13 August 2006

Chennai Highlights

Since Ank is probably having too much fun being back in America to write, I will share some highlights since I am still in India. Finding myself in the big city of Chennai for a week, it is all about getting ripped off. Which I can handle at this point since most of my other travels in India have been of a different quality completely. But here are some ways I have been able to find some good people in the city.

After my first steps into Chennai, I still think that I can find my way to the bus station and travel cheap. Let's remember that now I have a full backpack and a hug bag with a tabla. Not only do I stick out as a TOURIST, but I quickly realize the bus idea is not going to work. I am just staring at the guys that have one foot and one hand barely on the bus, the rest of their bodies are hanging outside the door and being pushed out by all the other bodies hanging on with only a prayer that some other vehicle does not get too close to the bus. So I ask a rickshaw, how much to the Shivananda Yoga center. I have some address written down and have no idea where it is. He says 150 points. I ask, do you know where it is? He says yes a little too quickly as he talks to his friend. So I turn to another rickshaw, an older guy, and say do you know where this is? He says he thinks so. How much? I don't know exactly, we will have to ask some people on the way. I am at least getting a real answer, so I look at him longer cause I gotta get a ballpark range, so he says maybe 40-70 points. Okay, at least he seems more honest. The ride was easy, we talked the whole way there, he pointed out things to see, he talked about his two children and how he loves his daughter too much and she loves him too much. We make two u-turns trying to find the Food World, which is the only land mark to find the yoga center. I get out, with him feeling bad that he keeps on passing the Food World and I have bags to carry. I tell him not to worry and give him 100 points. Still wishing I gave him more, but he was happy.

Then, after being at the yoga center for a day, I had to go find the beach and mangos. So I ask some guy on the street for 2 kilos of mango. He has a huge set up with signs identifying the 20 to 30 to 40 pointers, I went with the 30 pointers. He weighs the two kilos on the balance that you don't even find in american classrooms any more cause it is such an ancient way of measuring. But it just reminds me of Iran, and I love it. Anyway, the mango side hits the bottom, so he puts a mango on the other side with the weights. Nothing budges. Now we are both laughing and he still gives me all the mangos. So I got one mango for free and then some. Life is good.

After being in the nice beachy yoga neighborhood, I have to move to the real part of the city. Now I am in the middle of it all and looking for mangos again. At the end of the road, there are a couple fruit stands. So I try one guy. He is an older, skinny guy. His wife is sitting to the left of the stand, very quiet, depressed, overweight. He is in your face, and we start bargaining. I get two kilos. Suddenly he turns to his wife and yells at her to get a bag quite violently with his hands flying in the air in disgust. Of course I don't speak the language, but it sounds like, "you piece of shit, lazy, good for nothing woman, get a bag and do something for god's sake." My heart drops and I just put my bag out cause I do not need a bag. I have my own bag. And then we argue over the price of some bananas. I just can't take it any more. So I leave saying maybe tomorrow I will buy bananas. Will you be here tomorrow? No. He wants to make the sale now. I look at him and say again, you will not be here tomorrow? What about the next day? No, you have to buy now.

Tomorrow arrives, I go back down the street. And I make a point to buy two kilos of mangos from the other lady just two stands down from the old man. He can see me buying mangos and is waving. I ignore him. As I walk by him on my way home, I acknowledge him. He tries to get close and touch my hand, which I forgot to say that he did yesterday. Do I even need to say that if I was Indian, he would never touch my hand. I move to avoid any more contact with this slimy man. He says, "my customer!" I just look at him and say that he told me he would not be here. I leave and still just feel horrible about the wife situation. I just know she is getting beaten at home. And the thought just still sickens me. I want to just give her enough money to get out of that situation. But money can't solve all the problems. At least we can make a statement with where we decide to buy food.

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