Sunday, February 24, 2002
I am pleased to announce the launch of True Facts, the evil twin of this site.
Currently showing on true facts:
- Much Aloo About Nothing: A genuine, true, scientific fact.
- A message from other sponsors.
- A really strange little story that I quite like.
Things that aren't as exotic as people think (1): Again, in the countryside, one of my guides beckoned me follow him to a field. Here he pulled a stalk from the crop and proudly said: "This is wheat. It is used to make bread." He seemed quite disappointed when I told him we had tons of the stuff in England.
A few days ago I was cycling merrily down a country lane when I hit a pothole and went careering towards a patch of nettles. This was going to hurt. Fortunately it wasn't nettles - no, it was an enormous ganja bush instead. But rest assured, gentle reader, NoWayJose remains sex, drug and rock'n'roll free.
Saddlesore: Every form of transport here is overloaded. People even sit pillion on bicycles - only they sit side-saddle. I've tried it and it's bloody difficult. You basically use your legs vs. torso in acounterbalance system. Builds up your stomach muscles no end.
Varanasi has a vibe somewhere between Lourdes and Blackpool. Its a city of pilgrims and conmen, the devout and the devious. I spent the afternoon in the company of Sanju. He claimed not to be tout - but then who would. We chewed paan, talked politics, saw some mosques and did a little shopping. Most enjoyable. I also: took a boat trip down the Ganges, received an Ayurvedic massage and gave a woman a kilo of wood to burn herself with in a few days time. This is my first day's sightseeing in India. It was fun but also very wearing. Hey ho. Tomorrow I visit the Gandhi Institute for some serious chit-chat about Gandhiji.
"The population of India is one Arab":
This isn't a reference to some Saudi arbitrage. The concept of a million is not understood in India. After a thousand, we go up in thouands (million, billion, etc). They go up in hundreds: a lakh = 100,000; a krore = 10 million; an arab = 1 billion.
What to do if attacked by a beer:
I was up in the hills yesterday, and one bloke said that people around here often attacked by beers. I briefly envisaged kegs of Stella rolling inexorably towards terrified villagers. Then I realised he had said 'bears'. He then told me the secret of dealing with a bear. You need two sticks*. You hit the bear with the first stick. It catches it with razor sharp claws and holds it in a remorseless grasp. You then twat it with the second stick until it gets the message. Let me know how you get on with that one.
*When I askd him what to do if you do not have two sticks, he gave me a look that said:"What kind of fool walks around bear country without two sticks?"
Friday, February 22, 2002
Who's the Grandaddy?: If you're the boss of your turf you are called 'Grandad'. And people touch your feet a lot.
Remember the ACME corporation from the Roadrunner cartoons? Well TATA Corp is the Indian equivalent. They make everything from trucks to telephone directories. I wonder if they have an iodine removal service?
Note: Iodine stains. Don't spill it down your trousers whilst looking at your watch (unless you are Stan Laurel and a movie camera is present).
The Story So Far: Laal Gadger had been spending a peaceful few weeks in a village in central UP eating food, chatting and alternating his reading between brit chick lit and hardcore development studies kit. This idyllic existence came to an end when he volunteered to travel across Northern India writing profiles on development projects for 'International Journal of Rural Studies'. It gives him a tenuous excuse to ask loads of stupid questions to those with better things to do. Now read on...
Saturday, February 02, 2002
"Ji" in Hindi is a term of respect. It's not related to the use of "G" in hiphop. But it would be nice if it was.
I now have to decide where to go to. Lucknow then Varanasi. Then may be Bodhgaya in Bihar followed by Nepal then Calcutta. It'll be a mixture of tourism and checking out some more development projects (and may be some low-level journo-type stuff too).
Notes on Indian diet: As you most of you have probably realised, I haven't been tucking into Lamb Pasanda every night. if yuo've ever had a vegetarian Thali then you'll have close. Rice, chapatis, dal (lentil stew), sabje (curried vegetables), chutni (a coriander/chili mix reminiscent of mown grass) plus raw carrots, radish and onion. There are some strange points of overlap tho: 1. Kir, which is basically rice pudding. 2. Puri (a kind of fried bread) which is almost identical to yorkshire pudding. As yuo have have noticed there is no meat - basically down to Hindu diet laws, cost and the lack of refrigeration. Be careful with fried food. It's cooked in low quality oil and has a distressing tendency to "open you up".
Things to freak out English people (1): Tea, Indian style:
Take some water, tea leaves, lots of milk and even more sugar.
Boil some more
Strain and serve.
Feel your teeth begin to dissolve.
Things to freak out Westerners (1): There are swastikas everywhere (in newspapers, on number plates, etc). It is originally a Hindu symbol mind.
Did you hear the one about the conference on poverty that cost $3000 to attend and took place in a 5-star hotel?
It was Mukat Singh's birthday this week, so we pulled together some celebration stuff (my part involved clutching frantically onto a cake whilst riding pillion thru the narrow streets of a market town). MS is a man of tremendous integrity and drive. How can you not warm to someone whose basic repsonse to life is: "Well, no one else had started a school/clinic/brick kiln/international research journal (delete as appropriate), so I thought why not start one myself."
OK, I realise the entries posted for the last couple of weeks have been somewhat fragmentary. More background:
I am staying in a village in rural northern India as a project visitor. The project consists of: a primary and secondary school, a 6th form and degree college. There is also a health clinic and a spice-making business and an informal agricultural training network. It was founded 30 years ago by Mukat Singh (a local man who's taught in the UK and India) and his Australian wife Jyoti. I am here with two other visitors: Katie from Cornwall and Noemi from Switzerland (both on gap years). We are looked after by Pushpa, an Indian woman who teaches us yoga and Hindi (I am proficient at neither). In the mornings, I do conversation classes with degree students and in the fternoon I do some geeky stuff with the computer, electricity permitting. I suppose what Robert Chambers would call a "development tourist".