Random Stuff About This Place

3:17 AM Friday, October 29, 1999

bazaar monkey man   25568 bytes

I've been meaning to write these last couple a days. I've mostly been doing errands but of course errands are basically an excuse for adventure here. Like standing and waiting for something. Doesn't have to be anything, you can make that up. Just stand and wait. Something will always happen. Doesn't have to be that significant. Can be a guy picking his nose. It comes in a steady stream. It's an old photographer's trick that I've learned: be very still, don't do anything, and soon you'll turn invisible. So I've been meaning to write and I thought I'd write all the little things. Things that are details in a Henry James story. I ain't no Henry James and I don't even have a story so I thought I'd just write them down.

I'd forgotten what it was like to get busy signals. Phones are busy here and most places don't have PBX's. Do you miss busy signals? I don't. I think it was the early nineties the last time I heard a busy signal.

The most common sound heard daily by most of the worlds population is probably the human voice. Know what comes second? The car horn. That's right. In fact, I'd say that for about a third of the earth's population, the car horn is number one. I don't know what it's like in China so I'm estimating.

A Video:

Horn OK Please

:59 seconds
click on the image or download 4 megs

In the Brand-New-Absolutely-Worthless-Crap-In-The-Street department: In certain parts of the city, there is a man in the street selling a protective cover for your remote control every 10 feet. The same cover, a big black plastic rectangle that is supposed to fit around the remote and prevent it from being broken. I first encountered this odd piece of consumer riff-raff when it was thrust in the window of my rickshaw by a hawker while we were stopped at a red light. They're as common as chewing gum at a supermarket checkout counter.

In a constant battle against airborne grime, you have to completely clean the house every day. If you want it clean, that is. I watch a guy come in and dust and then sweep and then wash the floor every day (his efforts cost us about a 40 cents a day). I typically wash my body twice a day. I averaged once every couple of days back in the US. The way you dust here is you grab a rag and then you swat all the dusty surfaces with it: plat, plat, smack whap. Sweeping is done with a bunch of long pieces of grass and you squat down or bend over with your hand inches off the floor and push the dirt along. It's more like swiping than sweeping. There are no such things as mops (or at least I haven't seen one).

Ok, Here's a little anecdote to finish up:

When Brian moved here from Bangalore, he had movers pack all his stuff and they sent one guy with the stuff to unpack it and stay with Brian for a day. When the work was done, he told Brian that he needed help getting on the train and getting home. He only spoke Kannada, the language of the state of Karnataka. He didn't know English or Hindi or the state language here, Marathi, so he was basically stuck. Isn't it amazing that some people are marooned by language? This of course is dwarfed in significance by the fact that he wouldn't be able to afford to or have the slightest interest in going anywhere else. English speakers enjoy a tremendous luxury.

They went down to Bombay's gigantic Victoria Terminus train station and they told him that it would be a month before the guy could get a ticket. No lie. That's what the train system is like here. I am able to get a ticket because there's a quota for tourists. The have quotas for all kinds of people. I've already gone off about that so I won't. Anyhow, they're standing there and some guy walks up and says, give me 400 for the ticket plus 100 and I'll get you a ticket for today. Normally you don't give 500 bucks to a stranger in a train station but there was no other choice. The guy disappeared and Brian and the mover waited and waited. At one point he looked over at the guard in a sort of "ain't I stupid" kinda way and the guard motioned to him that he should be patient. This was strangely re-assuring.

After about a half hour the guy comes back and gives him the ticket. Not a reservation but a confirmed ticket. So there you have it. The inside line on the VT. Of course, it's possible that at some point in the journey someone could get on the train with the same seat assignment as you and then you're booted off in the middle of nowhere. It's not a perfect scheme.

Ahh, the train