Tag Archives: strangeindia

Meditating Fishermen

It is dawn on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The eastern sky has developed a deep shade of orange in preparation for the sun to peek above the distant clouds on the horizon. The sea has taken on steel hue of morning twilight. Down the beach, the fishermen stir. In a short while, they will board their boats, surge through the surf and head out to sea for the day. A few squat in a row, looking out to sea. (Westerners and upper class Indian sit cross legged. Working class Indians squat when they wish not to stand) It is a romantic scene in this land of spirituality. Are they praying, meditating, contemplating the day or simply enjoying the sunrise?

Then they leave and you look down…

Why They Meditate

Why They Meditate

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Agitating Lawyers

Do you see a well dressed man approaching? Does he look to be of the prosperous upper middle class? Is he wearing a suit or dhoti? Is he soft spoken and Oxford educated? Then he probably means to clobber you with a stick!

I caught something when I turned on the TV today to check the Indian news. Lawyers were “agitating” in Chennai. After that, I found an article about it in the morning paper. I put “agitating” in quotes because it is a euphemism. When Indians agitate, they are not protesting. They are not holding place cards and perhaps shouting slogans. No folks. In India, “agitation” means “rampaging mobs and all hell breaking loose on the streets”.

Just in case I was not clear. Lawyers are rioting in the streets of Chennai and burning effigies of the police. Lawyers!!! Now I’d be concerned if all of the lawyers in the city hated me. I’d sell assets and hide any money I had in a bank in Lichtenstein (ok, not there after the German tax men hacked their banks) Barbados and prepare to have my socks sued off from here to kingdom come. I’d never dream that they’d form a mob and come after me physically before suing me. This shatters one of the certainties I had about life. Students riot. Truckers riot. Anarchists riot. Lawyers sue! Apparently not here. India; the land where even lawyers form bloodthirsty mobs rampaging in the streets… errr agitate.

On a side note, we are off to a three day weekend in that part of Tamil Nadu (Pondicherry and Mamallapuram). I hope we don’t meet any lawyers.

I’m going to go to bed and ponder on the strangeness that is the whole idea of lawyers rioting.

Valentines Day Gift

Valentines Day went off fairly quietly. The police actually went and made preventative arrests of quite a bit of Sri Ram Sena men in Friday, so there were not many about. They did nab a few couples and in one embarrassing case, made a sister and brother tie the knot. Sunday Morning’s Times of India, which is a “pro pub” newspaper (and I never thought I’d see THAT in a newspaper’s editorial stances), gloated about that mistaken forced wedding on the front page. Supposedly, Sri Ram Sena’s publicity actually increased the awareness and mindshare penetration of Valentine’s Day here in South India. Nice own goal guys!

On an amusing side note, there was a campaign launched last week to send pink undies to Pramod Muthalik and it seems that the man’s mailbox was inundated. Siva was planning to buy a pair and send them as well. Sri Ram Sena failed to see the joke.

“Sending these chaddis to the leader of a patriotic organization is like insulting him. We will give a fitting reply by burning them.”

They also plan to send saris back to all those women who sent in undies.

You can’t make this stuff up!

Less amusingly, the railroad police took it upon themselves to fill the vacuum.

When Saffronization and Valentines Day collide

I know what saffronization means now. Saffron is a shade of orange. This is the color of hindu priest robes. Saffronization is a term for hindu political extremism.

I saw an article in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago about Sri Ram Sena and the Mangalore Pub attacks last month. Actually, that little article can’t do this theme justice. It is a big deal here. In a nutshell, a bunch of Hindu religious nuts, from a group called Sri Ram Sena, physically attacked women at a pub in the seaside city of Mangalore a few weeks ago; because they were “prostitutes”. Apparently, there is an element of society that not only does not want to see womene assert themselves and also enjoy a beer as men have for generations; breaking the law and resorting to “vigilantis” (the quotes are deliberate) is their methodology of first, not last resort.

The founder and leader of Sri Ram Sena is a man named Pramod Muthalik. Interestingly, his rap (charge) sheet is a long as that of a two bit LA gangster, but he has only been arrested once; in the wake of the publicity from the pub attack. He is out on bail and I think it is safe to say that he probably won’t be prosecuted. I’ve lived here long enough to know that.

They carried out the pub attack with local news crews in tow. Apparently, this bit of asshattery was calculated for maximum publicity. Since they did generate a great deal of publicity, they are planning to form gangs and go around tomorrow night – Valentines Day – searching for unmarried couples showing affection in public. They plan to force them to marry on the spot. It seems that the chief minister of Karnataka’s ego is too big to allow anyone else to be the biggest clown in the state. His response was that parents had to take care of their children. Not that the state would find such actions intolerable and crack down on such gangs; but what is effectively a wink and a nod.

It gets even better. Our driver told Daniela that he had wanted to talk his wife into going out in public and holding hands. He was going to bring a cricket bat. She refused. Instead, he will be recruiting the local rowdies to go and beat up the Sri Ram Sena gangs. Siva told us that she heard some of the Kannadiga nationalist groups saying similar things.

Oh lovely!

Unless the chief minister comes to his senses and actually does call the police out in force, downtown Bangalore may be an interesting place tomorrow night.

Who ARE these people?

A couple of funny things that happens when we go out in places where westerners are few and far between. The first always starts…

Which country are you from?

There are always enough curious and sociable people to make walking two hundred meters (1/8 mile) take ages. It gives a practical example to furlongs per fortnight. Between conversations, people also ask us to pose for photos.

But the really strange thing is when random strangers come up to you and say

Take my photograph

I always thought that Charlotte was a ham, with the way that she loves to be photographes and poses. She is camera shy in comparison to these people. But still… who the heck are these people that I’ve got pictures of in my camera memory?

Who are these people?

Who are these people?

And these people?

And these people?

Kingfisher Tip

We sat down to have lunch at a restaurant in Fort Cochin. Naturally, being on the coast in Kerala, we ordered many different fish dishes. The girls ordered their sweet lassis. Sammy and Holger ordered lemon sodas. I asked the waiter if they had cold coffee.

No. Would you like a Kingfisher beer Sir?

I did not see beer on the menu and was a bit surprised. Kingfisher is a common domestic beer here in India.

Sure, I’ll take a Kingfisher.

A short while later, our drinks were served. Everyone got a glass with their drink, except me. I got a mug and a stoneware teapot. I was a bit puzzled, until Holger pointed out that the teapot contained beer. Later, when we got the bill, there was no mention of a beer. There was an interesting entry however.

Tip. RS 125

A cold tip on a hot day really hits the spot.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

It seems that the restaurant did not have a liquor license. I guess this is how they skirted around it.

May I have your socks Sir?

No really, a guy actually asked for the socks I was wearing!

Among other things, we went hiking yesterday. The location was a near a pilgrimage town in Tamil Nadi, called Tiruvannamalai. There is a holy mountain there called Annamalai. It has an ashram (monastery) at the top of its 600 meter (2000 ft) high peak with a small trail leading to the top. As the trailhead was in a city, it was not quite the wild adventure of the Ranganatha Swamy Hill trip, but was a fun hike anyway.

The hike itself was “unsuccessful”. We hiked in 35 C (about 95 F) temperatures under a blazing sun with no forest canopy, which we had been expecting when we chose the location. So in climbing about halfway up, we managed to consume 9 of the 11 liters of water that we had brought with us. As the prospect of running out of water and risking heatstroke did not appeal, we turned back. On the way down, we ran into a barefoot man who had apparently walked up the hill to catch up with us – on a side note, I really, really, hate this. We are searching for solitude while hiking and are out to commune with nature, not talk to touts.

He stopped and smiled, dashing any meager hope that he might me heading for the Ashram further up the trail. He tried to talk us into taking him on as a guide; after all, we have to be careful on the way down. One of our hiking companions (neighbor from Palm Meadows), a Tamil woman named Shiva more or less told him to get lost because he was useless anyway; yet he lingered. Jeez I hate touts! After she told me about the “we have to be careful” bit, I made it a point to do my mountain goat best and leap between rocks just drive home the point that being a westerner does not make me some fragile doll who needs someone to hold his umbrella and carry him down the mountain.

He smiled and complimented me on my jump. Then he asked me.

Sir, may I have a pair of socks?

I only have one pair of socks. They are on my feet. They are also sweaty and stinky.

Sir may I have a pair of socks? Just one pair! I have to work on the trail every day and I have no socks.

After I did not give him the socks off my feet, the smile vanished instantly as it always does when one of these toutish types realizes that we’re not going to be his personal ATM machine. He then went away and walked back down the hill.

But really… the dude coveted the socks off my feet!