Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fighting traffic

Well, as the wiser of you probably expected - I've been upbraided for dedicating my previous post to a viewer, especially one whom I described as a neophyte. Let me tell you what I believe my thinking was.

I think it's like when you get married. You certainly appreciate the mistresses, maybe even more, but you gotta give the wife a nod now and again, ‘cuz, even if her affection ain’t the strongest, still, she did go to the trouble to make it official.

That said, the mistresses get angry if they don’t get their attention, too, so I hereby salute and dedicate this post to one of my most devoted readers – someone who’s read every single post, “even the weird ones,” as she says. I thank you, Maria, for your devotion and loyalty. And your concern that I will electrocute myself while bathing.

I was hot. I was tired. I was at the end of a static line in a hot Belapurean* train station.
I was pissed off.

*Belapur is the suburb of Mumbai in which I reside.

My eyes were half-closed as I endured the pain of existing in that state, waiting in one of two long, parallel lines ending at adjacent ticket windows.

I hadn’t been able to get the microphone/recorder from the office, as it had been closed when I arrived, despite the fact that I thought it opened at eight and had gotten there at five past.
Therefore, I’d have to rely solely on note-taking at the interview I was on my way to conduct, which wasn’t terrible, but was definitely less desirable than having the aid of an audio record of events.

As I stared at the line of pale button-down shirts and salwar kameezes in front of me, I heard some noise from the front of the adjacent line. I looked up to see a younger guy throwing a sloppy punch at another’s cheek and landing a pretty solid-looking, and sounding, blow. Then I saw some douchebag, former resident of one of the lines, I assume, turned around on the other side of the fight, enjoying the action. That was what really annoyed me. I could just see a cigar in his mouth, one hand up in the air, full of makeshift tickets from the surrounding crowd, with odds written on them, a cigar-and-Brooklyn-accented voice shouting out what bets he was taking.
Other people kind of formed a circle around the combatants as well. That, too, I couldn’t stand – people taking this as a rare opportunity for entertainment in their daily commute.

I slid my backpack off of my shoulder and held it by one strap. I left the line and took the few steps it required to bring me within range of the fighters. I swung my backpack in a wide arc and smacked the side of the fighting mass.

They kind of noticed. Then I was there, so I tried to push them apart. I actually remember focusing on the older guy (maybe in his thirties), but somehow I ended up pushing, as I walked away, hands-to-chest, the younger guy (maybe early twenties) from the epicentre of the entanglement.

About four or five steps away, his eyes had a pleading look. He made sounds. I had a feeling he was speaking English, but I didn’t understand any of it, so it must not have been. I guess it was just the clarity with which I understood his intended communication – he was obviously indicating that he couldn’t be back here, away from the beginning of the line, as he needed to get a ticket or do whatever he had been trying to do when he and the other gentleman had decided to break for fisticuffs.

So I looked back to see where the other guy was and found he was off to the side. I don’t remember if someone else was keeping him there, perhaps talking to him, or not. But I do remember a quick recurrence of fighting seemed not too likely, so I ceased impeding the kid’s progress.

Then I got back in line approximately where I had been. I tried to ask the people around me if that’s where I had been. They seemed to understand absolutely zero of the intended inquiry. Or at least care to. So I just stayed where I’d re-entered.

I was there probably fifteen seconds when I noticed my legs were a little shaky. But it was, to my surprise, nothing major.

Maybe ten seconds after that, another ruckus erupted from the front of the adjacent line – it seemed the two pugilists would not be deterred. They were fighting again. At this, I thought, “Well, you can’t stop the inevitable,” and laughed as I stayed in line.

However, some other guy broke them up this time, pushing the older guy away from the younger. Soon after, the older guy quickly exited, seemingly having gotten what he’d wanted at the ticket window. Within ten seconds, the younger followed in a similar state. They didn’t look at each other, but their paces were rapid, and the crowd’s eyes followed them in a way that indicated they half expected a recurrence of the festivities right outside the station.

Of course, no one left their place in line.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Electric-cide

(This post is dedicated to my sole (blog) follower, recently acquired. As I don't know whether or not they would like to have their name made public, or if the shame would be overwhelming, they shall remain nameless (well, no, they have a name, and, to my knowledge, have had one for quite some time, but I shall not broadcast that name using this high-powered broadcasting forum at this time.))...)(?)

Well, that’s it. It’s found me. The pipeline electricity has found me, and it’s once again intent on killing me.

(As loyal readers have no doubt realized, this is in reference to my June 17, 2009 post, "Shockingly Clean." (You may expect me to mention my follower here, but, to my knowledge, they've only read 1.08 posts, so...they probably wouldn't get the reference. Still, a follower's a follower...))

Over the past week, I noticed my water tank being depleted more quickly than usual. Then I realised that, at least at certain times (it’s still unclear to me exactly what was going on), the at-best-serviceable water heater was evacuating itself of water through what I assume is its water-evacuation tube.

To remedy this, I turned off the water to the heater.

This left me without warm water.

It’s Bombay, but still.

So I turned it back on and plugged the water-evacuation tube with my thumb. I felt a slight pulsation. Whenever my finger, which had a small cut on it, happened to pass beneath this stream of water, it stung like the Dickinson (not as bad as the Dickens, but still). I compared this to putting my finger under a different stream of water – an action which caused no pain whatsoever.

Curious, I thought.

I wondered if perhaps the water heater had discovered a way to make lemonade.

But then I remembered the pulsating sensation my thumb had felt.

Lemonade, to my knowledge, does not pulsate.

Regardless, my intent had been to check if the tube could be plugged, thereby returning the functioning of the water heater to its previous glory. The verdict was innocent.

Or guilty.

Whichever correlates to “no.”

Later on, I figured I’d check if the water coming out of the water-evacuation tube was hot. I took the cup I use to pour the water from my bathing bucket onto myself for bathing purposes, and, as best I could, put it under the stream of water being evacuated from the water heater.

I checked the collected water and determined that it was, indeed, warm.

The problem, however, was that the evacuation tube is directly above a short, sturdy, larger tube that connects the water heater to the wall. Thus, the evacuated water falls directly onto this larger tube, dispersing it and making it difficult to catch in my cup. But that larger tube is so close to the evacuation tube that it’s nigh impossible to put the cup between it and the evac. tube.

However, this morning I tried it once again, just because cold showers will motivate one to go to certain lengths. That’s when I felt the pulsation again, stronger this time.

And that’s when I realised it had found me. That Bombay bathroom-centric electricity that is intent on being the agent of my demise.

Article on, and photos from, Andre Jeanpierre Fanthome



(Shorter-term link with intro on first photo (of a silhouetted horse and rider) - click on it.)

(Permanent link straight into photo gallery)

Photo gallery

Monday, September 7, 2009

In the Land of Religion and Spirituality...

The Indian people are a welcoming lot. Especially the men. If you’re a white guy walking around Mumbai, they’ll ask you where you’re going so they can point you in the right direction. You’ll receive numerous invitations to sit with total strangers at restaurants. And if you’re looking to go somewhere in a rickshaw, the drivers will often offer to ease your burden upon alighting from the vehicle by doing their best to lighten your wallet.

Meatloaf? Meeatlooaf!!

Two out of threeee aaain't baaaaad.


Thank you.

And if you’re a white guy walking around Mumbai with an Indian girl, they’ll show her concern. They’ll ask her if she likes to speak English – if she’s too good for Hindi. They’ll ask her if there aren’t any Indian men left. In fact, their hearts are so kind, their generosity so abundant, they’ll even offer to fuck her.

That’s hospitality.

I know, I know. I know what you’ll say. “There are living, breathing wastes of human flesh everywhere in the world.” But you’d be wrong; I’ll tell you why.

Now, yes, there are living, breathing wastes of human flesh everywhere in the world. You are correct, sir! But I’ve been to a number of different countries and never seen anything like this. They sit there in a group of guys, their clearly audible Hindi remarks (obviously precision-guided, aimed solely at the girl), unwillingness to look you in the eye, and craven refusal to take credit for what they’ve said after the fact making it impossible not to recall those sexually frustrated high school guys who constantly stew in the bitter juice of their neglected libido, of that age before dating becomes common and of that type whose high fear of rejection or low likelihood of success prohibited them from even seeing themselves as potential participants in the dating scene. So, to let a little blood to treat the disease, they resorted to abuse. Here in Mumbai, every time you go out, you don’t think it might happen. You know it will happen. The only questions are how often and to what extent.

Sure, in the U.S., there’s the stereotype of construction workers engaging in such sexual harassment. And yes, I have seen it happen in the U.S. But those were white skinheads hanging out in the middle of the workday outside a department store in downtown Pittsburgh yelling at a black guy with a white girl. (The black guy responded by communicating to those fine ambassadors of baldness that he planned to later return with his boys. I don’t know if that ever happened, but if it did, I can only assume it was a delightful occasion full of mixed drinks, vegetable trays, and Jenga.) As I said, it was a group of skinheads who like department stores – not something you find every day. But in India, you get that from university students walking around a residential neighbourhood, from high school kids at the mall, and from 30-, maybe 40-, something men at tourist attractions. (To be fair, the tourist attraction guy had first followed the white guy, his white friend, and his Indian girlfriend about 300 feet and invited all of them to swim in a pond with him. He had also been told, and possibly believed, in his rather inebriated state, that the Indian girl was Swedish, before telling his Indian friend in Hindi that the two of them should just give the white guys a tight slap and then fuck the girl. (It was never adequately explained to the author whether or not this gentleman meant one slap each or total.))

Here in India, they call it “Eve teasing.” I can only assume they call cancer “funky, ambitious growth.”

To their sexually confused minds, any Indian woman who has a boyfriend, or, as far as I can speak on the topic, at least a white boyfriend, must be sexually permissive and indiscriminate, meaning that she would be just as happy to get naked with them as she is to walk around with her boyfriend. So you get comments like, “How much?” or “I wonder if she’ll go up with me afterwards.” Of course, they assume the whole relationship is one big intercourse-fest, if I may use the non-alliterative term, as shown by comments that are audible to the lone girl who’s arriving home later than usual, such as, “Oh, she stayed late at his place today – must be really sore now.” If she’s walking around with her boyfriend and another white friend, they’ll proffer their prognostication that a three-some will be shortly in the offing.

Now, of course, harassment is preferable to assault, physical or sexual. But that happens, too. Delhi is kind of known for it. But even Mumbai, which isn’t, is a place where a girl, even accompanied by two guys, is questioned as to what she’s doing out so late when she catches a rickshaw at 9 at night. And if she needs a late-night cab to get somewhere in an emergency? Well, first she’ll call everyone she knows who has a car, because everyone knows that a single woman alone in a cab at night risks rape.

So that’s nice. In a “this-country’s-morally-pathetic” kind of way. But at least it’s got a low divorce rate!

I don’t know if it’s a lack of strong deterrents like frequency of arrest for such things. Maybe it's some kind of backfire from a culture that so frowns upon girls having any sexual power (and possibly thereby gives them all of it by turning them into abstractions of desirability rather than people) that men feel they are free to treat them, at least verbally (and relatively frequently, physically) in an abusive, dehumanizing way (or that their only, limited, power lies in doing so). Maybe it’s the result of a culture that makes it so difficult to have a relationship you’d like to that, when you see someone doing so, especially someone who’s unlike you, and especially with a girl of your own kind whom you yourself wouldn’t mind doing so with, your jealousy manifests itself as sophomoric, but virulent, offensive, and, at least in theory, actionable verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse.

Of course, abuse, even of the verbal kind, isn’t from everyone. But it happens with such frequency that it can be fairly stated that there’s a cultural tendency toward it that’s much stronger than, certainly, America, and I’d guess many, many other places as well. And thus, it may be interesting to analyze and examine those factors that make it so much more prevalent. It may even be useful.

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