Hi all, Lisa here today.
As we’ve travelled through the many scenic byways of India by train and by car, I’ve had some time to think about what we’ve experienced so far. Lots of time to think … it’s a big country, you know. So, here are some random thoughts and observations about the trip, in no particular order.
Shock the Monkey: I had been pondering the native wildlife of India, not knowing much about the indigenous species, when all of a sudden, there was a monkey. Three in fact, a mother and two of her offspring. This was while we were in Shimla. My actual thought was “why do those people have stuffed monkeys on their steps?” followed quickly by “oh my god, they’re alive.” We could have gone to Hanuman’s temple, which has a large monkey population, but the guide book said we should be aware that the monkeys would pick our pockets and try to steal our glasses. I had visions of a monkey landing on me, me flailing about wildly while screaming “get it off, get it off, get it off,” the monkey freaking out and biting me, resulting in a series of rabies shots. So, we decided not to go to that temple. The monkeys were kinda cute, but not that cute. The “oh my god, it’s alive” comment was repeated again this morning when I discovered a lizard near the curtains in our room in Agra. It was tiny but, again, unexpected.
Chaos theory: There are some of you reading this from my office and I know that I have mentioned to some of you how bad I think the drivers in Rhode Island are. Well, you’ve got nothing on the Indian drivers. Despite the helpful signs reminding us that “Lane driving is safe driving,” the lane markings on any road are really more like guidelines and a waste of paint. Stop lights just slow things down and interfere with the Darwinian surivalist driving that seems to actually work astonishingly well. Forget cricket, honking is the national pasttime, and drivers do it to let other drivers know where they are, to tell other drivers to get out of the way, and generally just to establish their presence among the half billion other people enjoying the motorways. In addition to the assortment of lorries, cars, rickshaws, autorickshaws, motorbikes, and bicycles, add the occasional cow, stray dog, stray monkey, stray pig, working cow, working camel, working horse, goat, or elephant (I kid you not)and it makes for exciting times for the uninitiated. Driving (or riding) in India is not for the timid or those with heart problems. The trucks are quite helpful, though, as each of them kindly instruct other motorists to use their horn. They also all say “Use dipper at night” but I haven’t yet figured out what the heck that means.
Star Sightings – TV here and especially advertising also provide some interesting moments. The sheer number of bollywood films that are on tv at any given time is staggering. The hodgepodge of American TV (Friends, Charmed, Boston Public) they get makes me wonder what sort of image we are projecting to the world. But the best part is the advertising, even though we basically see ads for only about six different products. As you may recal, we watched the movie Swades on our plane trip over here. Turns out that the male star, Shahrukh Khan, is a superbigstar here. He’s in several commercials, including cars and Pepsi (a terribly funny commercial with a guitar and a sandwich telling the pepsi bottle that “I want to be your man” and the catch phrase “Oye bubbly, oy oy bubbly”). They’ve got products for Indian women to use to make their skin lighter (and remove dark spots) and to straighten and shiny-fy their hair.
I guess that’s all for me for now. Jeff is going to post again about our actual doin’s for the past few days so I’ll leave the chronology to him. Hope you are all well.