Saturday, May 13, 2006


Thanks only: Derek's first few days in India...

Derek's India entry #1:

Arriving, like the seemingly endless process of preparing, has taken a while, but the shift into being in India has taken no time at all. It feels right and good to be here again, to fool around with the kids, the joke with the swirl of people trying to earn a few rupees from me, to laugh from the sidelines with Wes at the absurdity of it all. One could regard the touts and the beggars and the idle curious children as pests interfering with one's experience of India, as so many obstacles to seeing the country itself. Or one can see them as the real fabric of the experience, the foreground enlivening the pulsing landscape. Every bit of it seems required and therefore a delight.

At the same time, the contrasts all around can ache and sting. Two days ago, we went to a currency exchange place to get rupees to pay for the bulk of our hotels and transportation. The stack of bills, many thousands of dollars worth, was nearly a foot tall. When we left there in an auto rickshaw, I was holding a bacg of money with well over a hundred thousand rupees. As we sat in traffic, a thin and spindly heron-like waif approached to beg for a single coin. Yet traffic zoomed away before I could wrestle one from my pocket.

The same day, we wandered the side alleys of Pahar Ganj in search of a zipper and a strong sewing machine to repair my trusty daypack's upper pouch. After being referred from here to there, we found an efficient Sikh material merchant with busy and precise hands. He sat cross-legged in his cramped quarters -- no more than 6 feet across, 6 feet deep, and 5 feet high -- nimbly reaching for bolts of material, spools of trim, and coils of colorful sparkling accompaniments, measuring each length with precise and uniform gestures. He was still executing one order with his hands as he interviewed the next customer to ascertain their precise needs. When my turn arrived, I handed him the backpack and explained that I needed a new zipper. He reached for a small anvil and swiftly delivered 3 efficient hammer blows, and ran the zipper back and forth several times. Amazed by his fix, I smiled and asked him to name his price. "No money," he replied, "Thanks only." I shook his hand and paid my debt.

Great blog guys. I am excited for you and hope you have an amazing trip. Thanks for the awesome posts and the informative site.
Nice anecdotes, Derek. Keep 'em coming.
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