Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Your Good Name?

And then my first glimpse of India, in the form of the moon reflected in a small lake far below. Lights began to appear and before long, our pilot announced our arrival in a voice not unlike Ricardo Montalban. On the ground, I’d expected the madness I’d found in Sri Lanka, but unbelievably, I was in my hotel bed within the hour.
The next morning started slowly, then accelerated. I had breakfast downstairs in the hotel dining room, served by a staff who wouldn’t stop calling me "sir." Walked out into the street, muttering, "Here we go," yet passed the day unmolested. Down the street, past the massive Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple and its ghats where people were in the midst of their Sunday bath. Walked the perimeter of the temple, noting the Ganesha head-shaped marks on the fences, a mark which would reappear at various spots throughout the city. Then up MG road, mad and bustling. The bus stops were especially crazy, riders literally throwing themselves on and off moving vehicles, objects of various shapes and sizes hanging from hands, arms, or heads. I passed a spaced-out white man with a dot of kumkum between his eyes. While walking, I noticed how, despite lack of sleep, I didn’t feel even a little tired, yet I often feel sleepy when I spend a day reading. Went on down to South Park Hotel, and had myself a chai. It was a posh place, and as I was about to use a desert spoon to stir my tea, the waiter stopped me, offering to get a tea spoon. I told him it was fine, but he said, "Not Fine" and dashed off. Back on the street again, past the saluting Sikh doorman, almost getting hit by a tuc-tuc as I stared at the amount of bricks the brick-walla had on her head. At the top of the street was a park. A line of schoolgirls was entering the Reptile House to watch the cobras have their guinea pig lunch. Nearby was the beautiful, high-ceilinged Napier Museum, itself more a work of art than what it housed. While sitting reading Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's "Heat and Dust" at the base of a nearby tree, I was chatted up by a cluster of skinny schoolboys, lanky and clumsy and seemingly connected in a Siamese-twin kind of way. Under some trees, young couples exhibited their intimacy without any physical contact, and under others, men demonstrated Kerala’s incredibly high literacy rate. Back on the street, a beggar woman moved quickly from the periphery, hand extended. She was the only beggar I saw that day, but I met her repeatedly throughout the city. What she lacked in persistence she made up in mobility. Had an eight curry lunch with dessert, then walked the narrow side roads back to my hotel, dodging cars which had all their wing mirrors folded in. Took an Ambassador taxi out of Trivandrum and into a landscape familiar to me from Sri Lanka. Ganesha on the dash and a sadhu beside the road, good portents as I sped my way to the Sivananda Ashram, my home for the next month....

On the turntable: Zakir Hussein, "The Mystic Masseur"
On the nighttable: Nick Jans, "The Grizzly Maze"


Anonymous said...

Nice story, hope you had fun in India Sir!

-c said...

Welcome back!

This was a pleasure to read, Ted. The descriptions put me there for a minute. more! More!