Random thoughts from the sub-continent

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of India  , Goa,
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Posted by Kian.

Good writing is supposed to have a theme, or so I'm told.  But I am one of those radical types, a scofflaw, if you will, and I thumb my nose at tradition and so-called "rules."  So, in that vein, here are some random thoughts on the last few days of my life in India:

1.  The old alcoholics of Goa.

Goa is a beautiful place.  A tropical paradise.  An ode to the eternal wisdom of nature and the universe.  Blah blah blah.  Hopefully we've all been there at least once, and it's great.  However, when I wasn't dipping my feet in the Arabian Sea, or lounging by the pool, or napping for hours, I noticed something that made me pause:  There are quite a few old time European alcoholics and addicts roaming about Goa, remnants of the famed "Goa Trance" scene, perhaps.  I suppose it's a good place for them to be, as you can buy beers for 75 cents at the bar and drive away worry free.  There were certainly no road blocks in the area, and the bartenders didn't seem to bat an eye as they ordered beers at 9:30 in the morning.  But I wondered who these people were, and what they were doing there.  I wish them well.

2.  Cows.

Yes it's true, cows walk around on the street in India.  My lovely wife and I were relaxing at an upscale hotel one day, sipping on Sprite and Feni, the local hootch made from fermented cashews, when we struck up a conversation with a young hotel employee who spoke impeccable English.  I took this opportunity (as, of course, when opportunity knocks I am sure to answer) to ask her about the myriad of cows wandering about.  If they are indeed sacred, does anybody own them?  Who takes care of them?  Do they work in the fields?  Where do they sleep at night? 

So many questions, I know. 

However, she was happy to answer, and I learned that, yes, people own the cows and take care of them, as they are valuable economic resources for farmers, and they all know where to go home at night.  She explained that, since there was not so much room to graze, they came into town to find food.  It was then that Genevieve took the time to explain that, "in Canada, the cows don't come to town."  "Ooohhh," the hotel employee exclaimed, clearly interested by the idea of cows NOT coming to town.  Indeed, the cultural differences are....vast.

3.  Eating with your hands.

We are in the very south of India now, where custom dictates that food is to be eaten with hands.  Your right hand, to be precise, as the left is reserved for more, um, unsanitary purposes.  And not just familiar finger foods like pizza or french fries; we are talking about using only your right hand to eat a bowl of rice here.

But please, don't label me an ethnocentric when it comes to utensils.  Quite the contrary, for I take delight in the myriad of ways us humans can shove food into our faces, whether it be with your hands in southern India, your chopsticks in Asia, or your Snickers bar with a knife and fork if you're George Costanza.  The only thing I'm saying is that it takes some getting used to, especially when it's an attractive young woman in an elaborate sari up to her wrist in a fish curry.

4.  The Indian Head Wobble

For those of you who have been to India, this will be familiar.  To those of you who haven't, let me explain.  The Head Wobble is a gesture where one moves one's head side to side and up and down and back and forth all at the same time.  To me, it seems equal parts nod (which looks like "yes") and head shake (which looks like "no.").  I find it hard to understand sometimes.  A sample encounter:

Kian (to auto-rickshaw driver) - Hello, do you know where the YMCA is? (the hotel where we were staying in Trivandrum)

Auto-rickshaw driver - (head wobble)

K (inside his head) - Ok, does that mean "yes, I know where the YMCA is, or no, I don't know where the YMCA is??"

K (out loud) - YMCA, yes?

ARD - (head wobble)

K (inside his head) - I have no idea if this fellow knows where the YMCA is or not.  Maybe I should just get in the auto-rickshaw and see what happens.

K (getting into the auto-rickshaw) - YMCA?

ARD - (head wobble)

K (to Genevieve as we staret to drive) - Are we going towards the YMCA?

G - Yes.

K - Ok, then.

And a few minutes later we are at our hotel.  No problem.

5.  With all of my spare time, I've been working on a concept for a comic strip that involves super-heroes based in India.  By day, they work in a local restaurant, at night, they fight evil.  Here are some preliminary character sketches:

The Curried Crusader - The leader of the group.

The Roti Raj - A regal throwback to the days of the British.

The Champion of Chapati - A competitive swimmer.

The Nawab of Naan - Main weapon:  Flour Power.

The Viceroy of Vindaloo -  A spicy fellow of quick wit.   

The Mughal of Mutton - The token non-veg.

I believe that is all for now.  We have booked our plane ticket to Varanasi.  We leave on June 1st.  Genevieve just checked the weather.  Sunny.  Low of 35C, high of 50C.  Oh dear......
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Michael on

ha great post kian. i just laughed in my tuna sandwhich

Michael on

oh and there is this great barbet shroeder film called "more" about all the european hippies in the 60s who went to goa got addicted to smack and never left. might explain ur alchies. apparently there lots of nazis hidding out there as well.

Kristi on

I have to say I'm pretty excited to hear more about The Nawab of Naan - Main weapon: Flour Power. He he. Love it. Also, you have to talk to Munir about the head wobble. Apparently they do that in Sri Lanka as well and Munir has perfected it, and it does mean yes :)

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