THINGS ARE FUNNIER IN THREES
Over thali yesterday I told my friends about some of the strange things strangers have said to me on the street in Mysore.
On my last trip, I was showing the handsome fabric merchant how the seams were ripping on an old dress made of cheap cloth when he said the unthinkable.
"I think you are becoming fat."
"I said, I think you are becoming fat."
"I THINK YOU ARE BECOMING FAT."
Just what every western woman has been waiting her whole life to hear.
(Actually, in India, this does not seem to be the horrible insult that it is here in the west. It is more like a statement of fact. I could be wrong, but I think a bit of extra weight means a person is doing well enough to afford extra food. And in Mysore, instead of saying "How are you?" people say, "Oota Aita?" which means "Have you eaten your meal?").
Not long after the Are You Fat Incident, a boy approached me when I was walking with a friend near KR Circle, and poked me in my side.
I thought he wanted money and ignored him.
But he kept poking.
"Looking very old today, Madam," he said in perfect English.
"Looking very old today, Madam."
"LOOKING VERY OLD TODAY, MADAM."
Why, thank you.
I don't think that one is much of a compliment in any modern culture.
Four years earlier, in 2002, a man approached me when I was walking near Trucker's Row towards KR Circle (not far from the local bus stand).
In those days I was younger and dumber, and dyed my hair with henna.
"You look like Nina Hagen."
"I said, you look like Nina Hagen."
I couldn't possibly have heard him correctly.
"YOU LOOK JUST LIKE NINA HAGEN."
Just the thing every old punk chick is dying to hear.
At the same time I was startled.
How the hell did someone in Mysore hear of a 1980's German anti-pop star?
And how many dumb Americans would even know who he was talking about?
India: Expect the Unexpected.
THREES, PART TWO: OTAN NO! BASES FUERA!
I've spent more than four months living in a foreign city just one other time. That was in 1985, when I spent a semester in Madrid studying Spanish and working at La Radiotelvision Espanola and listening to Kike Turmix spin psycho-punk at La Via Lactea.
In those days I was even younger and dumber. And angrier.
I had bangs.
I used a blow dryer.
They called me La Rubia ("The Blonde").
I got plenty of attention.
But I dated exactly three men when I was there -- all of whom were named Pedro.
Pedro the First was a suave Andalucian who worked at La Radiotelevision Espanola and may or may not have been gay.
Pedro III was a thin Basque architecture student who was into psychobilly, cafe cortado and "yogging" -- and may or may not have agreed with ETA.
Pedro el Segundo was a rocker Elvis lookalike in leather who once stood me up at El Rastro (Sunday flea market) "a causa de la lluvia" --- ie, because it was raining.
He may or may not have been lying.
Pedro II had a poster of Nina Hagen hanging above his childhood twin bed.
"Madonna copies her," he told me en Espanol between puffs on his Marlboro. "Nina Hagen did it all first.
"Madanna tiene much moro," he continued.
Which means, Madonna had a lot of cheek or gall to steal from the German pop star.
"Madonna tiene mucha cara -- como tu."
Otra vez, por favor.
"Ella tiene mucha cara -- como tu."
"TIENE MUCH CARA -- COMO TU!"
In other words, she was a lot like me.
I didn't see him much after that.
Instead, I went out and got myself my own Nina Hagen poster.
THREES, PART III: BORN IN XIXAX
I just looked up Nina Hagen. Apparently she's now some kind of yogini.
Seemingly more hardcore than Madonna.
And probably even Caca.
Not that it's a competition or anything.
But I found the following on her website, which plays Om Namah Shivaya:
It's funny how things work out.
We really are all the same....
Mysore photo by Sean Miller. Madrid pix by Simon J. Sherwood.