Pune playboy encore

When Mood Music
2006-03-21 11:59:00

Well, back to blogging after wasting far too much time on a certain issue. I would say more about it but for now ‘least said, soonest mended’. (However, I’m intrigued that certain comments and my reactions to them have disappeared from MY journal when I certainly didn’t delete them.)

Apart from this, yesterday and the day before have been two of the most idyllic in India and possibly in my life.

Sunday 19th
I’m getting a bit confused here because I appear to have already blogged about this day. However, my diary is as follows:
A dreadfully lazy day after waking up at 5.30. Eventually the Korean (Jae Jung) and I crawled to cyber highway where I spent ages on my blog…

Back to the hotel – no electricity. I read it’s because the Maharashtra state electricity company is broke. Other states are charging it more than it can afford for electricity supplies, so there are regular power cuts from 8.30am to 10am and from 3pm to 4.30pm. The company wants to raise prices but so far the state legislature has resisted this.

You may also have heard that there’s been a lot of chicken deaths here. (However, there is also a big propaganda campaign extolling the safety of chickens and eggs.) Bird flu is highly suspected but the most recent deaths may well have been caused by a chicken speculator keeping his birds in terrible conditions. In another case, a farmer has been arrested for refusing to co-operate with the state apparatus who want to find out why his birds died. There is an awful lot of culling happening and about to happen. (I’m omitting a bit here for fear of causing further upset. However if anyone wants to know, you’re welcome to contact me privately. )

Once power was restored, I watched the last hour’s play. England had achieved 400 runs in their first innings but so far India had only got 89 runs for 3 wickets. I read later that a star Indian batsman was booed off the pitch after failing to score well in this innings. There’s been a lot of furore in the media about this. Personally, I admire anyone who has the strength to do anything active in the full heat of the Indian sun.

By the way, this test match is being played in ‘Wankhede’ stadium. I’m sure you can imagine how I want to pronounce that!

At every break between overs, there’s an advert for a skin-lightening cosmetic which is portrayed as making its male users more sexually attractive to women. Even if Indian women really do generally find lighter skin tones more sexually attractive, I find the inherent racism in this advert rather disturbing and annoying. I’d have hoped for better here but watching other adverts seems to show most seem to use actors who are much lighter than the average skin-tone here.

During most of this session I was trying to explain cricket to the Iranian (name omitted to protect the ‘guilty’). It’s one thing to explain the basic mechanics but entirely another to try to explain the finesses and mental challenges of the game, especially when my grasp of it all is fairly weak.

Afterwards, Mr Iran, Jae Jung and I went out in search of a parade that Mr Iran had heard of because it was supposed to feature elephants. We found a solitary camel, despite the main drag being closed to cars. Mr Iran also asked a policewoman if he could photograph her but she refused. We then encountered two more Iranians, with whom Mr Iran spoke in a mixture of Persian and French – and I found that my grammar-school French is incomprehensible to francophone Iranians. I’m a bit saddened by this because in first year at St Andrews I was told by a third-year French student that my French was good.

Mr Iran also told the other Iranians of his adventures in the red-light zone and off they scampered. On the way back to the hotel, he took surreptitious pictures of women passing by and then persuaded Jae Jung to distract the policewoman so he could photograph her. This was really stupid because there were many police about, most armed with lathis (3-foot long wooden truncheons). I could see this was stupid, despite being still drunk from the single beer I’d necked earlier (admittedly on an empty stomach). I made my excuses and went back to the hotel to eat and write this. (And yes, I did omit a certain experiment – sorry to all who were looking forward to it.)

The beer garden here is packed with young-ish folk (mostly male), eating and drinking. I feel rather out of place because I’m the only non-India here, I’m bearded, have long-ish hair (almost a mullet) and am wearing a psychedelic tee-shirt. This combination prompted a local to offer me some ganga on the way back to the hotel but again I declined. Beer, tiredness, heat and hunger were enough and I didn’t need to be stoned or in legal trouble. Good-night all!

Monday 20th
Slept dreadfully last night because Mr Iranian kept his bloody fan on full-blast all night in the room next to me. The rooms are separated by wooden partitions which have no ceilings apart from the overall room ceiling, several feet above the tops of the walls. When I’m asleep, I padlock my valuables inside my rucsac and then padlock that to a heavy wooden table. My passport and money are in a shoulder-wallet worn under my shirt, so unless I’m actually attacked, most of my kit should be safe. It’s all insured anyway, not that I’ve ever had any success with insurance claims.

Spent the rest of the day watching the Indian 1st innings. I’d missed Sachin Tendulkar’s unpopular dismissal and was rooting (not in the Australian sense) for Dhoni (the Indian Wicket keeper) to make at least 50 so that there’d be a closer match. He got to 62, including three magnificent consecutive fours before being run out very controversially at the next ball. David Gower and Michael Atherton (two former top English cricketers) were convinced he shouldn’t have been out and explained why by quoting from the Laws of the game. Also, there’s some controversy over the big-screen running replays of the run-out before the 3rd umpire could make up his mind.

After this, I slept through the afternoon power cut and then watched more cricket. By this time, India had finished their first innings for 279 all out and England’s opener, Andrew Strauss, had already been out for 4 runs. However, since he scored 128 in the first innings, I can’t fault him and so today and tomorrow may provide the close match I’m hankering after.

After this, I spent far too long at the cyber cafe. It’s only costing 20 rupees (30 UK pence) an hour but I wonder how the place affords its kit. I’ve checked on the price of iPods here and they’re comparable with UK apple-store prices, so I imagine other kit costs folk here just as much as it would in the UK.!

Monday 20th part 2: Help!
On the way back into the hotel, the night-watchman asked me if I wanted to buy his Air-Force medals. He’s supporting a large family on a low wage. What do you think I should do? It may help you to know

  • He’s asking 1800 rupees for whatever he’s selling. This is around 25 pounds.
  • I have 2700 rupees in my wallet, along with over 800 UK pounds’ of travellers cheques.
  • I’ve already spent somewhat significantly more than my budget for the time I’ve been here and need to curb my spending, especially as I have no overall income. However, were I employed (and I expect to be fairly soon after I return to the UK), I could easily afford it. (This amount would be about the same as the cost of two or three cellar-bar sessions.)
  • I often buy The Big Issue because ‘it’s working, not begging’ and I do have qualms about simply giving hand-outs to beggars. (Having said this, if I have any coins in my pocket, I will give these out because they mean almost nothing to me but will buy the beggar a roti or two, enough to keep them alive for a day. (Why do I feel horribly smug when I re-read this?)
  • If I buy a newspaper or similar from a street vendor who obviously lives on the street and pay with a 10-rupee note, I’ll usually tell them to keep the change.
  • In general, I disapprove of armed forces. Buying the medals might seem as if I do. This man has seen action in various wars, most of which (if I have understood what he says and have recalled correctly) were fairly pointless and stupid. In general, the ongoing disagreement between India and Pakistan and its ramifications is REALLY annoying and quite scary.
  • In general, I disapprove of a state ignoring its more unfortunate citizens and am concerned that private hand-outs might encourage this.
  • I’ve been very comfortable at this hotel and am quite keen to tip. Similarly, I’m happy to reward a night-watchman who helps keep my stuff safe.
  • I have no use or desire for any Indian Air-Force medals, except to pass on to military historians or collectors.

I’d very much appreciate any answers you have by this evening (10pm Indian time, which is 5.30pm UK time) because I told him I’d think about it and let him know tonight. If anyone reading this does want them, then I’m very happy to buy them on your behalf in return for appropriate recompense.

After this, I talked with the Iranian for a while and tried to ask him silverwhistle’s question but didn’t get anywhere. I did get a lesson in Persian (Farsi?) characters so it wasn’t a waste of time and, as usual, it’s useful to learn about my limitations, no matter how galling they may be at the time.

Tuesday 21st
Another abysmal night’s sleep, followed by another marathon cyber-cafe session! Thereafter back to the cricket!

EDIT
As of 2pm UK time (7.30pm here), I’ve had one response so far – thanks to the responder. I appreciate most of you are several hours from being able to respond. I have to admit to having snuck past the guard on my way to the cyber-cafe this evening.

I’ve also been pondering my reaction to plights here in comparison to my response to people in the UK who aren’t eligible for state support. I’m aware there is a contradiction in one important case and am not pleased with my inability so far to achieve a satisfactory resolution to this. I have thoughts about what I might do but this dis-satisfaction remains at least at the back of my mind, festering along with many other related issues.

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