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16 November 2005

relentlessly in monotone

a few random notes i made while in pondicherry:

. the motorcycle of choice in pondicherry is the honda hero. most drivers don't wear helmets instead opting for a clear plastic blastshield to protect their eyes.

. despite the intense sun, i would estimate less than 2% of indians wear sunglasses.

. i still enjoy riding the indian buses. oftentimes men selling popcorn or fruit or other snacks will jump on the buses while they're stopped at intersections, walking from the front door to the back, calling out the name of their product relentlessly in monotone. [yes, we heard you the first five times.] occasionally when the bus stops in a small village, women will come alongside the bus trying to sell fruit or vegetables to the passengers through the windows.

. in the pondicherry museum i saw several statues of nadarajar standing on a baby. who is this child and why is nadarajar standing on it?

. i spent a fair amount of time on the beach promenade looking out at the water. my travels have really given me a difference sense of the world... a much smaller, interconnected, world. while india is on the other side of the planet from the united states, it takes less than 24 hours to reach by plane. so far but so close. all of the countries in the world... all of the distinct cultures... and yet we're all living on the same planet. i had a john lennon 'imagine' moment while watching the waves roll in one evening.

i checked out of the ram guesthouse at 1000 and took a rickshaw to the bus station. three indian women found my large backpack highly amusing and made no attempt to conceal their laughter while whispering and pointing at me. [at least i assume it was due to the backpack. i did a quick selfcheck for any potentially humorous 'situations' and found none.] four hours to chennai.

which of the waiting rickshaw gang would spot me first? [proximity alert] [eye contact] i'd been targeted by a an eager rickshaw neophyte who closed in voraciously.

'where are you going, sir?'

i hadn't yet decided and told him to hang back while i perused my guidebook. while i was reading, other drivers swarmed in sensing the fresh kill.

'hotel comfort,' i said.

i could tell from his confused look that he didn't know how to get to hotel comfort. he asked another driver for directions and a minor argument ensued over who would get my fare; the second driver obviously wanted to take me himself. the argument continued en route to the vehicles until finally the second driver conceded and tried to explain to the first how to get to hotel comfort. more confused looks... another argument... and then i was ushered into the second driver's rickshaw. the young driver's kill had been stolen by a driver with more experience. survival of the fittest. as we prepared to pull away, the defeated driver came alongside the rickshaw and asked me for a tip.

'for what? you didn't do anything.'

'sir, just for a coffee...'

'but you didn't do anything.'

'just a coffee.'

i felt a little bad he'd missed out on my fare so i dug down into my pocket and pulled out all the change i had... a mere seven rupees... and held it out for him.

'seven rupees?' he complained.

'that's all i have.'

'but that's not enough for a coffee.'

[i realize that seven rupees isn't much, but come on man, i'm _giving_ you money for doing absolutely nothing. jesus.] he eventually took it after some more grumbling. next time someone complains about free money, i'm going to put it right back into my pocket.

arrival at hotel comfort. the driver wanted to come in with me ['let's take a look at the room.'] but i told him that i'd be going in by myself. clearly he was trying to snag a hotel commission that i would have ended up paying in the form of an inflated room rate. i gave him a 25 rupee tip along with the agreed upon fare and told him to drive away. move along. move along. the tip had the desired effect; he seemed pleased and drove away.

i checked in, threw my things in the small room, and then immediately took off on a mission: i needed to ship some of the things i'd purchased in mamallopuram back to the states. rickshaw ride to dhl. unfortunately, due to some governmental restrictions about exporting certain items, i was only able to send one of my packages out.

it was dark when i got out of dhl. back at the hotel, i ate some tandoori chicken and fried noodles on the rooftop terrace and then retired for an early evening. i'd made arrangements with the driver who had driven me to dhl. he'd be picking me up at 1300 the following day to take me to the airport for my 1540 flight to kolkata.

posted by paul on Wed 16 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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