Sunday, March 07, 2004

(It's a Man's World, Pt. I)

Today was the day of men, men, men, men, men -- I don't even know where to begin. Bindi and I were stared at nonstop, with that awful mix of lust/disgust, whether it was eating food or waiting for Prashanth or walking down the street or sitting in our seats at the theatre. But that's normal, everyday stuff. First however I'll get the most recent events out of the way. They're mostly gender-neutral but equally amusing (to me at least).........

Tonight I went to see the palace lights (on Sunday evenings they turn on millions of white lights, which cover each and every building on the grounds) and have live music. When we arrived the Indian military band was playing -- are you ready? -- the theme from The Bridge on the River Quai. You know, the one the effete English prisoners whistle while building on the thing, to improve morale / prove how British they are. Another surreal India moment.

Then I popped by Jagan Mohan Palace and there was a show in progress -- a national-level classical dance competition with live classical musicians playing the most beautiful devotional music you could imagine. It made me teary, it was so moving. (BTW I think this is the same annual contest Bob and I saw here two years ago). Just when I thought it couldn't get any better the man (yes it was the man) singer did my favorite thing, where they kind of rap. It's like, "taka taka taka taka taka taka ta. Ta taka ta. Ta. Ta. Taka taka taka taka taka taka ta. Taka ta. Ta. Ta. etc." LOVE it; better than my cat Kirby's clicking when he sees CD's.

In the middle of the performance there was a perfect Mysore moment. Yes, the power went out. The tabla player and percussionist kept going and so did the dancers (the mics were dead and the stage was dark). Within five minutes the generator was fired up, the lights blinked and came on, the fans started twirling and everyone picked up where it they'd left off. The thing is, the *exact same thing* happened last time around. Utterly amazing.

Earlier in the day Prashanth, Bindi, Jammu & Kasmir and I went to see a kick-ass Hindi film called "Proud to be Indian". The plot had elements of "My Beautiful Laundrette" plus some "Quadrophenia" and "Suburbia." In other words, Indian immigrants-in-London vs. the skinheads (the leader of the latter had a thick Austrailian accent for some reason). It was in the worst movie theatre (grungy, with exactly five women in the audience of over 300) and had the best sound system yet.

The direction was good, as was the set design, photography and music (Bollywood and Oi!). The skins even had red Doc Martens and thin red suspenders, just like the real ones in the 80's. The film opened with them killing a Sikh family and getting the Pakistanis to go after the Indians. Then the smouldering hero arrived from Mumbai.

I was the last in our group to leave the theatre and while going down the steps I felt the not-unfamilar sensation of a small, unknown hand fondling my left butt-cheek. I turned around lickey-split, looked down and faced a guilty-looking moustached-and-pompadoured man who was a good foot shorter than I. Without missing a beat, I wagged my finger in his face and said in my Apollo Hospital venom-voice, "DON'T DO THAT!"

His reaction completely disarmed me. Without missing a beat he did that charming South Indian head-tilt that means "Yes" or "OK."

Then we had to walk the Gauntlet of Men from the theatre entrance to the parking lot. They were staring, they crowding us, they wouldn't get out of the way -- ugh. I couldn't get in or out of the lot because the guys (and it was guys, 100 percent) who were going to the next show wanted to get in. I had to threaten to run them over. It worked. Later on in the street two guys walked into my scooter....or did I hit them?


I've been changing money with the black market guy the Kaveri Lodge uses for some time. I've changed *tons* with him on this trip (he comes within five miutes and gives a better rate than the American Express office or the bank) -- not to mention last time 'round. I told the ex (oops, accidentally typed "hex." Hmmmmmmmm) how to get ahold of him and today I ran into them finishing up a transaction for just $200 US. The guy is shaking X's hand, looking at him lovingly and saying, "Thank you very much" NEVER have I gotten such treatment. Just indifference. This whole place is set up for men (well so is the rest of the world -- it's just that here in India everything is out in the open rather than sweetened up and swept under the rug).

A cute little boy is here at the stinky slow internet place; he's about four and checking me out, smiling shyly. I just asked him, "Oota aita" (have you eaten; it's used here like "How are you?"). He just did endearing head-tilt. SOOO cute. But he'll grow up.

Then there was Bindi's run-in with the prix at the stereo store. More details later but she bought a boom box from them and the cassette player broke the first day she had it. Yesterday they said they'd repair it. We came back today and every tape they put in sounded like it had been recorded under water. "That's because they are old," the man said.

"You just took the shrink-wrap off! It's a new tape!"


"It's still broken. Every tape you play sounds bad. I want a refund."

"You broke it."

"No I didn't. It's defective. I want a replacement."

"No. It is made in China. No exchange. You buy Philips, full warranty."


Bindi was amazing -- India is one long lesson in assertiveness training for us lady westerners -- but there was no recourse. They would not budge. And they were *not* nice about it. So on the way out I said, "You all have 3-inch &^%@s, don't you." (These guys were *really* awful). Then Bindi took the boombox and, with great control and precision, dropped it on the ground in front of the store. It flew into a billion pieces. The icky men just stood there, dumbfounded.

I can only imagine what would have happened if we *hadn't* done yoga this morning.....

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