Mahabaleshwar meanderings

When Mood Music
2006-04-01 21:21:00

Before I get on with the blogging, are any of the Leckie/Granada folk reading this? If so, can someone ask one of my former Scottish colleagues to contact me privately, please? (Text me on 07909 504328 or add a ‘for Bruce only’ comment to this post if possible.) I’ve tried emailing and not yet recieved a reply. Of course this may be due to spam filtering by my ISP…

OK, on with my diary’s drivel…

Sunday 26th
Woke a few times in the night – hello to Roachie the roach!
10am surface, put on clean clothes – including brand-new socks and shirt
It ain’t half hot mum!
Ear-cleaning [this bit censored to avoid over-embarrassment and prevent any of the squeamish amongst my audience puking]
No power just now so no internet. It may be restored at 11am or maybe at 12 noon (er, actually it came back at 1pm.
Now in CentrePoint, a ‘pure veg, pure Jain’ fast food joint. It’s quite posh, judging by the nice details in the concrete décor, the clothes and girths* of the customers, the clean tables – think of a posh diner in the US.
*There are actually some fat people (other than me) here.

I’m eating masala dosa (crispy rice-flour pancakes) with green chutni. The chutni is basically a lovely tangy, spicy/citrus variant on bubble-and-squeak (using mustard seeds, onions and fresh coriander/cilantro leaf) and is wrapped up in the dosa, which is served with a small bowls of what tastes like oxtail soup and a coconut-based dip. It’s purely delicious!

Some kids are playing on the next table – wish I could play with them. I’m badly missing Boo, M-J and the flower garden. I realize more than ever how much I need more than ‘single-serving’ friends. [Of course I have them but today brought home just how much I need these relationships.]

Just recalled seeing in Mumbai a poster advertising an Indian remake of Fight Club

I pay with a 500 rupee note which causes problems for the cashier who has to run for change. The bill is printed with a dot-matrix printer on a 3-inch wide roll. My chai has worked – need to amble back to my hotel…

Wondered around more, getting very confused by the map I’d bought. Eventually, by locating 3 definite landmarks, I realized that the cartographer had moved 3 hotels a block east. Since these seemed to be obvious landmarks, I’d navigated by them – and got hassled.

I found a school and a well. Two old blokes came up, each carrying two five(?)-gallon containers on yokes over their shoulders. They would attach one to the well-spindles rope, let it down to fill, raise it 10 metres (estimated from the spindle’s circumference and the number of turns to raise the containers), empty its contents into the other, refill the first one, untie it from the spindle-rope and then attach both to their yoke and walk off. Since both looked over 60 and one smelt of shit and I had the luxury of bottled water (stop me from buying it, please!), it seemed reasonable to offer to help them at least raise their water while I waited for a local tailor to shorten my other trousers.

I was also curious why they used the well when there was a pump across the road, which a trio of young girls were using to get drinking water and to wash themselves and their crockery. One even got her mates to pump water inside the back of her trousers so she could wash her backside. I was impressed by she did this without losing any decorum. The went away and another little girl came up to me, asking me by gestures to fill her water container. I took her container to the pump and found out it’s harder work than the well. I also pumped water to fill a middle-aged woman’s container (about 3 gallons). She then hoisted it up on her head and walked smoothly away. They build them tough here!

I took my altered trousers and map (I’d also gotten the main part xeroxed so I could fold it into my pocket) back to my hotel and then wondered back to tinklers to try the cyber café again. Another power-cut!

Another little girl begged for some food. I had no coins and was getting a bit hacked off with it but not enough to refuse so I saw a solution in a stall selling small coconuts. I bought two (they were 7 rupees each) and gave her one and she scampered away. I also asked the stall-keeper to open mine and he directed me to the temple next door. The attendant there beckoned me into the central altar and whacked my coconut with a curved knife/trowel until it broke into two unequal pieces. He then put the large part on the altar and sent me away with the small part and so I sat outside the temple, eating the delicious flesh from this part and writing my diary.

Eventually I was hungry and went back to Centrepoint for more food: this time a special Jain pav bhaji (fried bread rolls to dunk in a spicy sauce) and realized that I AM TWOFLOWER.* I am also an idiot, putting myself in a place where there are many very attractive women with whom I can’t even start a conversation!
*Read Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels if you want to know.

I then watched the sunset from Mumbai point – my photos are quite fun and the sunset itself was pleasant, and then got monstered on a bottle of Khahuraho lager (not less than 8.75% alcohol) in a permit room. I have to insist that I was not as monstered as the two blokes in the corner who’d majored on shorts.

Suitably steaming, I wove my way back to Vishva Shanti…

Monday 27th
Trying to learn Marathi – arggh! I’ve been taken under the wing of a local big-wig who runs a clock and watch retail and repair stall. He’s Haji Khwajabhai Warunkar of Reward Watch Service, Mutton Market Street (near police station), Mahabaleshwar, District Satara, Maharashtra, 410012, India and is keen to help me but I don’t think it’s getting through.

He’s bought me an ‘uncool pee’ (you can transliterate that into Devanagari yourself if you want – it means little book) which shows how the letters are formed and gives examples of their use in words, with vaguely useful illustrative pictures for some of them. (Well, is a picture of a steam-engine meant to mean ‘steam-engine’, ‘railway’, ‘day-trip’ or ‘John Prescott’s worst nightmare’?) Despite his keen-ness to teach me, which I do respect, it’s not getting through:

  • He simply shouts the Marathi if I get it wrong, without really telling me what I’ve got wrong and not letting me explain my questions, such as ‘which bit am I getting wrong?’ ‘Please say it slowly so I can hear the differences?’
  • Too many other folk are trying to help me at the same time with bits I’m not actually having problems with at this particular time.
  • The script is a nightmare:
    1. There are several symbols for consonantal sounds that sound exactly the same to me.
    2. If two consonants or consonantal syllables follow each other, they’re written as a single symbol combining parts of the two single-consonant symbols. Because there are 34 single-consonant symbols, there are 1122 combination symbols and I haven’t yet seen the rules which allow me to analyse them into single-consonant symbols.
    3. The 12 vowels are written either as their own symbols (if they start a word) or as ‘accents’ above, below, behind or in front of symbol for the consonant after which they’re said, thus meaning there are 12 variations on each single-consonant symbol (and hence 13464 symbols altogether). If no vowel-accent is present, a short ‘a’ is understood to be there (unless there’s an ‘accent’ denoting that this ‘a’ sound isn’t to be pronounced).
    4. All the tops of the symbols in a word are joined by a line, thus eliminating the gaps between symbols that help us parse ‘roman’ script.
  • Transliteration is also, er, a bit random. For example, a word I hear as ‘now’ means ‘name’. Yet it’s transliterated as ‘nawa’, which Haji Khwajabhai insists is pronounced ‘by the English’ as ‘now’ and won’t accept that of the two of us, I must the expert on English because
    1. it’s my native language
    2. part of my job (and a part at which I am quite skilled) is proofreading and correcting English.

Having said all this, I am very grateful to Haji Khwajabhai for volunteering his time, introducing me to some of his work and local vegetarian foods and his patience with an apparent no-hoper. (As of now (1st April), I can just about pronounce most short words in street-signs, if you’ll accept that I’m guessing at most of the vowels.)

I later met one of Haji Khwajabhai’s friends who took me to his home for chai and chat. His (adult) eldest son showed me their new-born kittens who were nestling with their mother under the bed – so cute I could almost begin to like cats!

That’s all I appear to have dialysed that day. It’s now 10.30 and I want to get a reasonable night’s sleep, so will blog some more tomorrow. See you anon, space-cats.


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