Ha, just when you thought that my true intentions of blogdom was to shamelessly post pictures of me with cute kids, BAM, I give you something of substance.
Well, not really, but at least this blog is devoid of any picture that would make you coo.
Now, I must concede that my realm of expertise is minimal, mainly lying within Pac-Ten football, the Portland Trailblazers, and certain types of hip music. I unfortunately cannot even add India to the mix given that what I mainly know is geographically situated in the North, a culture that is surprisingly different than the south of the country.
That being said, I occasionally catch a few cringe worthy generalization about India, about religion, poverty, snake charming, and the dabbling of orientalist exoticism. While there maybe some truth is some statements that I have heard, but it is almost impossible to make such generalizations, given that there are thousands of different sides of India.
That being said, yesterday, I had an experience the other day that definitely fit nicely into a stereotype; the shitshow bus ride. While I had been countering with my experiences in Uttarakhand, where, sure, the drivers are reckless, amped up on amphetamines, and hurriedly whip around dangerous roads at reckless speeds, but inside the buses tend to be pretty mild; no rooftop sitting, etc. This particular experience gave me pause about my refutation of such stereotype.
In the mountain, the bus provides a vital lifeline to anywhere outside the village. Meager incomes are preventative for most to purchase motorcycles or cars and rented taxis are quite expensive. Shared taxis are a bit more expensive and only travel short distances. Therefore, the majority are reliant on very infrequent buses and very limited in space. If one were to miss a bus, plans could be shifted for an entire day. This produces a certain kind of desperation in many a bus rider.
So this ride started casually enough, I caught an isle seat next to a dapper young man traveling from the plains. After a couple stops, an older man, presumably an old teacher, boarded the bus, the the young man in a flash, vacated his seat out of veneration for his elder. The very next stop, the older man got off the bus, but instead of the young man retrieving his old seat, a fat sannyasi pushed him out of the way, crawled over me and took the window spot. Sannyasis are pretty rad, they leave all worldly possessions, adopt an wardrobe of saffron robes, and take oaths to live a spiritual, typically ascetic lifestyle. When they are good, they are good, but my close proximity to Rishikesh, international pseudo-spiritual capital (e.g. the Beatle's lived in an ashram there for a time), I have met far too many fake Sannyasis out to earn a quick buck off spiritually incline, but Indian naive tourists. This Sannyasi was suspect; his numerous fat rolls could barely be contained by his robe, long tufts of body hair wafted through the taught saffron, wicked with profuse amounts of sweat,, intense eyes perched below his curly receding hairline. After a while, he tried to speak to me, 'Conetree?' 'Mein Amerika se aaya hun.' 'Name?' 'Chad.' 'Yew come India?' 'Han ji, Mein aajkal Bhaarat mein rahta hun.' Done. I was probably showing visible distain for the sweat marks he was leaving on my teeshirt, so he left the conversation. He instead pick out his cellphone from his purse and partook in a very loud and seemingly angry conversation.
During the Sannyasi era, the bus aisles were getting more and more crowded. I was getting worried that we wouldn't be able to pick up any more passengers, but we hit a sort of critical mass when all emptied the aisle for the roof. While some opted to use the ladder in the back, many more, vying for the coveted front or foot dangling side seats, used open window, pushing away the elbows of those lucky to obtain an indoor spot, jumping to the top. By the next stop, the aisle was again full.
As we approached the town, the Sannyasi saw an opportunity to be the first off the bus, he literally slided over me, luckily my body was covered with his sweat which made for an easy glide, and squeezed through the crowded aisle. I grabbed the window seat and a nice early-twenties lady with her adorable baby sat next to me. Oh, sweet reprieve.
At that moment, a very elderly man made his way to the back of the bus near my seat. It took me a while to notice a baby goat baaahing at his knees, the poor thing looked so confused and apparently hungry. The lady next to me had fallen asleep, and the goat utilized the opportunity to start eating her pants. I tried my best to shoo him away, but he kept coming back for more of that tasty saalwar. Eventually, the old man gave the goat a whack with his stick, which seemed to curb his appetite.
Gaining the window seat revealed the part of the journey that I love most, the breathtaking views of the Himalayas and Ganges. But it also revealed the unsavory bits of the window seat. "Raindrops on my arm? But it's sunny out. Wait, I didn't know rain could have orange chunks in it. Why does that Auntie three seats ahead of me have half of her body out the window? Oh yeah, she is retching out her morning paranthas…onto my arm. lovely"
There it is, it does exist, crazy shitshow busrides. I'll let that one generalization slide for the moment, while I clean off the auntie vomit and sannyasi sweat. (Sidenote: When I return home, I am starting a drum&bass techno dance band called Sannyasi Sweat)