THE DUMBEST GIRL IN THE WORLD?
On Friday morning the alarm did not go off -- AGAIN -- and I slept through led primary series practice.
On Friday afternoon I learned from Vance-from-Berkeley that Guruji led the second class (the one I take) and was in fine form.
The Guru makes his first appearance in eons, and I missed it.
(DON'T GO) CHASING WATERFALLS II
On Wednesday I did not go to the hit Kannada film film Mungaru Malay (Monsoon Rain) with the coconut girl as planned. "Festival," she said, by way of explanation. And that was that.
Later in the afternoon, Ammu told me, "There is no festival."
He and I went to see the Hindi film Partner, a remake of Hitch. But we arrived late and the exterior of the theater was crawling with men, men and more men. So we went to see the Kannada film Cheluvina Chittara instead. He said that the hero was not nice, the heroine not nice and that there would be very little dancing and no action -- but the story was good. Apparently it's a shot-for-shot remake of a Tamil film about forbidden love between a middle-class school girl and a scooter mechanic that results in violence and beatings that cause the jilted groom to go insane. The bad guys wore white dress shirts and dhotis (sarongs) -- just like the politicians here (many of whom are in town for some big foofaraw) -- and there was an all-male dance sequence featuring a man in drag playing the wife. You can't beat that. (Well, you can beat on both the hero and heroine, if you're a villager upholding traditional values).... The hero, Ganesh, had no moustache/paunch and was quite good.
Later I learned that it was based on a true story. Ouch!
Last week I watched the Kannada-Tamil film H20 on DVD. It was released when I was here in 2002, and my Kannada teacher Waruni explained the whole plot to my fellow classmate Sean and I. I think people in both states protested it because it was in both languages and not just their own.
The plot concerns a fairskinned half-Kannadiga, half-Tamil woman named Kaveri (ie; she is the river) who's pursued by westernized Tamil guy and an earthy guy from Kanartaka. Kaveri's parents were killed due to Tamil-Kannadiga rivalry, and she was raised in a temple and works as an ayurvedic healer and wears a short skirt. The opening song sequence begins with an exuberant love song to water and ends with Kaveri's father being beaten to death by an angry mob and her mother taking off in a round boat, giving birth to her, and dying of shock. All in the first few minutes.
Anyway water is very visceral here; when there's a drought everyone feels it, and Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are always fighting over rights to water from the Kaveri River. The film included roles for a dwarf and cojoined twins that walked like a crab; the villian who fanned the flames between the two states was a humplimpett who seemed to be a stand-in for drought. Four stars.
For my birthday I wanted to chase down some waterfalls and see what they look like when the dams are full. The last time we went, in 2002, there was a drought. In fact there was so little water at KRS (the nearby dam) that a temple from one of the towns that had been flooded to make way for the dam appeared, and everyone (including Zoe, Kiran and I) made pilgrimages to it. But now the dams are full and everyone's making trips to see the falls.
The drive was only 80km but we made a wrong turn and ended up taking potholed dirt roads most of the way. The shocks on the motorcycle are not what they used to be, and it hurt like hell. Plus the fuel gage is broken; it didn't happen on this trip but from time to time the cycle sputters and dies and Ammu opens the gas cap and looks in and notices it's empty. Then he turns the thing on its side and shakes it and sets it back upright and we ride on fumes to the nearest petrol bunk (gas station).
As we drove, we saw evidence of the river at regular intervals: we crossed it once, and saw many creeks, streams, cement irrigation ditches and rice paddies.
We finally found the waterfall but could only go down part of the way. There were many warnings telling us not to go beyond the fence. The view was spectacular and you could hear the rush of the falls. But you could not feel the mist. And we remembered walking all the way down to the bottom last time around.
The coconut wallah told Ammu that we could ride another 12km to the other side and go all the way to the bottom, where there were boats.
On the way we stopped at the dam but could not go in; apparently the Tamil Tigers had tried to blow it up in 2002 and it's been closed to visitors ever since.
We made the trip and crossed the Kaveri River twice. The second time we were flagged down by some villagers and were told we had to pay an rs5 (7-cent) toll. They did not have change for a 10-rupee note.
Near the second bridge we passed a crew working on a Kannada film; there were exactly three vehicles; no honey wagon, no craft service table, no grip truck, and no fancy camper for the talent.
When we arrived we realized we were in the spot where we'd been in 2002, and started walking down the steep, uneven steps (which, thankfully, were dry). As we got closer we could feel the negative ions. When we got to the bottom we saw some of those little round boats made of bamboo and palm fronds. They did not seem seaworthy, but there was whole family riding around in one and they were having fun and paying little attention to the rapids and fast current that could wash them downstream to Tamil Nadu or immenent death.
So we got in one, too.
Using a single paddle, the captain went against the current and after some time brought us to a spot under the falls. We got out and went closer, and were soon drenched with water. Suddenly, the long, hot, painful ride disappeared. The wetter I got, and the more mist I inhaled, the more renewed I felt -- and I began to understand a bit the whole idea of baptism. Then I noticed a rainbow. It made almost a complete circle -- and I was at the center. It was quite a moment....
After the ride, I tipped our captain handsomely. He pointed to the far falls and said he could bring us there, too. He told Ammu in Kannada that we didn't have to pay him if we didn't want to.
We got back into the boat.
At one point we got stuck on some rocks, and grabbed onto some reeds as he tried to get us over them. Meanwhile the rushing water tried to pull us downstream. A man in another round boat came over to help.
We got past the rocks and he paddled us towards the falls. The noise was deafening. We paused between between two massive falls, and again were drenched. Amazing.
On the way back I was sure we were going to be washed downstream. But we made it back to shore, and I handed the man a 100-rupee note.
He said something in Kannada to Ammu.
Later I found out that we were the only two people so far this season who agreed to be taken to the far falls.
ONE MORE BIT ABOUT LANGUAGE:
Last night Ammu and I went to see a concert that was part of the big, controversial Mysuru Utsava cultural festival taking place this weekend. Kannada film songs were promised. Instead we got Hindi ballads that even I knew. People seemed disappointed. Then the famous north Indian singers did some Kannada songs (butchering the some of the words) -- including ones from the aforementioned films -- and the crowd went wild.
IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR LOCALS:
Water service in Gokulam and many other parts of Mysuru will be interrupted on Monday -- the day of Guruji's party. Keep a full bucket of water on hand so you don't get caught with your pants down (so to speak).
A JOKE THAT DIDN'T GO OVER:
Ammu and I were on the roof of the Kaveri Lodge, watching the sun go down. There were no chairs, so I was squatting a la pasasana. "Shall I bring the water?" he asked, smirking. Apparently this is a common joke; when someone squats, it looks like they're going to poop, and a friend offers to bring the water so they can clean themselves off. I told him that one wouldn't go over very well with a western audience and at the very least he'd have to substitute TP for water. But that didn't stop me from beating it to death over the next few days.