A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Now That's What I Call Customer Service

Last week my landlady didn't sign for a package for me, I got a delivery attempt notice the next day, and thus precipated a series of calls, at least five calls and 20 minutes/day because I was either hung up on, put on hold and then hung up on, put on hold and transferred to someone new I had to start over with, put on hold and transferred to someone new I had to start over with and then hung up on...etc. Every time I finally got through I was promised the package would be delivered that very afternoon for sure. I was promised that on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, didn't bother to call Sunday, and on Monday was told the package was returned to sender in Calcutta. My response to this was to call exactly a bazillion times, insist I speak to a manager and refuse to be put on hold. I think this strategy just caused even more transfers and allowed for exciting eavesdropping of employees fiddling with wrappers and munching on their lunches. I also refused their first solution that I needed to call the sender and see if they received the returned package and can remail it. I said, it's your (TNT, evil courier) fault, you figure it out. Finally, I was told actually it wasn't returned to sender and a local carrier would call me. If you think I got a call, I have some oceanfront property in Switzerland to sell. Then tonight I got home and found a package on my bed. The card reads:
To Jenifer Peter JOhn [typo intentional]
Wish You A Very
Happy And Cheerful
Birthday. God Bless
You Chellam.
Selvaraj P.
and contains a plastic candy dish, bag of cashews and bag of raisins. Upon consulting my friend who surreptitiously asked "how the dried fruit was" a few days ago, I discovered this was intended to be a sweet Christmas gift and what I eventually received was not what he ordered. His turn to yell. (Photo: two angles of yet another flower I can't identify)

Then again, when a friend and I went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve the chairs were being stacked, because it had been held at 9 o'clock instead. And to top off the Scrooge-i-ness, on Christmas during a game of table tennis at the sports' club, someone stole my friend's phone out of her purse (we suspect the light-eyed watchman who kept walking in and out and made us keep the purses by his desk, because when we first called her phone someone answered and we heard music in the background of a holiday party in another part of the club, clearly the work of his co-conspirator!). A coworker keeps saying, "I promise, we're really normal, we Indians. I don't know how you meet so many weirdos and have so much trouble." I know by now when a store tells me they'll order a book and call me I better ask another store to do the same, and that between them I have about a 10% chance it'll come. I'm onto you, Indian customer service! The irony is, India is the outsource hot spot for US customer service. I know it can be done well here. Maybe it's another instance of doing something better for the white folks... (Photo: random local Christmas cheer)

Cleaning being done well, however, I'm not so sure. The concept of using different rags for, oh, say, the bathroom and the kitchen counter hasn't caught on, nor has using cleaning products other than water unless I buy an unopened bottle and hand it to the maid, which guarantees she will go product-crazy and use the entire 2 liters (litres, India?) in one small bathroom. Also, cleaning appears to be like the proverbial tree in the forest: if no one's home, she doesn't have to clean or do dishes, and somehow thinks we won't notice when we get home? Try again. My roommates seem to believe this as well: today I put a fresh roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, it disappeared around noon, and reappeared at night as an entirely empty roll. 

Also, despite poor customer service at the previous medical center, either I am the universal giver (O-), another lab is wrong, my blood type changed, or my US records have been wrong for a really long time. Knowing one's blood type is a useful thing, and not just for Japanese horoscopes. Public service announcement of the day: next time you get a blood test, throw in a blood typing. While I'm at it, turn off your appliances when you're not using them, yay florescent light bulbs and rechargeable batteries and fans instead of a/c and all that climate jazz. And I like Thomas Friedman.

Ad in a magazine: "I only want to marry a man who's too smart to marry me!" I have no idea what it was advertising, but I laughed out loud in the beauty parlor and garnered more stares than on a normal day. Then I walked outside and saw this:

I'm off to Thailand tomorrow--Happy New Year and full blue moon (whether you see a rabbit or man, or neither like me)!

Posted byValerie at 3:47 AM 4 comments  

Avatar Foreign Policy

SPOILER ALERT: Today I went to see the new Avatar movie in 3-D. To those who say the true star of the film is Pandora, the planet, and the mise-en–scéne Cameron created, I say right on. The bio-luminescence and gargantuan interconnected banyan and willow forest of fantasy foliage are truly awesome. While I liked the physical connection of living fibers as representations of the idea that all life forms are a part of one universal energy, I found the element overused, as if audiences wouldn’t buy the idea without a physical representation. The story, an outer space Dances with Wolves set in an alien Ferngully, leaves much to be desired. In a nutshell: (1) white man learns native ways for white exploitation, (2) white man betrays other white men to help natives (the Na’vi), (3) natives feel betrayed by white man when other white men attack, (4) white man easily manages feat few natives have managed in order to re-earn their trust, (5) white man leads natives to victory and joins native life for good. When one of the Na’vi says, “We have tried to teach sky people. It is hard to fill a cup that is already full,” the sentiment certainly rings true not just throughout history, but ironically in this movie, and not in the way Cameron intends. By pivoting the plot around a white man-cum-savior who quickly learns and takes advantage (from reporting on the sacred structural design of their home base to using Na’vi prayer to try to save his scientist friend after the deaths of so many Na’vi), and is ultimately able to rally all natives on Pandora to fight against the white men and win their collective freedom from commercial mining exploitation (insert obvious Middle East oil reference here), the Na’vi and other native peoples may as well be another herd of hammerhead rhinos, rather than humanoids. It seems Cameron is saying a problem created by white people requires a white person to solve—but not just any white person, a “thoughtful” one who sees the value of another culture to the extreme extent of ditching his own in favor of saving it.

Could this be more black or white? Where is the gray area for people who try to be open to other cultures, to the point of, oh, let’s say, moving to India to, perhaps idealistically, help be a force of positive social change by using their Western knowledge and not-yet-full cup to further a project of local design, scope and impact? People committed to making a positive impact while recognizing as much as they try to learn from locals, they cannot possibly solve local problems, especially conflicts? And that local issues are best solved by home grown solutions by those who are really in it, and outsiders’ best help is imparting their knowledge and experience as and when locals ask for it? Instead we have another perfectly imperfect white man who first ruins and then (if not saves) salvages native life. I hope nothing I work on makes me later think I should’ve kept my hands (or more likely in my case, my research, discussions, endless over-thinking and mad-typing fingers) out of it altogether. Let’s stop this stereotype. Isn’t electing Obama supposed to be a sign that we Americans are at least ostensibly trying to stop the mistaken-American-turned-hero method of foreign policy? Isn’t that why he got the (albeit a bit ridiculous) Peace Prize?

I think the greatest way to help is to empower people to help them develop ways to solve their own problems (hence mediation over judgment), and be available to listen and offer one’s own knowledge and experience when and how others ask for it. In any case, I try to live by that. Maybe someday Hollywood will agree. Until then, Avatar is entertaining, and my advice is to get lost in the scenery and not the story.

Posted byValerie at 9:09 PM 1 comments  

A Bombay Holiday

Today was one of those perfect Bombay alone days. I got a good chunk of work done in the morning, wandered the streets to my personal one-eared ipod soundtrack (bought new headphones because one of my earbuds went out, and two weeks later one of the new ones has gone out too, so I think it's meant to be), browsed a bookstore for longer than I should admit, stopping myself when my books-to-buy pile hit five. I’ll need more for rural South Africa, and I’m such a nerd, they’re all non-fiction and mostly world-medicine-related tomes I can reread and study. Strange hobby, I know. That, and I want to work on my language learning. (Photos: look, look! I decorated the chair, since I can’t tape to the walls)
Speaking of strange, some friends and I attended Khai fest 2009, the local Hanukkah fest which was a cross between a community talent show, a Holi show and a fundraiser. I have never been to a Hanukkah fest, and certainly not with belly-dancing, Hindi comedians, Indian classical singing, bollywood dance, and even a tacky auction to light the menorahs that only some sucker white people in the audience participated in (insert Jewish money joke here). My favorite line was when one young man said he needs to find a good Jewish wife, but whenever he meets an Indian Jew he first asks, “Are we related?” To cap off Hanukkah, aka Jewish Diwali, I had a Hanukkah dinner (which I called my Jewish birthday so friends let me pay, because the birthday girl treats here instead of the other way around), where I taught the dreidel game, and we took turns lighting candles in little bowls as a makeshift menorah over Jewish/Lebanese/Greek snacks. (Videos: Jewish belly dancing and Indian dance)
Then I went to an expensive Western-priced mall (as in $40 tops expensive!) all decorated and lit for Christmas, although I have yet to hear any Christmas songs besides a few reggae ones on my computer a friend sent. As much as I grow weary of the same twenty songs in repetition for the month following Thanksgiving, it doesn’t feel like the holidays without them—nor in 90-degree heat at night. I’m pretty sure any nostalgia for cold weather could be quickly cured by one visit to India’s first ice bar. It’s just so expensive…well, $16, but I could travel by train across the country for (less than) that. Also, being white automatically merits me ‘Merry Christmas’ wishes, and people are very proud that they know Christmas is coming. Today I was invited to a midnight mass in a nearby garden. I’ve never been to a midnight mass, either, so I suppose I might as well. The most Christmas-y conversation I’ve had involved an argument that Santa is the best marketer in the world, which I suppose is fitting in a country where the business section of a bookstore is nearly as big as the fiction section. (Update: I am sitting in a Tea Leaf and Coffee Bean in South Bombay listening to a choir caroling with a guitar, keyboard and amp system, and half the choir appears to be Hare Krishna)
Now, a quick thank you to enteroquinol (which is banned in the West due to eyesight damage claims I shall ignore) for ridding me of whatever crazy dizziness-inducing bug I had. And the random observation of the day: TATA, a private Parsi conglomerate that’s in every industry from tea to steel to telecom to the Taj hotels (and began in the 1860’s in opium trade in Bombay), owns India. As I was marveling this to a friend, he informed me that actually, Reliance Industries is the second-largest private conglomerate in the world (started in just the 1960’s) and accounts for 3.5% of India’s GDP. So I guess I take it back. Reliance owns India, but Reliance, you need to advertise better. I didn’t know. (Photo: random Parsi architecture)
While Reliance and TATA duke it out, I for one am not a fan of conflict, and I am not a fan of blame. The instant response to conflict here (to generalize of course) seems to be to blame the other party, even if it’s something straightforward like a nurse telling me, “Go. Follow that woman.” I get up, follow, walk into a room I apparently shouldn’t be in, return to the waiting room, and the nurse says, “No, you didn’t understand me. Follow her in a few minutes. Sit now.” I sit for one second. “Follow her now.” We walk the other direction. Of course, my bad. As pushy as I find Indians (especially when disembarking from trains), Israelis I encounter are even more so. And I thought I was blunt. I can say directly, “I am not interested in dating. I feel uncomfortable,” and that doesn’t even end an Israeli’s pursuit. I don’t understand the Israel-India connection either, but tons of Israelis holiday here, and they even have special beach houses set up with Kosher food and everything. Israel is apparently the largest military supplier to India, and a study earlier this year found that Indians were more sympathetic to the Jewish state than even the US. Still, assertiveness is a tricky balance; I like how this article puts it: like salt in the sauce, if done well, no one notices it, and if too little or too much, it can wreck the balance. On the other hand, there’s Buddhism and yoga and meditation and so many beautiful and profound religions and philosophies about the meaning of life and how we are all "striving to join the infinite current,” and the immense comfort in the knowledge that “everything is nothing”... I have not even begun to scratch the spiritual surface of this country. If the temples and ashram retreats serve as the opposite to everyday aggression, then India (and Israel!), could work on spreading the salt around more evenly as it’s shaken. 

Posted byValerie at 1:40 AM 2 comments  

Amoeba Mediator

I want to thank my heart for not being broken (literally, healthy ECG), and my Dr. friend for putting me on anti-amoeba pills that within hours cracked my 101 fever and severely reduced my dizzies (I'm trying not to think what that means was/is inside me). A week of dizzies and heart palpitations, a day of fever and some bed bug bites don’t seem like much. However, I am not going to tempt fate and ask for India to “bring it on” or anything. It’s like Goldilocks and the Bears—I’ve got juuust the right amount of stressiness, India, so that I don’t tip over the edge.

Such sweet friends: one made me a favorite food for dinner, and another took me to tea at a lovely outdoor cafe aptly called Under the Banyan Tree. (Photo of another banyan tree) Even my roommate is talking! I always know my roommate is home, because the bedroom door is locked when I get in. The signal is kick twice to rouse her. Tonight the landlady got her angry, and she finally opened up a little: she has a sister near here and has lived in this room for 1.5 years, and we got a/c the day before I moved in, and it was painted just a week before (that I knew). She also blames the stain on her mattress on a pigeon flying in and peeing on her bed (a warning since I leave windows open for "fresh" Bombay air), and fears lizards will rush in and attack us. In her defense, the maid probably wouldn’t clean that up. (Photos: look what a good job our maid did today because I left before she was done)

I am amused by Indian marriage mania (which is easier for me because I am not in it, aside from a grandmother who told me I am too old, no man will want me). A number of friends here seem to be in marriage crunch mode (or at least their families are) and typical entries on what I am calling Indian marriage resumés include: “wheatish” complexion, the following # stats: (age)/(height)/(salary), “homely” (girl who’s good at housework), native language, caste (often disguised as “highly placed” or “status” family, employer (corporate or family business empire seem best), “teetotaler” (non-drinker) and non-smoker, if open to resumé responses from abroad, education level and work field of prospective spouse, mini bios of all family members (including where they live, if married, ages, education levels), a hobby (I know one who put water sports, and since I have yet to meet an Indian who can even swim, this is possibly more limiting than matching native language, caste and salary—which one middle-class man told me in Bombay has in 9 years matched him with just 25 local prospects, only one he even considered). Men should be a few years older than the women, divorced women are in way more trouble than divorced men, resumés are often exchanged more frequently between mothers than potential mates. I was invited to an Indian wedding, but alas I will be (better be!) in Cambodia. (Photo: Muslims heading to Haji Ali for prayer, excited I caught a crow mid-flight with my slow-snapping camera)

I can’t tell at times if people offer me extra help because I’m foreign, a woman, white, or some combination of the three. Like today, spending a day in and out of the South African embassy while everyone else sat in the waiting area, I sat on a sofa where South African nationals wait, so I didn’t “wait” like the Indians there. I thought it was because I was a woman, but then I saw an Indian woman in the other room. And employees kept coming to talk to me (“madam”). Of course, they won’t guarantee to return my passport in time for my Thailand trip and they tried to add a 15th document that would take days to get right after I’d paid and gotten a receipt, so I am not exactly confident about this. But then, I am American, so I know I have a better shot. (Note: Somehow the embassy got my cell and called the very next evening to say my 8-month visa is ready, and "Now, you are not so worried, right?" I so got the royal non-Indian treatment.) Like this recent to-do about a Häagen Dazs opening in New Dehli that didn’t allow any Indian nationals inside. A friend here sent me this picture, which I think is a perfect farce of the American mindset (click on it to make it bigger/more legible):

I’ve been listening to some very interesting PRI (Public Radio International) podcasts called America Abroad. Fitting with a general trend of response instead of prevention, I found the piece on Shortchanging Foreign Aid particularly enlightening (also since I applied for a USAID job, there are many empty offices for years now, and my application that the website said would be processed in 1 month has since been outsourced to a company to contact me within 1 year). There is no such podcast about any other country. There is, it seems, not to be high-and-mighty, no other such country. As for the universality of English, we owe much thanks to the UK ahead of us for exploiting the world. Here's hoping and working towards our not following that trend further.

Speaking of any other country, nowhere else have I found ants in my bed—which I later realized was due to ants in my computer! My response, as with the possibly-bed-bug-infested clothes, was for my sheets, nightie and sweatshirt to all chill in the freezer with the peas and homemade frozen juice desserts (as in, I freeze juice in little tupperwares and eat them like containered popsicles). And whenever one of those little buggers popped out of the keys or the vent today, I squished ‘em right quick. Take that! Speaking of which, I decided instead of reporting my “friend” at the Internet company, I would use him to remove my late fees from not being able to pay my bill on time because of my stolen credit card. Let’s just say, all I did was ask, and 6 hours later, over $40 in fees were gone and someone is coming to my house tomorrow to pick up the payment. (Photo: flower shops near a temple)

To come full circle on bugs in this post: my roommate also told a funny story about another anonymous roommate note left for her one day. 'You have killed a cockroach in the bathroom. It will take a rebirth and get back at you.' Does that mean the amoebas are coming to avenge me or the quinine?

Posted byValerie at 1:55 AM 0 comments  

Whose Blood Is This?

On and off for the last few weeks I’ve been feeling dizzy, especially when I wake up. It generally starts to fade by evening (meaning it’s hard to work and stare at computer screen). As this became more on than off, I began to navigate the Indian medical system. (Completely unrelated video: German oompah musicians at the Bombay Weinachtsfest singing what they called a traditional German song with the refrain "Snow, snow, snow, beer, beer, beer!")

On Tuesday I went to a clinic doubly recommended by friends for some blood tests (not the one pictured). First they couldn’t spell my name correctly (Valne Gaimeon) while copying it from my passport. Twice. Then I finally got the results, and realized they listed me as O- blood type. I am B+. So I went back and argued, got new blood drawn, and they assured me of swift results. When I went to pick up those results, they argued that the new blood sample was also O- and that my previous 26 years of blood typing must be wrong, since 15 people in their lab typed this blood. This resulted in my creating my first scene since age 1 when (according to my parents) I simply had to have a red rubber ball with a star on it, complete with screaming and near-crying at the NM Medical Center where I spent my week being alternately told to, “Sit, Madam” and that “You must not know your blood type” and “You seem to like creating a scene.” Sure, yeah, I love having blood drawn, and I love not being able to go to the doctor because I don’t have results to show. I love being dizzy and not getting work done. And sure, my blood type has changed after 26 years without a single transfusion or organ transplant—not just type but from + to – (which is even less possible). More yelling resulted in their retesting everything again. When I shared these (somewhat different, actually) results with the doctor I saw on Saturday she was not surprised and suggested that I go to 3 different clinics to ensure accurate results—assuming that 2/3 will be similar and more likely correct. I think I’ll stick to getting blood drawn at the hospital. I’m feeling like enough of a pincushion.

This has all set me a bit on edge, and as usual, Bombay taxi drivers have been out to cheat me in force this week. No, I will not agree to pay 3x what I should and not use the meter; no, I will not pay 2x the fare that the card says. And when you’re spitting your spiced tobacco out your window it should not be surprising that it comes back into my window behind you. Lately some vendors have come up with a new game wherein they pretend they don’t have the right weights to balance the amount of fresh food I’ve picked, so they heap more onto the scale for me to buy. Also, I have no interest in paying extra for duck eggs—if it’s possible for eggs to taste gamey, those do. And the yolks are scary big.

I notice more and more that I walk around wearing my assertive face, and while walking and on the train my boob block has become so second nature, I sometimes realize my arms are up in the punch-like block position even in nice grocery stores. It’s my subconscious crowd response.

Since I’m in rant mode, my flatmates have gone a bit mad. I came home from Mysore to find the front door broken, unable to lock, and the girls had not yet told the landlord. When that was fixed, I came home to see the door closed and keys dangling next to the lock. When I said I did not feel safe with that solution, the new response has been massive doorbell-ringing (which in these girls’ defense, the tiffin-deliverer and laundryman also do) at any time of day (3:30 am, anyone?). No, I'm not answering. You crazy lazies let each other in. Granted, our building is small and safe and we are the only flat on our floor. We also have watchmen 24 hours a day, but the 3 watchmen who are presumably supposed to work in alternating 8-hour shifts usually set up plastic chairs and sit chatting in a circle by day, and all sleep at night, often not even near the entrance booth. 9/10 times when they see me reach my hand though the gate to open it from the inside, they just go back to sleep, and at least ½ the time they don’t see me at all. But you never know when a nutter like the man who stopped in the street last night to offer me a bow and a “Namaste” or the one who followed me around Chowpatty Beach repeating, “Curly hair, I photo, madam” will parade past the watchmen. How hard is it to carry a key? (Photos: not even close to sardine-packed trains)

Speaking of keys, I carry my parents’ house key on my keychain here. It’s a subtle smile of a reminder of home, of which I had a much larger and lovelier reminder this week when I opened holiday packages with my parents watching on Skype. They sent dreidels, a Happy Hanukkah banner, a tiny Christmas tree, a couple candles, and even a few small ornaments. My brother sent a journal, fancy NASA space-and-underwater-writing gel pen, and some of my favorite comic books (Pearls Before Swine) to elicit some giggles; it’s as if they predicted my medical madness of a week. Thank you, wonderful family! I also got my first card in the mail from a friend, and my aunt sent some adorable pictures of my mother as a young teen. Thank you, thank you everyone for the mail, email, and facebook love! I apologize for the turmoil surrounding some of my packages trickling to you (including a few reports of their being slit open, and one with some powder inside resulting in drug dog drama).

Lest this post appear too negative, I want to assure you dear readers I am/will be fine, and have been having some fun as well. I went to Bombay’s only (outdoor) climbing wall this week, where three of us watched little kids deftly roam around the wall while we struggled to stay on for more than a minute at a time. It was fun, and I still feel the wimp burn in my forearms. It’s been a while. We followed the climbing with a delicious fishy dinner. The following night I think I My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding culture-shocked my friend taking her to a Shabbos Hanukkah dinner typical of any Jewish holiday: tons of food (grape-y wine, challah, hummus, etc), loud talking of the friendly speak-over-each-other and never-ending story variety, an amazingly unfussy baby (awake way past her bedtime) diverting everyone’s attention, and a bit too much Hebrew and prayer. The following day after a doctor friend's opinion over breakfast Under the Banyan Tree (a cute cafe), and an afternoon at another doctor, at night a friend and I visited another nearby rooftop establishment with a lit-up wedding view, then wandered SoBo (yes, I moved from South Boulder to South Bombay) complete with a delicious fresh juice stop at Bachelor’s. You may think all fresh-squeezed juice is fresh-squeezed juice, but I can assure you, these people know how to squish their fruit. If only that cured the dizzies. Current mantra: Hebrew song

Posted byValerie at 2:21 PM 0 comments  

Elephants and Tigers and Yoga, Oh My!

“Our vision is that we are staying in the animal’s home.” After a bumpy 3-hour car ride due to our driver (whose phone ring was a song with lyrics “Sing me a song, and you won’t be alone, forever and a day…”) not following clear signs, telling us he’s lost because he wanted to stop and have a coconut and make us pay, as well as driving on slow dirt streets, we arrived at an eco oasis, greeted with cool scented towels, coconuts, and a delicious lunch. 24 hours and 2 safaris later we were lucky enough to have spotted: the ever-elusive tiger (context: an Indian wildlife photographer friend has had just 8 sightings in the last 6 years), a leopard, barking deer (they sound like dogs), wild boar, wild cattle, peacocks, monkeys, many birds I can’t identify, spotted deer, a crocodile, elephants, and a little toad named Norbert who snuck into our cottage. (Click on the collage below to magnify it.)

Despite a comedy of errors complete with my being attacked by bed bugs, from which I am still sporting sexy red welts and in slight itch-o-rama mode (I was just growing spots to fit in with the leopard...), being in nature and breathing clean air was a relaxing and very welcome respite. The night before I got bed bugs, I said, “With all the cheap trains I take, it’s a wonder I don’t have lice by now.” Insert obvious karmic joke here.

So about that tiger: cruising up the Kabini River between Nagarhole and Bandipur national parks, our naturalist guide heard birds chirping fiercely to warn each other of a predator’s presence. We waited and watched as a mid-sized female tiger sauntered out of the trees to the river’s edge. She lapped up water in a way I can only describe as the tiger equivalent of daintily sipping tea with a pinky held out from a porcelain handle. We watched for 20 minutes as the jungle queen gracefully drank, surveyed her kingdom, and then slowly strolled back into her forest. Our guide, whose nickname is Mowgli, was high-fiving me, as excited as a little boy at Christmas; the way his face lit up I could tell he is in the right profession. If we could only all be so enchanted with our work. The leopard was spotted the next morning a bit far from our jeep in the forest, lounging in a tree watching potential prey on the ground, and only looked up once when our guide made repeated calls. He was so good at calling the animals, I told him to teach me to call an elephant to use for summoning Bombay taxi drivers. We can all practice with this video:

I also spent some time in Mysore, the birthplace of yoga, now a Western-comfortable retreat of a city with a beautiful Maharaja’s palace, easy pace, relatively clear air and warm assortment of international souls, complete with organic smoothies and idyllic French bed-and-breakfast feasting opportunities.

Then I spent one night in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, which both more polluted and slow-paced than I expected. A friend took me to the 13th Floor where I sipped fresh lime soda and dined on tandoori appetizers overlooking the city, then to an Israeli trance DJ spinning at Club Nero where I saw an Indian who looked so much like a pirate (read: all in white, long curly brown hair, chest hair overflowing, adorned by gold necklaces) we named him Johnny Deepu as we watched 20-somethings standing in neat formation, one foot apart and facing the DJ, doing what I call the Indian T Rex dance (elbows to your sides, alternately lift your arms, and if you’re brave also shift legs slightly side to side)—all before the 11:30 city curfew. I was impressed with and endeared by the attempt, MG Road. It’s better than much of Bombay “dancing” with two people awkwardly facing each other shifting from side to side, girls shaking their heads and hair back and forth and avoiding eye contact. Two questions, though, Bangalore: (1) why do the ric driver info cards list a category for driver blood type, with no types listed on any I saw?, and (2) why do you refer to servers and rickshaw drivers as “Boss” when they are mostly so rude?

The following day I was lucky enough to meet two more amazing American women, one who let me fly with acroyoga http://www.acroyoga.org/ which was not only fun, it delightfully also stretched and back-cracked me in ways a chiropractor can only dream of (and flattered me by calling me “flexy”), while the other served a delicious lunch of rice, cucumber, sambar, and Jamaican fried fish on her rooftop balcony. (Photo caption: Deep breath out with an ahh)

Before I moved to India I was a careful, bike-helmet-wearing sort of girl, and now I'm riding on the backs of scooters without a helmet, and ignoring old women who likely rent the babies they’re holding when they start poking my arm to ask for “Change, madam.” India doesn’t tap on the glass of one’s boundaries, she completely shatters them. When I left for this little sojourn, I was feeling stressy with a lot on my mind (work, visas, lost wallet…), and the 9 + 3 hours from Bombay to Mysore to the park wasn’t exactly relaxing. Sometimes India takes so much out of me, and then when I let her, she puts so much more back in...

Posted byValerie at 1:39 PM 0 comments