Friday, September 26, 2008

Smells Like SOMETHING...

And in fact that thing is Nag Champa, because I, the Nag Champion, am actually in India, in the only hotel in the world with fountains and purple lights lighting up the building at night and a POOL! that costs Rs550 or $12.30 a night, no a/c, sorry all bookings full. And in this hotel, there is an internet hotspot which has graciously allowed me to plug in my laptop, and into this internet hotspot some goof just came bearing a bowl full of Nag Champa which has billowing forth smoke, because of which the internet-wallas chased him RTH out of here.

Here is why India is wonderful:
I'm camped out at the BHU where a former Fulbrighter has gotten me 'accomodation,' and truth is, these people are very accomodating inasmuch as they charge very little, cook 3 meals a day if I want, have cold filtered water available whenever I want, minimal traffic, and a very sweet short shy man who almost certainly was malnutriented for his entire childhood and is thus about 5'0" who brought me tea every morning at 7:15ish. Anyway, these dudes were cutting down a tree and so what, right, until you take a closer look at the man in the tree, and since he's wearing a lungi, hey, who doesn't:

I mean, I just have to think that a place where a man climbs up a tree barefoot in what amounts to a loosely fastened skirt, with an axe no less, to hack chunks off the limb on which he stands, is radically different from what I'm used to. That's the point. It's different.

But sometimes in not so nice ways, though taken humorously and philosophically, hmm, well, it has the capacity to not corrode the undergirding of my sanity? Perhaps. For example, it is somewhat frustrating to me that I have to turn down an average of 1 offer a minute, mostly for rickshaw rides, but also from beggars and shopkeepers. The shopkeepers get nothing, ever, though I've stopped being combative with them, and try to be funny but not sarcastic. The beggars are, of course, heartrending--when they are not prompting one to reconsider the problem of theodicy, or having had lunch.

The social worker gene in me feels not great about this one. My friend Mike Kruse and I were standing around outside the Foreigners' Registration Office in Varanasi (where I currently hang my hat) and this cheery young fellow of 6 or 8 wanders up and starts saying, "Hello you five, one, three, six, hello, you two, you five..." and always with the wrong number of fingers. He was remarkably persistent, and uncowed by my faltering mastery of Hindi. So I dug around in my pockets and came up with a Walgreens photo claim which was on sticky backed paper, and when I peeled it off he gratefully snatched it up and put it on his shirt:

and it was still there after I showed him the photo on the camera and got him to stop saying '1, 4, 3, 6' long enough to answer my question, "ye kaun hai (who is this)," though just barely, and so I gave him Rs. 1. To which he said, "You 2, you 5, you 3, two, two" and so I forked out another one and he went off.

To be sure I cover all the bases, I am eating and sleeping well, taking care of business, staying out of danger of all forms, and am on the edge of getting a place to stay--we may end up in a sort of Eloise-like situation. Another one on the way in a minute. I have to write less, or I'm going to spend more time writing about what I'm doing than doing it.

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