Sunday, October 30, 2011

Have you ever heard shouts for an encore after urinating?

“May you have ten daughters and may they all marry well.”

-The ultimate Hindu curse, at marriage the bride’s family must present the groom’s with a dowry, the richer the groom’s family the more substantial the gifts expected. Ten daughters would make a welfare recipient out of Donald Trump.

Have you ever heard shouts for an encore after urinating?

The kids, the filthy beggar children that look like they were recently rescued after being trapped for several months in a coal mine, they always hone in on me. Indian tourism has nosedived in 2011 with the downfall of the Caucasoid economies, few white folk can be found unless you’re at ‘The Taj’ or a Rajasthan fort, and so it’s no surprise when they surround me at the train station. Again. When I sit down they sit down. They smile, they bat their big brown doe eyes and repeat a phrase that, to survive it, one must turn into a meditation mantra. “Please sir, ten rupees.” It’s on a sound loop. Again.

I stare back in zombified indifference. I prefer to reply with funny faces and abysmal movie impressions—“That’ll do donkey, that’ll do,” (Shrek) or “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men…” (Pulp Fiction)–but I’m zapped of energy. Again. Another head cold, the third in four weeks, with intestinal issues in between. Welcome to India.

My own behavior is to blame. I shake hands anytime they’re offered, hands that most often belong to those of the street, I’ve even been on the receiving end of a few undeserved hugs. And these people are so ragged, so wretchedly thin and grubby, the antithesis of Mr. Clean, that ten out of ten doctors, their spouses and their extramarital affairs would all advise against it. One night I even slept at the train station. I was awoken several times with looks of concern, with questions like, “What doing?” and “You okay?” I’m fine. I’m just doing what the locals do. I didn’t come here to live like an American although a single night with a backpack pillow and muck encrusted concrete floor for a bed hardly qualifies as ‘roughing it’ when you see how so many of these people live. I might seek out the biggest s**t-holes in terms of accommodation but I’m always surrounded by four walls and lying on some sort of cushioning that serves as a mattress.

Still, I get sick a lot. I’m weak. I can’t handle the country. I’m not Indian, even though I urinate like one.

There aren’t any public restrooms in India because the Indian regards the world as his toilet. Social custom allows one to whip it out to relieve oneself nearly anywhere in this otherwise sexually modest culture. Sides of buildings, shrubbery, sidewalks, vehicles— preferably parked—are all fair game. While making your way to a city palace you’ll have to skip over, or splash through, several yellow streams. Inevitably nature calls. While the Indian can seemingly relieve himself in private in the public arena my pale tint removes any sense of pissing decorum. To urinate with an audience is one of those bizarre traveling moments that an international relations degree has no equal for. With a doctor’s intervention right out of the womb even ‘down there’ we’re different and yes, Mr. Hajib, I really am from a binary star solar system on the outskirts of the Andromeda Galaxy.

It’s a dog eat dog country so I’m marking my territory throughout the Indian state of Rajasthan , having added new rivulets to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and now Udaipur. A Pushkar experience wells sums up the Indian male in relation to the Caucasoid traveler.

Indians are loud, pushy, and walk around as if they own the place. (They do.) A young Brahmin, or supposed priest, was insistent I take a small flower from him and place it into the holy lake, at which time he’d bless my family and I. This would be followed by a demand for a large ‘donation’. I didn’t accept his gift. The real priests don’t solicit on the street. When the same scam has been going on for decades every guidebook and, therefore, every traveler warns against giving in to such priestly generosity. This only makes the faux Brahmin more desperate. His hostility quickly escalates to absurd levels, I’m embarrassed by the public display. Yet I can’t help but antagonize.

I say that it’s going to take a lot more than a flower to get me to take my clothes off, I ask him to please stop looking at my butt, it’s making me uncomfortable. In male-dominated homophobic India this is enough make his mouth froth, to fill this rottweiler with rabies-like rage. At which point I escape into a shop selling women’s dresses. For my mother, I tell the shopkeeper, but dang it, I don’t know her size.

A few hours later, as I’m walking back to my guesthouse, I receive a slap on the back. It’s the Brahmin. He wants to have a cup of chai with me. Oddly enough, I do. We laugh about our encounter earlier in the afternoon, chatting for a couple hours he gives me a perspective on the country, a perspective on life, that’s incomprehensible to my rationally Western way of looking at things. When they’re not ‘working’ Indians are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever run into.

He leaves before me. I end up having to pay for his chai. Well, at least it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a ‘donation’ for blessings.

Keep drifting.

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