver. i made the mistake of telling raghu where i was going and that i first needed to stop at an atm. after five minutes of haggling i'd upgraded my moped to a rickshaw ride. [i'm listening to ozzy's 'no more tears' as i write this and while air guitaring madly to zakk wylde's solo, i have just decided to upgrade my egoramp metal guitar weedling solo ability from virtually nonexistent to gigantic arena rock 80's hair metal proportions when i get back to the states.]

the croc bank was 14km away and the rickshaw i was riding in was crawling. i watched the pavement roll by trying to gauge whether or not i'd have been able to run as fast. i think i could have peddled a _tricycle_ faster. in fact i'm sure of it. i'd have dusted this guy... looking over as i pulled alongside his rickshaw, my eyes staring just to the left of his with a blank expression on my face... waving with a wrist twist beauty pageant winner wave... and then cranking it up a notch and peddling furiously by in a blur of handlebar tassles and shiny red paint. but no... damnit, i was trapped inside forced to be polite and play the 'what's your name? where are you from?' game. lately i've been from new zealand. ha! i've actually gotten several 'for you, special price... we ask twice as much from americans' comments already. i think i'll have to brush up on my cricket knowledge if i plan to continue the kiwi charade.

arrival at the croc bank. initial arrangement: driver afrosh (sp?) would drive me out there and i'd take a bus back. upon arrival he sold me on a 'rickshaw ride back' upgrade after telling me that the bus only ran once every three hours. bullshit... i knew it ran every half hour. finding the appropriate bus stop and getting the bus to actually _stop_ at the bus stop would be the challenge... and clouds were closing in and threatening rain. fine, afrosh. upgrade me. do you serve drinks in your rickshaw for an additional charge cause _GODDAMN_ i'd like some of that too!

20 rupees to get inside. i walked around and checked out some of the croc pens which were pretty kicking. completely filled with evil reptiles. the brick and stone enclosure walls were only about waist high and signs warned that the crocs are able to jump into the air for prey... and still i saw a father lift his young daughter (i'll guess four years old) up _onto_ the wall and hold her hand as she walked along it.

i proceded to the snake catchers exhibit. primary objective. no venom extraction today... only a snake show. i was the only one inside the snake area. an eager to please man pulled out four snakes from some ceramic pots... a russells viper, a crait, a teeny sawscalled viper, and a cobra. he taunted each with a red cloth at the end of a stick in an attempt to get each to strike... only the cobra cooperated. absolutely beautiful.

after some stilted small talk, i asked the man if he was one of the guys who went out into the field to catch the snakes. he replied yes and i asked him if it would be possible to accompany the snake catchers during one of the expeditions. the language barrier was an issue and it took several attempts to successfully communicate my meaning. when he understood he laughed and brushed off my question as a joke. when he saw that i wasn't laughing and that my inquiry was serious, he literally took a step back and eyed my apprehensively as if he were speaking to a madman.

'but, sir... the snakes are very poisonous.'

i thought to myself... 'exactly. this is what i do, man. poisonous snakes. how freaking cool.'

it was obvious that i'd need to talk to someone else. outside the snake area i found a croc bank employee who spoke perfect english and i explained to him what i wanted to do. he understood exactly and told me that he thought it would be possible for a fee... 1000 rupees (about $23 us). i told him no problem, that i was very interested and had read much about the co-op on the internet. we walked back over to the snake area and he began to speak to one of the men in tamil while i waited. i could sense that the other man was taking the inquiry seriously. after a minute, the man told me that the catchers hadn't been going out recently due to the weather. it's been very wet in the area.

mission failure. i was a little disappointed, but i knew it was a longshot. the town of mamallopuram looked friendly and after we got back i walked around and explored some of the stone temples and carvings with a young latch-on named kani.

posted by paul on Fri 11 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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