Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Frittering away my precious time in Bangalore

Discovered what Pandian's friend is called, he's called Babu. Justine was not so keen to learn his name, as she was fervently hoping she would never see him again. Sadly, his enthusiasm for her now far outstrips Pandian's for me and so we met the very next day. Her foul bate, stemming from acute embarrassment, was mollified somewhat by being allowed to drive the rickshaw home (What is foreplay to an auto driver? "Do you want to drive my rickshaw home?"). However, it also gave Babu the opportunity to stroke her hand with his, previously unnoticed, 1" long finger nail on his little finger, whilst they fought over the throttle. Must have brought back memories.

Am currently in Bangalore (again, feel like I practically live here sometimes) in order to sort out changing my flight home, which had been booked for 3rd february; send off an application form, at vast expense by DHL, as I forgot that I should have sent it weeks ago (deadline is 1st February) and book flights to Sri Lanka to renew my visa which runs out on the 2nd February. It has been quite a rush trying to organise everything, but I am off to Sri Lanka on Thursday for a few days with Justine - goodness knows what we will get up to there, she has a bad influence on me - then back to Vellore for a few days before going to Delhi to meet Mum and Dad on the 12th. In the meantime, my godbrother Damian Arnold, who is my Dad's godson as I am his Dad's goddaughter, is coming to Vellore for a few days between Sri Lanka and Delhi. It will be nice to see him as I haven't seen him for at least ten or more years. I have a vague memory of kermit the frog puppet, but I think that belongs to an older memory that a 10-year-old one.

Today, I was sitting in a very smart shopping complex eating a sandwich made with sugarless bread. I was thinking to myself how ubiquitous shopping centres were. There was a Marks and Sparks; smart sportswear shops; shops selling overpriced and pointless ornaments; a huge plush-seated cinema (went last night to a traumatic film about the Gujarati riots of 2002) and loads of fast food joints. Only the chaat masala flavoured sweetcorn gave away the fact that it was in the heart of India, otherwise, we could have been anywhere in the world. Then, as I tucked into my nasty but curry/sugar free sandwich, there was a powercut. The lights went out, the escalators stopped, the toxic canned music was silenced and I felt curiously relieved that nothing escapes being Indianified, even posh shops and characterless arcades. It only lasted a few minutes - well, each of the three cuts only lasted a few minutes each - but it served to remind me that I was still in India.

Yesterday, I passed a group of transvestites/transgender eunuchs called Hijras by whom it is apparently lucky to be blessed. I have seen them a couple of times around India and what always amazes me is how enormous they are. Ironically, they are amongst the only truly manly sized male Indians and these guys were no exception. They all, to a man/woman, were incredibly tall, at least over 6 foot, broad-shouldered with firm, strong jawlines and masculine limbs, but were all also wearing brightly coloured, silver-adorned saris and walking with a distinctive sashay. I watched, fascinated, as they bore down on a terrified-looking, more usually sized Indian man, ie about 5'4", with a vigourous moustache designed to detract from his lack of stature, with shoulders more suited to a contender for the Mr Puniverse title and thighs the size of my wrist, encased in trousers so tight they looked painted on. As the bangle-bedecked wrist ending in a hand the size of a ping pong bat, with enormous purple talons, slowly moved towards the unfortunate passerby's forehead, his blinking became rapid and frantic, undoubtably in rhythm with his heartbeat. The hand laid briefly on his head as there was faint ululations from the other sari-clad giants. It was like watching trout-tickling. Robotically, his head fixed, as if glued to the Hijra's hand, he rummaged around in his overtight trouser pockets for a coin which would be the magic release from this hell. I bet he now wishes he had worn baggier trousers with more accessible pockets. The girls, having made easy money, moved on and I saw them again later, triumphantly celebrating their earnings with a cup of tea. It's really hard to know what to think about this kind of community. They must have membership of some kind but it comes at a terrible price. I saw on the station platform a group of albino beggars, a few couples and several playing children, and I thought the same about them. How incredibly difficult must it be to be an albino in India, but on the other hand, they have acceptance within their own, albeit entirely excluded from mainstream, community.

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