12.16.06, 8:15pm – Rain Tree Hotel,
Then I farted.
The culture museum was interesting to a point. Some good history there, I guess. It reminded me a lot of learning about the Miwoks or any other old Native American tribe. The old mortar and pestle for grinding meal, the ancient tools, the timeline of events. One difference that struck me is that the Indians survived the British and now rule themselves, whereas the Native Americans were pretty much wiped out.
Ram and Senthil atop the amphitheater at Dakshina Chitra
We ate lunch at the culture center’s restaurant. Again, eating only with my right hand and I still suck and tearing naan one-handed. The food was awesome. I couldn’t help thinking that if we were in
We drove back into the city where our next stop was some shopping. I’d been hearing of this place where all of the shopping is. I pictured a town square kind of place, or village market, with rows of stalls selling trinkets and silks and flowers and jewelry. Um, no, it was a shopping mall. A flippin’ shopping mall. Are you kidding me with this? I bought some stuff, but, come on, it was like a disorganized, poorly maintained, slightly disorienting version of Nordstrom’s in
The next stop was the hotel to drop off my stuff, then off to Ram’s place for dinner. Could it be that I’m actually getting used to the traffic here? I’m not nearly as shocked now when I look out the window as we’re doing 30km/hr and see another vehicle 4 inches from my window. You think I’m exaggerating. I am not. I still do flinch, though, when a motorcycle pulls out in front of us from a side street or we come ever so close to rear-ending a bicyclist. How can there be so many people in this country when they have so little regard for their own personal safety on the roads? How have all of these people not been hit and killed yet? How has my taxi not killed anyone yet? How does it not even have any scratches on it? I swear, if that little twitch of the handlebars didn’t happen at the last possible second, or if that truck’s angle into our lane was just a little bit sharper, or if our taxi driver was just the slightest bit distracted by something (say, his fare flailing wildly at a mosquito)…I just don’t see how they pull it off, day in and day out. Aren’t they continually rolling the dice? I think the thing that gets me the most is they have such unflagging faith in everyone else’s reflexes. Yet they are so unpredictable in their actions no one can anticipate the “safe” thing to do. It’s both amazing and ridiculous.
Signs seen on the road today:
- Wear seat belts (damn right)
- Wear helmets while driving (for the inevitable trip through the windshield)
- Drinking kills driving skills
- Stop here or you will meet the end
- Please don’t hit this tree (wrapped around trees that were growing out of the road about 3 ft in from the curb)
- Don’t drown infant females (um, yikes)
- Spic House (Security Professional Information Community or something similarly non-racist)
- Ganga Sweets (some type of store but not THAT type of store)
- State Bank of
It was nice to see other parts of the city. I was going to complain about how dirty it is here, but I’m pretty sure the area between my hotel and the office (especially near the office) is the dirtiest in the city. Piles of trash in the gutters, run down buildings…blah. Today, though, I saw some almost quaint parts. Better maintained, more street character and a more neighborhood feel. Still dirty, still crazy crowded and chaotic as hell, but not quite so, well, gross. Still, it’s strange to see a large concrete building visible over a low wall that looks like it’s been abandoned for 40 years, then pass a gleaming sign in front of the building that says, “Chennai Indian Technological Research Center”. Juxtaposition…too…much…
The neighborhood where Ram lives with his grandparents had the narrowest streets I’ve seen yet. Very lively street scene, but I don’t know if that’s because the same number of people were jammed into a smaller space or what. Our taxi could barely even make it down the road, and I saw some alleys that it for sure would not have fit through. And it’s not like we’re in a Town Car or something. There were also quite a few more cows and goats hanging around than I’ve seen in other parts.
Ram lives in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a building in what could be considered a “residential” area. No first floor retail in any of the buildings on his street. I walked in and was “namaste”d by his non-English speaking grandparents. One thing nice about hanging out with non-English speakers: no small talk. I think his grandfather said 5 words the entire time I was there.
After Ram showed me around his modest apartment his grandmother forced food on us. Then forced more on us. Then more. I guess grandmothers are the same the world over. I’m not entirely sure what I ate but it was good. I broke a lot of rules though. One, my plate was wet when she started slapping food on it, and I’m pretty sure she hadn’t just washed it with bottled water. Two, I had to at least TRY the milk and carrot and spiced drink she offered (and if you don’t know which two of those three are nonos you’ve failed the Eric in India pop quiz). Three, the curds we ate with the spiced pickles…well, I don’t know the exact ruling on curds but I’m pretty sure they’re dairy.
It was a very business-like operation by his grandmother (his grandfather mostly just sat around except when he was swapping his wifebeater for a shirt prior to a picture) and neither one of them ate with us. When we were leaving they both namasted me again and his grandfather busted out “It was nice meeting you”. Sneaky bastard probably has a master’s in English Lit and sat silently correcting my grammar all night.
Grandma, Grandpa and Me
Now I’m back in the hotel and it’s time for bed.