Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Four auto scenes

Due to budget cuts, the typical five scene format has been reduced to four. Apologies. -BF

1. I'd lost a bet several weeks before, and though Jared left the country before I fulfilled it, I wound up having to a couple weeks ago when the craziest autowallah in our neighborhood was the only driver around one night. His vehicle was nearly full of boxes of god knows what. Dead bodies maybe. Regardless, there was no room for two in the carriage.

Aliyah squeezed in the back next to the boxed corpses. Crazy patted the edge of the driver's seat next to him.

"Do it," Aliyah said.

I got in and put my arm around the automaniac, half my body hanging out of the auto, the other half clinging to the vehicle's interior for dear life as Crazy flew over potholes and sped around sharp curves.

It was actually pretty fun. That is, until the nutty driver started talking to himself/me/no one.

"Whiskey, dinner, Pepsi, whiskey, whiskey," he said in that faraway gravelly voice.

"How you doing up there?" Aliyah said.

"Um," I said in a too-high voice.

2. The woman wore a colorful sari and had teeth browner than her skin. She held a baby in one arm and a fan of magazines in the other. I know the magazines were for sale. I'm not sure about the baby.

"Siiiiiiiir," she said in that hollow, strung out plea that Delhi beggars here are made to memorize without understanding. "Siiiiir."

She tugged on my jeans. I didn't even look at her. She went over to Aliyah's side.

"Siiiiir," the awful beggar said, tugging at Aliyah's pants ("Madam," "Ma'am" and "Miss" are typically not in the panhandling vocabulary here). "Siiiiir."

I said something moderately funny and Aliyah laughed. The light turned green and just as we pulled away, the beggar freed one hand by dropping her magazines and slapped Aliyah in the face.

We were silent, breathless.

"She just slapped me!" Aliyah said.

"Sorry sir," I said.

3. Every day it's the same thing. I leave the house in the early afternoon to go do some writing at the sheesha and coffee cafe, Mocha, in Defence Colony Market. It's a slow and lazy part of the day for the autowallahs. There are typically at least five and as many as fifteen waiting at the stand around the corner from our house.

Sometimes one of them spots me as soon as I shut the front gate at our house -- pretty impressive from 30 yards away (and through a corner hedge and fence). The spotter never plays it cool. He immediately starts running toward me, waving.

"Sir!" he says. "Sir!"

The others immediately perk up on tiptoes like a gang of meerkats. Their eyes open wide and their noses point in my direction as they stand still for a split second before running toward me.

Soon they're all crowding around me, bandying harmonies of "Sir"s back and forth among them. Some will gently grab at my elbow to lead me to their rickshaw.

I feel like the prettiest girl at the prom. And whoever's lucky enough to get picked on any given day, well, I imagine he does too.

4. The autowallah pointed me to the backseat of his vehicle. An old man was already sitting there. I shook my head no.

"You share," the autowallah said. "Thirty rupees."

Thirty rupees was a pretty good price.

"Me first," I demanded.

"OK," said the autowallah.

We drove for about ten minutes and I chatted uncomfortably with the old man about where I was from and if I was married.

We arrived at my destination and I got out and handed the autowallah a 100-rupee note. That's a bit more than US$2.

The autowallah shook his head. "No change," he said, shrugging his shoulders unapologetically.

"How can you not have change?" I said angrily, even though it's pretty common for autowallahs to fail to produce change for even the smallest bills.

"Fine," I grumbled, digging through the coins in my wallet and producing a jingly amalgamation of 27 rupees. I shoved them toward the autowallah.

"Thirty," he said, after taking a long time to count them.

"You don't have change!" I yelled. "So you either get 27 or nothing."

The autowallah considered this for a minute, then reached into his front pocket and removed a two-inch thick wad of bills. He could have made change of several 1,000-rupee notes, not to mention my measly 100.

Then I said some things in a loud voice that would make my mother cringe. And she doesn't cringe easily.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A little confusion

If you ever need anything from the supermarket, don’t ask Ben.

Ben likes to cook in India (and he makes an excellent chicken curry), but sometimes he gets a little/lot confused about the ingredients. A few weeks ago, he went to our local vegetable market—where all of the produce is unlabeled—with the idea to make a salad to accompany the night’s meal, a thoughtful gesture, really. Our salads here consist of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. But that particular night it was tomatoes, onions, and raw zucchini. To this day, Ben is convinced there is no difference between the two vegetables.

Another time Ben decided he wanted to spice up the chicken curry with a green chili. He came home with a single piece of okra. I can only imagine what the store owner’s reaction was when he tried to buy the quarter of a cent item.

This morning, I went to the refrigerator for an orange, which was on the week’s grocery list. Instead, I found two melon-sized fruits. “Grapefruit?” I asked. Ben was convinced they were oranges until I showed him the flamingo pink flesh. Ben had one response.

“At least it will make a funny blog.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Visitor Paths

You'd be surprised how many people find this blog by googling "nipplectomy."

We have an invisible stat counter buried in this blog, and yesterday Aliyah and I browsed through one of the logs it keeps on the paths visitors take to reach this site. While most visitors are friends and family and arrive via a direct link, strangers take some odd e-routes.

For instance, yesterday someone in Florida googled "fish autopsy" and clicked on a link to our post on the death of Ben Fish. Around the same time, someone in Los Angeles googled "Floating dead fish pictures" and landed in the same place, as did someone in Tucson who actually googled "ben fish." A UK googler looking for "american fish names" found his way to this post on Ben Fish too. And there was the slightly suicidal google search term of "the world seems a little less bright" that brought a visitor from North Carolina news of the death of Ben Fish.

Two days ago, someone in Egypt googled "oily thong" and clicked on this post in which I wear a, well, oily thong. The day before, someone in Baton Rouge got to the same post by googling "trying on my first thong," as did someone in Massachusetts by searching for "wearing my first thong." Oh, and someone in Spain googling "first thong experience," someone in the Canadian Saskatchewan googling "my first thong," and someone in Memphis googling "thong indian." And someone in Connecticut found their way to this blog post by googling "oily massage videos."

Someone in Wilmington, Ohio googled "looking for live in servant" and wound up on our post about our runaway servant. Someone on the east coast of the United States and someone else in Portland recently navigated to our post on the death of Aliyah Fish by googling "aliyah death" and "ALIYAHS DEATH," respectively, which while initially jarring, are probably just misspelled attempts at learning more about the death of the singer Aaliyah.

As for "nipplectomy," in the last week or so that googled word has reeled in visitors to our blog from Florida, California, Denver, Portland, New Jersey, Paris, Berlin (the same visitor twice in three minutes), London, Vienna, Washington DC, the Yukon Territory, and Park City, Utah. Oh, and someone in Ontario got there by searching "nipple amputation."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Departure and Arrival

Because it's easier than a mass e-mail...

Family and friends,

We've been in India nearly a year, and while it's been a fantastic experience, we've begun to settle on plans for getting the heck out of here. We're leaving our perch in Delhi in mid-June, traveling around Nepal, Kashmir and north India until my one-year India visa expires July 8, then heading to southeast Asia where we'll spend a month or two exploring Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

We'll likely be returning to America in mid to late August. Where in America our final destination will be, well, we're not exactly sure. New York is probably most likely, but much depends on where we land jobs. (I hear the US economy is booming and the job market is full of lucrative opportunities. Especially in journalism, right?)

And yes, yes, I know we've been terrible about updating the blog in recent weeks. [Insert a good excuse here.]