The best tangible and edible things in life…

When Mood Music
2006-05-26 11:14:00

… include samosas, banana bhajis and parapuwadai (not sure of the spelling but they’re patties of gram flour and sweetcorn, fried to a light brown crisp) and black tea from a wee stall just across the border in the Tamil Nadu part of Kumily.


"" parapuwadai
"" chai and deep-fried-delights stall

Amongst the intangibles, a fairly high one is being given the address of the beedi stall next to the food stall and the owner’s name. I have no idea why she gave me this: we’d hardly spoken. Yet again I wish I had taken the time to learn some Tamil!

"" ‘Ms Beedi’ and her mum

Among the low spots, a significant one is this morning’s (Friday 26th May) disagreement with my hotel over the number of items of laundry they are due to return, partly because I was implicitly accused of not being able to count past 4. It got more insulting when the laundry bloke discounted the list he’d watched me write and agreed with as I put the items into a bag for him to take away.

Oh well, nice things yesterday included

  • walking around Kumily, drawing a sketchmap of the streets and trying to photograph as much of the town as possible so a friend who was here over ten years ago can see how it’s changed since then
  • encountering an elephant in my peregrinations
    "" It still seems sick to me that this poor beastie is chained up and has to endure carrying humans.


  • sheltering from heavy rain under the eaves of a house and being joined a few children who wanted to talk
  • being met by a bloke called Osaka who had an umbrella which kept us reasonably dry on the way to the warmth and dryness of a local chai shop*. He also sheltered us under it on the way back to the town centre – bless you sir!

*This is where I first encountered parapuwadai. I was also introduced to Osaka’s mate who was smoking what appeared at first to be a regular beedi. However it looked a little fatter than normal and didn’t have the tiny piece of thread that is a feature of regular beedis. This man showed me that he uses the wrapper leaves to construct joints, presumably because beedis are dirt cheap (1 rupee for 10: 1 rupee will only buy 1 filterless ‘Scissors’-brand cigarette) and cigarette papers are rare and expensive here.

Osaka’s mate told me about prices for cannabis here:

  • ‘Marijuana’ (dried leaves and flowers) costs 25 rupees per gram if you buy only a few tolas* but 10 rupees per gram if you buy a kilogram or more.
  • ‘Charas’ (resin) costs 100 rupees per gram if you buy small amounts. (I couldn’t understand his many quotes for the price of large amounts.)
  • Cannabis oil** is also available but it’s even more expensive.

*the weight of a silver rupee: near enough 10 grams
**I have no idea how to use this: perhaps you’re meant to get your vehicle stoned and have a really wild trip to the nearest casualty department.

Osaka’s mate wasn’t at all upset when I told him I didn’t want to buy anything after this discussion: other vendors have tried much harder, claiming that they’re offering me good prices. It takes a while to get them to understand that I don’t want what they’re offering at any price.

Today I’m going to carry on mapping and photographing Kumily. It’s very interesting to see what lies behind the ‘tourist facade’ – I’m always curious about what is ‘really going on’.


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