Valiathura Beach – a long sunset walk

So, I’m well enough to walk. With my boots on, my foot and ankle hardly even get fatigued during the course of a day. (I’m also taking morning and night doses of something called Lyser-D, a painkiller consisting of diclofenac sodium and serratiopeptidase. All I can find about it is that it’s a painkiller – duh.) I put myself to the test today. We laughed off a couple of cabbies before finding one who would take us to Valiathura Beach for 50 rupees. The first guy started at 200 – one way! – but as we walked away, he came down to 300 both ways with an hour of waiting. Mmmhmm. We’re not as easy to target now as when we first got here, though I still feel like we overpay for such things more often than not. Anyway, back to the walking. The driver dropped us off at the beach, asking if he should wait for us and suggesting that we should go to the “Important” beach up the road instead. James was already out of the rickshaw and taking photos of the fishing boats, so I politely told him to bug off and gave him an extra 10 rupees. Why did I argue so hard for a lesser price if I was just going to give him more? Well, I don’t really know. It’s a habit of tipping and I’m really afloat on the whole thing here in India. I’m constantly getting huge smiles or slight frowns – hardly ever the regular old “yep, it’s a tip” response. Perhaps all the frowns are faked and I overtip all the time. I don’t know. Sigh. Was this about walking? Okay, back to that… It took James and I about five minutes to get from the road to the waterline.[…]

Read more

Veg Tables

For several days, we’ve gone from the chai-wallah to my favorite diner/restaurant in Trivandrum…Anandalakshmy: Veg Tables. Yep, that’s the name. Don’t you just love it?This place caught my eye because of the large sign out front. There is a picture of some great food and, smaller, toward the bottom, it says “Wifi.” This being a magic word, I stopped. This word means internet access from my own laptop. Skipping the crazy round of camera -> laptop -> Photoshop -> folder -> external hard drive -> internet access place -> usb -> Flickr. Instead, we can just upload the photos once they’re ready. Also, I just feel better about using my own computer for anything private. Certainly for banking. At first, we ordered small. After spending hours on the free wifi, though, we ponied up our 60 rupees each and ordered the Kerala Thali. Wow! What an experience. There are about 8 or 10 dishes (varying widely from restaurant to restaurant – some serve only a few) of mysterious names, a range of spiciness (ranging from spicy to yow!), and universal deliciousness. I’m glad that we waited before ordering this thali, because that gave me the opportunity to more-or-less discreetly watch a few other tables at the process of eating this food. You’d think that I’d been eating my whole life, surely I could figure it out. And yeah – if it’d had to guess, only my childhood traumas would have kept me from the correct method. Here it is. The meal is served in a large round metal dish. It looks like a very large cake pan (but shinier). Move the 8-10 small bowls to the outside of the main dish. On the bottom of that main dish is chappathi (or chapatti) and a puri, under that is a round[…]

Read more

A Morning Thing

We get up (lazily, slowly, and only after spending exactly as much time as we want waking up and messing around), get dressed, and walk to the chai-wallah. He works on a street corner next to a vada stand. The chai world is the size of a child’s computer desk, but every bit of surface is used. This is a man who makes chai exactly how you like it (whoever you may be). The chai-wallah nods knowingly and smiles small but with great intensity. He pulls two small glasses from a wash bin and to each glass he adds a little scalding hot water from a bulky pot with a spigot. As far as I can tell, this is to warm the glass and perhaps to clean out any dust and such that might have flown in since it was washed. He then picks up the metal cup of magic and adds a very exact amount of (sugar?) powder, two heaping spoonfuls plus one just-this-much-more dash. He pushes back the cover of the hot milk tureen and dippers up a couple of sloshes worth. The cover is replaced. Now the beautiful part begins, and it is more varied. Sometimes the tea is old and has no more power. Sometimes it is fresh and lively. He lifts the cup with the flexible mesh (cheesecloth?) basket resting in it, rim over rim, handle lying over the side of the cup. If the brew is not good, flick go the contents into the bin under the tiny table. The mixture of tea leaves and spices is replenished from a large plastic container. He places the fresh masala (spiced) chai (tea) basket into its cup and puts the whole works under the hot water spigot. He adds enough to get things brewing. Sometimes the[…]

Read more

Traffic

We’ve mentioned the traffic, inserting little “local interest” bits and pieces into other stories. I’m not sure that I’ve sufficiently expressed, however, my true admiration for the art form which is motion in India. It’s not just the cabs. In New York, people say that those cabbies are crazy – they’ll kill you rather than stop for you! But those cabbies are probably Indian, Pakistani, Bangledeshi…someone from around here. Here, it is your job to be careful. It is your job to get across the street. It is also your job to put your vehicle in the way of harm, knowing that it is also the other guy’s job to be careful. Careful means a different thing here. Rather like the way you will be leaned into by the person behind you in line, you might – really, honestly might, with no ill will or rancor – be gently pushed by the bumper of the person behind you if you don’t take advantage of an opening in traffic that any ant would see as tiny. Each driver assesses the traffic. There is no zoning out while driving. You just can’t get away with it. Driving is active, participatory. It is not rude, exactly. It is matter of fact. If the fact is that I can fit between you and the bus and therefore get to the next road before you – I will. Even if “fitting” consists of pulling in my sideview mirror and slowing so that I don’t bounce in the pothole. And really, I like it. This is traffic in a country not run by insurance companies. This is traffic in a place where people have places to go, single car lanes to drive down, and cars small enough to allow it all to work. I love being[…]

Read more

Celebrate!

I had no idea it was a holiday!  Forgot all about Labor Day until I saw Mykkah’s status on gmail chat – something about loving long weekends. There have been several holidays in the three weeks since we arrived.  India knows how to celebrate!  Loud (great) music, mandalas of flowers, small lamps in the middle of ornate gatherings of offerings.  Lovely.  And even though you might expect frequent holidays to become mundane, people dress up, act happy, get even more friendly and likely to reach out.  It really is lovely how celebratory people are here.  And that doesn’t even begin to account for the private special days – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, all the various achievements and markers of a life lived for celebrating. I lived at Pelican Place in Moses Lake for five months and I can honestly say that I never saw a celebration.  A bbq or two, but people actively, carefully avoid making a celebration of such events.  Why are U.S.ers so dedicated to avoiding meaning, weight, emotion, connection, import, significance?  Reality. And why is “facing reality” an act wherein you look at the downsides, problems, can’ts?  I think that reality is bigger and better than that.  But it’s really a matter of attitude. So there it is.  Go celebrate something!

Read more

Impatience

My impatience is great.  I think, I really do think, that if you asked past coworkers, friends, even acquaintances, you would hear the opposite.  I am a woman of much patience, the ability to answer the same question many times, the willingness to step through an argument as much as necessary until (I get my way) you understand where I’m coming from… But with myself, for myself – I am very, very impatient. Today, I walked.  Yesterday, I walked less.  The day before, I was on the train and took maybe 100 steps total, all to and from the toilet.  For days before that, I husbanded my steps carefully, knowing that each step I took made me less likely to be comfortable later.  This stupid foot and ankle thing – which my dad has diagnosed from my descriptions (and so any errors are born from my inability to communicate) as what was called in olden times as “stone bruise”. The symptoms are simple – starting with a golf ball swelling under the skin on top of my foot, flattening out to an overall swelling of the foot’s top.  Now I have heavy bruising at the end of my foot, right behind my three middle toes.  Also in the bottoms of the curves of my instep and along the outside of my foot where the tender parts meet the sole.  And in my foot, on the top but inside, there is pain.  It is a coming-and-going sort of pain.  Pushing off with my toes when I step makes it worse, so I limp a little, coming down harder on my left foot so that my right foot doesn’t have to push.  Keeping my foot up, reducing the pressure and swelling – these are the things that make it better. So that,[…]

Read more

Answers

No internet. It’s been a while since I’ve had no internet in my daily life.  There are times when I want to know something – anything – and I cannot find my answer.  I have lost the ability to mark something in my head as needing to be researched.  I feel like the questions get lost as soon as I realize my inability to get an instant answer. But are the answers themselves behaving any better?  When I have access to all of the information of the internet and I look for that instant information, do I retain it?  Is an instant answer memorable? Since being in India, there are so many things that I have been unable to figure out.  So much of my surroundings are new, unfamiliar in language only or in idea as well.  For example – I went to a tailor to have my lovely Varanasi silks made up into a salwar kameez.  The woman I spoke with asked me about chowridar.  Uh oh – a new word, a new idea.  Is this the local variant of the salwar kameez?  A local kind of top?  Or something altogether different?  If I had easy, transportable access to the internet, I could have looked that up.  If I had looked that up, she and I would have had a more sense-able conversation about the garments I wanted made.  But stumbling, wondering, finally figuring it out – might I remember better once I know what the chowridar is, because of the very weight of misunderstanding? If there was a deep learning course as in scifi, wherein I popped in contact lenses, put ear buds in, and took a receptor pill…If in a hour, or an hour a day for a week, I could be fluent in Hindi…If I could[…]

Read more