Diary of Lisa Taylor, reluctantly 42 (and a half)

Or.. 'f.ck me I'm forty.. two.. and a half', though can look 38 on a - not so deluded - good day. Or 'How to reconcile a well experienced mind trapped in a still - but for how long? – youthful body.' Don't have the 30somethings angst/problems, neither have the resigned (?) ageing baby-boomers in safe family territory outlook yet. Here's how I cope, one day all sexy women will get old... but never invisible. © Lisa Taylor 2005/6/7/8/9. Jeez.. so much for the 42 and-a-half delusion

Friday, December 16, 2011

4 December - Parvati land to Delhi

(12 ya refers to 12 years ago, time of my first Indian trip)

After possibly offending my trekking guide Shiv with the following exchange on last morning whilst he was cooking breakfast and I happened to see big bags of salt and sugar by his feet :”Shiv, why did you carry so much salt and sugar for a 3 day trip?” his answer “the smallest bag available is a 1kg bag” , me “er, yes but you could have decanted half into a cup or something and not carry it unnecessarily, maybe we should throw away what’s left before we head back down?”

After that Shiv walked on without waiting for me at all… oh dear, wounded pride but ya know…. Wise up man, elemenentary physics.

After sleeping again on a bed and not freezing it was time for a 5am start, had arranged bus to a town 40km below and 2 hours of course and then shared jeep.

the shared jeep had clearly not got my message that there were 2 of us not 1 so it was overloaded but the driver who makes money from each passenger was not about to turn away Miguel.. However, we had not reckoned with the ‘pulling rank’ fat businessman who refused to allow anyone next to him on the front seat and kept his bag there. Eventually the 5 at the back, (room for 4 only), mutined at a pee stop. Michael squeezed himself at the front next to the driver who has a metal bar meant to divide him from the other passengers at the front, so he was effectively in the driver’s operating space. We were coming down mountains and clearly Mike’s hulk was an impediment to the changing of gears. . At the next stop I turfed him out to sit next to the driver on account that I’m much smaller, and would give the fat businessman evil stares, but it was not so simple, I still had to shift out of his hand/way every time he hat to change gear. Still, the businessman was impassible and even refused one of my biscuits as to take it would have meant becoming friendly. So much for having an easier ride than the usual local buses!

The other guys at the back tried to remonstrate but businessman pulled rank. God knows..i felt I was in some Chekhov short story with the government inspector. I was dying to find out both what was his job and what he carried in the precious holdhall, but I didn’t ask. As we finally hours later got to the plain and a busy town where driver had to shift gears a lot more frequently, the businessman must have realized as I did that my shifts were going to slow us down considerably and eventually suggested I sit on his side of the bar but , as a further “I’m boss” signal he told me I was to keep my coat/scarves etc on the other side of the bar. Done deal. When we got to the bus station at rishikesh he quickly exploited my dithering over whether to get out there to get the train or go to the source of the train at dehra dun and persuaded us to get the train there, thus getting the car to himself to.. dehra dun. Anyway, we made it, would have been ironic for our jeep to fall down the side of a mountain when the buses didn’t. by the way, en route, I have seen various accidents or the remains of. Not pretty. Cars under trucks, trucks fallen off the side of mountains and so on, plus there are daily reminders in the papers..

The 3 wheeler who took us on for the sort of right price, then announced he had to get another 4 passengers in order to go to Haridwar , a 15km and an hour down the road… oh dear. But the train was not for a while so… he only got two who were going in the opposite direction so he decanted us ten mins later to another driver.

Trying to imagine what haridwar looks like when millions of people converge on it for the kumb mela held once every 12 years, all these millions must be camped all around, all trying to bathe in the convergence of the various tributaries to the ganges which becomes ‘the ganges’ at haridwar..

Haridwar train station at this time of the year was manageable, got to talk to a few people and find stuff out, especially if they have accountant sisters in derby or work in the US and are here on holiday so their English is good. This particular chap worked for a huge Spanish mining company who was busy extracting coal . apparently the Spanish managing cadre like to start work earlier than their indian workforce would so that leads to a few tensions. And everyone I meet thinks I must be here for spiritual quest reasons and I have no heart to disappoint them so take all the advice about shrines to visit and ‘you must go to varanasi’ without saying er, been there , done that and what a mess of a place that was, if I fell into the ganges there I’d die instantly of a zillion lethal germs, no thanks..

I went to the window and was told at 4pm that I’d have to wait till 6pm at another window in order to perhaps be able to buy a ticket for the sleeper to delhi. Michael went off to internet and when he came back decided to double check and at the same window was told to go out and book his ticket on the internet. This was clearly a ‘lie’ as after 12pm on a Sunday no tickets are sold on internet, the system is closed. Why I was told to wait was simply because I was female/foreign and nice. Obviously. As I waited first in line for 6pm , plenty of other Indians came up to try change/get tickets and got short shrift. You may not know that when in line for a ticket window, the Indian who’s behind you will not be behind you but next to you so he can step into your place sideways as you exit. This makes for uncomfortable queuing especially if he’s with 3 family members all next to you, but just be warned.

At 6.01 I also was told ‘not possible ‘ by the same guy who’d come from the window where he’d told me to go to this one! This is part of a dance, thank god I was here 12ya. So knew not to just slink away and accept the ‘no’, so plead I did and he eventually sold me 2 sleeper first class, hurrah, tenner each to sleep till Delhi. But the train didn’t go till 11pm. Will spare you the tedium suffered till the departure time. My dreams of luxury were dampened as the first class on the Mussoorie express was like a second class sleeper train in italy but hey, I did a dance of joy as I lay on my hard couch. Didn’t notice till toilet get up at 4am that we’d slept with the door wide open as a certain idiot Oz boy had gone to the loo and forgot to lock it, but all was safe in first class. Dreams of peace were sort of shattered by the locomotive sounding its horn throughout the night presumably to get cows off the tracks but sleep did come. As the train pulled slowly into old delhi, the tracks were lined with rubbish and hundreds of men peeing alongside but thankfully facing the opposite direction or crossing them which since we know is dangerous is just freaky. Nothing changed here I thought (from my last visit 12ya, as our 3 wheeler (real price 80 after starting at 300 , sigh) made its way into the old town/bazaar area which was the usual mess of … decay.

But something has changed!! Delhi has a metro. Hurrah, it goes everywhere for a pittance and it’s an over-ground so you don’t die of heat in it.. So now I feel bad for the rickshaw drivers forlornly and gathered at the exits and waiting for a fare, why haggle with them when you can buy a token or an oyster card and whizz to your destination?.

I excitedly got on a train to Connaught square, now renamed Rajiv chowk and no longer a chic area, only to realize my mistake quickly enough, there were no women in my carriage, only men, so I remembered that the trains here all have the ladies compartment rule to keep women from being pawed and stared at by blokes, . and sure enough the front carriage of every metro is reserved for ladies and has pink speech bubbles on the floor of stations to tell you so. Ahhh, that’s baetter but does it mean that only this amount of ladies go anywhere in Delhi, since a carriage would never contain all of us women going to work etc in London….. ?

And if you can’t be bothered to run to it, as platforms are very long, the next best thing is to stand behind a married woman with her husband and /or possibly carrying a child in arms and form a sort of immediate ladies enclave.

Thanks to the metro I went to see the Qu’tab minar ancient mosque complex, which is 16km from the centre of dely and 12ya clearly I felt I couldn’t face that distance in a 3 wheeler (no money for taxis then). It’s pretty spectacular and it’s bizarre to think that this area was alternatively hindu and Islamic and back again , each building temples with the stones taken from the destruction of the enemy’s ones. I was tempted to go see the new vast area of Gurgaon, all modern housing and offices and malls, a sort of canary wharf owned by one bloke and conveniently positioned 15 mins from the airport, but I thought it may make me sick. So I didn’t.

It was bad enough a couple of days later not recognizing Delhi airport when I went to pick up chris, they had practically rebuilt it for the commonwealth games of 2 years ago and the hordes are kept out by 3 wheelers only allowed to park 2 miles away and if you are meeting someone arriving or saying goodbye to someone departing, you have to pay a whole pound to be allowed into the airport effectively keeping out the crowds that I remember 12ya. Progress! My sweet car driver takes me to get chai at the drivers’ tea stall because tea inside the airport is 4 times more. Bless. He’s already got the measure of my ‘I want to be indian’ type personality.

Later, I see a cart in the street selling coconuts and you’d think I had been granted a wish. I’ll have two and go wild on coconut water, and gorge on the pulp, why not, none of that was available in the mountains.

The papers are full of articles about the Lopkal bill, something to do with trying to rein in rampant corruption which is at Mugabe levels here, only sort of disguised by democracy. Other than that there’s the usual obsession with Pakistan and getting one ahead of china in the industrial development area. So I just turn to the gossip pages.

Tom cruise is in Delhi for the premiere of Mission Impossible 4, and the people who are waiting for him a t the airport are paid extras, so says the paper. He has flown in all his organic food and his chefs. He needs his hotel temperature at 23 degrees, I want to ask him if he can really tell the difference when it drops to 22.5 . but the thing is that here they don’t care for Tom Cruise or anyone western, only for their homegrown stars. And they like the women with a bit of flesh on them, skinny is very very bad. They also like them pale and the TV is awash with ads for skin whitening creams, this is aimed at women only, presumably the men can stay dark or are not sissy enough to use moisturizer. They are also full of ads for conditioners which is just how marketing works. The average non city woman washes her hair with handsoap, seen many at pumps or baths do so, and then they coat it in cheap coconut oil, but that would be bad for l’oreal so let’s get all the Indian women onto conditioner and we’ll clear up.

One more thought on western idols, f all the pop idols you can think of, only Michael Jackson registers, U2 don’t and Lady Gaga will soon be forgotten, it’s still rather impenetrable for our brand of stars… in my days at Sony, in fact, I don’t remember ever dealing with india and I was doing international marketing. Think there was some sort of higher decisions, like pick one who can ‘travel’ like maria carey or that Vida Loca boy and push those , but forget about , I don’t know….manic streat preachers or travis, that don’t ‘travel’.

Michael the oz is in the meantime busy monitoring texts from Pooja and Riva, poor man. It won’t happen. He met them at the conference he came here for in delhi before I run into him, conference to do with creating products that work for third world situations and more. The woman who won ‘invented’ a much cheaper version of syringes, instead of the tube we’re familiar with which is attached to the needle, she came up with a sachet, ketchup sachet style in macdonalds, which attaches to the needle and is a third of the price to produce. Well done her. Michael’s product is a lamp what works in any place set up for surgery, possibly solar, am not sure. Anyway, these two gals are mates, he likes one, the one with the boyf, but it’s the other, less attractive one who likes him and does the texting. That old chestnut, they promise they will go here and there with him in rajasthan, previously had promised to go to rishikesh but in the end he went with 3 indian boys from the conference, stoners…. but then pull out or don’t make any plans. I keep saying to him actually call Puja or Riva , don’t keep doing the text dance.. you’ll know by the tone of their voice, but I can only be mother once. In the end he agrees that with only 1 more night in delhi, and them being Indian girls, there wouldn’t be any sex following a night out in a bar drinking, they’re not that forward. And very sensibly he declares he’s actually here to further his work/career and he’ll be off to jaipur where he’s been invited by another company that deals with product design with a NGO slant. Awww, am so proud. Good call mike.

However, he worries he has no thoughts, no light bulbs going off about his work, but I tell him to relax, it all comes afterwards, when you least expect it and in the meantime people pay good money to therapists to get to the empty mind state.

Meantime, I need help with the following if anyone knows enough about re-incarnation to help me through my questions.

So, this reincarnation chain, if you’re supposed to be on the top and you do something wrong, what is the creature you’ll become? is it set according to your misdeed or is it totally random ?and what if you’re the one bad was done to, the victim., as you’re human what higher form do you go to? Some extra terrestrial bodyless intelligence? And do ETs also commit bad acts against one another and therefore get cast back down to crow form? And who’s to say you’d have any notion that your life as a grasshopper (after having been human) is a bad one, maybe you like it, don’t know any better as you only know the grasshopper reality, and how does a grasshopper have any chance to better himself till he gets back to human? Does he have to open a shelter for female grasshoppers victims of grasshopper violence or give up eating worms? For me these are all myths and more myths (bit like believing in jesus’ miracles which surely are just a story to illustrate a point) and I can’t believe people would spend years studying all this dalai lama stuff, like the young oz monk student girl met in mcleod ganji who’s on the seventh year of studying Tibetan so she can follow the Dalai discourses. I was tempted to say girl get a life but … each to their own. God knows what she’s escaping from in her own world/culture. And also , the Dalai lama, I kind of want to ask him, you know this non violence thing of his… well it’s been 50 years since the Chinese got into Tibet and clearly they’re never going to go and they’ve already essentially wiped out Tibetan language because it’s not taught in schools an with that Tibetan traditions are also going. So ya know… a bit more nelson Mandela and a few bombs would have worked back in the days but now now when to get any of that into Tibet , I have no idea how you’d manage. Every third person there is a Chinese soldier dressed as a civilian. Richard Gere where are you when I need you? You’re only good for collecting money to help tibetna refugees, but as for the other millions trapped in Tibet, they have no chance. So maybe it is good they believe in reincarnation, bit like my granny believed in heaven as that at least makes life tolerable on earth if you hope there will be better stuff to pay you back. Personally, well, I think I made it clear what I think, and I’ll shut up.

Next instalment, Rajasthan, with the addition of my own bollywood superstar, the all not singing and not dancing Toph, but he’s got good moves.

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