More on Traffic

I forgot to mention the elephants. They’re not as common here as in other parts of the country, but they’re in demand for temple rituals. This one was likely part of our neighborhood temple puja and on its way to the next big event. The chains disturbed me, but they don’t seem to be chafing. I guess when it comes to animals that have been used as weapons of war, that really can squash a person, folks are interested in being able to control them.

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Puja!!!

So we live on the 6th story, which is actually the 10th floor, of this very bizarre semi-finished building in the middle of nowhere called PTC-Aquavista. (Okay, so it’s not nowhere but it’s definitely not woop’n-it-up in the big city either.) It’s been pretty quiet around here which has been great for us writer-types. Although we both have had wishing fits of being just a little closer to things but for the most part, it’s been cool. Anyway, a few days ago, we noticed them putting up a couple of big P.A. speakers right down the street from us. Later, suddenly, in what seemed the middle of the night, the music started! Keep in mind, we love Indian music about as much as we love the food. As a matter of fact, the music is a lot like the food… It’s spicy, intense, colorful and (to me) absolutely incomprehensible. …And once it started, it didn’t seem to want to go away. Shit, we thought that having cheesy (mostly Bollywood) Indian standards blasting at us at all hours of the day and night was our new status quo and it was almost like they had pointed the speakers directly at our balcony. In fact, the second night of the blaring it seemed as though they had forgotten that they were actually playing a movie and just let it play through. There’s nothing like hearing a Bollywood high-speed chase scene blasting through a couple of fractionally blown P.A. speakers in the middle of the night, in the middle of fucking nowhere! Then the lighting arrived, and we knew there was something going on, it was most likely Hindu and it was going to be around for a while. Well, as it turns out it’s the lunar-semi-annual Temple Puja, in other words, it’s[…]

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Cultural Priorities: Efficiency and Safety Margins

James and I ride up to Ulloor or Medical College or Pattom fairly frequently. One of our favorite thali lunches (Sree Gauri Nivas, pure veg and de-lish-us) is across the street from the Medical College entrance and there are grocers in the area. At the end of the Ulloor-Akkulam Road, we can turn left-then-right (on the left side of the road, remember) to go to Kesavasadapuram. That takes us to the bike shop, a couple banks that’ll give us small bills for the Rs. 2000 bills the ATM spits out, and some other places we don’t need much from. Alternately, we can get in the right turn lane and wait for the light. When the light turns green, it has already turned red for the crossing traffic, as is customary at intersections with lights. I’ve pretty much gotten used to the fact that I can’t stand there at my green light and wait for everyone to stop running the red light. The folks in the crossing traffic continue to come along against their red light until the green-light traffic gets their butts in gear and cross the empty lanes between. Then the red-light traffic stops to allow the green-light traffic their right of way. And you know what? It’s terrifically efficient. So is bunching up at lights in a snarled mass of cars, trucks, bikes, buses, scooters, motorcycles, and auto-rickshaws. Anyone who’s slow off the line doesn’t cause a whole segment of the population to miss the green light, and for the most part, it’s less a snarl than a coil (a messy one, like a DNA molecule), ready to string out to fit the amount of road ahead of it. I keep seeing these kinds of things and I’m struck by both my discomfort (spurts of terror are rare)[…]

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Bicycle POV

As nervous as I was about cycling on Indian roads (lanes, paths, cliffs), there was no doubt in my mind that it would be better than driving, being driven, riding a motorcycle, or walking. The first two imply a car, and anything wide enough to hold 4 people is too wide. Either the roads (lanes, etc) barely accommodate the vehicle or the middle of the road is being used as a passing lane and the stress is simply more than I want to deal with. We do still take cabs now and then. We went the motorcycle route last time. It was great in some ways. Fairly efficient travel in any direction we wanted to go – low fuel consumption, nimble enough for narrow paths and well-slung enough for rough surfaces, fast enough for a couple cyclists. The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is a lovely machine, too, with a comfortable and, ahem, stimulating growl. On the other hand, there was fuel to buy. James was the driver, which irritated me and stressed him. And while easy enough to maneuver, there’s a whole nother level of nimble that could improve the experience of moving about on these roads. Walking? It’s the only way to see every bit of a new neighborhood. It’s the only way to get every photo. And it’s the only way to have random conversations. Every other form of transportation moves too fast. On the other hand, we did so much walking between our arrival and getting the bicycles that I wore out a pair of shoes and my body thought I should give it a rest. Cycling, though. Wow. It’s good exercise, swift enough to put most of the city within our reach, and talk about nimble – we can ride almost anywhere we want and we[…]

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This is Tamarind

We went to a new lunch place today and got pretty freaked out. Prakash said we should check out the canteen at NISH (an institute for those with communication struggles), since it’s practically right out our front door. Not that he’d ever eaten there – it’s just the kind of place to have one. Today, we went there and arrived too early (as we do), but then we got fed a lovely meal by super-nice people and paid less than anywhere else nearby. Not only that, they do breakfast! Idly and sambar (we hope) in close proximity! Wow! We’ll be checking that out tomorrow morning. As we were walking back from lunch today we saw a couple of very nice people shaking a tree in quite a few different places. They’d shake and a bunch of brown pods would fall. We approached and asked what it was and the man reached into a bucket that he was rapidly filling with these things, pulled out a couple and handed them to us. He made the universal, “Go Ahead and Eat It, It’s Great!” gesture (Hand to mouth, big grin) so we did… Wow, Fucking wow!!! It was incredible! It was almost like my (James) body just absorbed the stuff, like I needed it, badly! And, it turns out it (my body) did. Tamarind is a very large, long lived shrub although to me it looks like a big tree. The evergreen leaves are elliptical ovular and pinnately veined; in other words, it’s cool looking. At night the leaflets close up like little books in a great green library. Now for the good part, it’s sweetly sour right off the tree and perfectly edible but best of all it is outrageously good for you, it has… 37% of your daily Thiamine, 13%[…]

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