Thursday, September 17, 2015

From ‘Don't Ask Any old bloke for directions. A Biker's whimsical journey across India’ by P G Tenzing

That was my life. Spent in groping around areas I didn’t know or care about. And having to deal with the vicious in-fighting that goes on inside every government I have ever served.

Dechen went out yesterday to a celebration of the Gurung New Year, and met a clouded leopard on the way. The way to greet a leopard around here is to scream bloody murder and run like hell. The cat eschews the screaming part but runs like hell in the other direction.

The number of accidents on Kerala’s roads is one of the highest per capita in India. The obvious reasons are narrow roads, habitation throughout the road length, too many vehicles, over-speeding and drunken driving. Over-speeding is the crux of the matter, and here the typical Malayali ego trip comes into play: I can drive faster and better than any fucker on the road.

The traffic eases as I reach the district of Palghat. I see a man pee on the side of the road. This is the rarest of rare sights in Kerala because of the density of population – and the general absence of the penile exhibitionism rampant everywhere in the country. I stop the bike and pee in joyful brotherhood with him.

Food. Food in Kerala is to die for. Fish, chicken, pork, beef, whatever, all cooked in delectable coconut oil. Except putte – a rice-based cylindrical piece of poison which can choke you during breakfast. I suspect this dish was created to get rid of guests who overstay.

Tamils are extremely courteous, Everybody is a Sir. A young woman on a scooter told me that my side-stand was up. The only unknown woman to engage with me on her own initiative throughout the journey – if you discount the obscene gesture made to me by a prostitute somewhere in north India.

Tai Chi has always fascinated me. ….Looks easier than it is. Much easier. The system is very hard on the hips and the balance required is phenomenal.

I’d replaced the jeans I’d worn earlier with baggy cotton pants. Jockeys, I found, were the best undergarments, because even a minor crease around the posterior can play havoc after a few hours. At times I’ve had to raise myself from the bike to give air and solace to the weeping twins.

The government services are generally reviled by the chattering classes and, at times, rightly so. However, in defence of the services, I have to say that many officers work hard and honestly under extremely adverse conditions and still make a difference in the lives of some of the poor of our land. That is the gospel truth. I swear I have seen saints at work who could make you feel worthless. On the flipside, there are also those ghouls who enter into a macabre dance with pot-bellied netas.

I was to live in a village with the Santhal and Kolha tribes……The staple diet is mostly watery rice with salt. A special occasion is marked with a feast of boiled edible leaves from the forest along with raw onion and chilly. And most of the work is done by women, while the men drink the blues away. …..The strange thing about this village is the cleanliness. No garbage. They have nothing to buy from the markets, so there is no refuse. There are no cats and dogs in the village, because there is no food for them. They would be competition, in fact, for a source of protein: field mice. This is a part of India we rarely see or hear about. There are millions of such people without hope. I sense a great betrayal from our side. ……An enduring image of my visit to Bhalupani was that of an old lady leaning on a walking stick, carrying water to her hut from a well. Back and forth. Again and again. She had no relatives and survived on handouts from the villagers.

Kolkata is a crazy place. Its premier football clubs have different fish as mascots, and the price of these in the market shoots up or falls with a thud depending on which team is the winner of the match on a given day.

The guy has spent his life in the pursuit of sex and the conclusions he’s drawn from his experiences. ….his theories….having sex with your wife daily ensures her fidelity to you; the act of sex is the best exercise because every part of the body is involved (including yanking at your partner’s hair, which constitutes a scalp massage); the trick to finding out if a woman is faking an orgasm is to look for a faint flush on her chest; women are horniest after eleven in the night; the way to delay ejaculation is to press the depression between the asshole and the balls.

A Buddhist funeral in Sikkim is one messy and long affair. The mourning period is a full forty-nine days. In between, we had to take Dad’s ashes to Bodhgaya …..the holiest place for Buddhists. I felt a blast of energy pass through me inside the main temple. I have never been the same since. Don’t ask me what happened that day. I don’t know, except that it was Dad’s parting gift to me……

Stay in the smaller hotels outside town because you will always get a room. It will be cheaper than the central places, and you will be treated well by the staff.

I know that there is a divide between the honest and dishonest officers in all the states. The honest ones are losing the battle on a daily basis. Some stay and fight every single day. Others look away and manage to keep their own noses clean. Some are looking for a way of moving out of the system somehow.

There is a serious lack of policy-makers in this country, a paucity of long-term thinking, and of think-tanks…..somehow, the country stumbles along.

He was the type of singer who looked deep into your eyes, probing for signs of adulation.

At an accident site near Purnea town, hundreds of people had gathered on the national highway. They had burnt a truck that had mowed down three pedestrians, and were throwing rocks at the policemen at duty. India at work. I quietly slipped away.
Two other sights on that stretch stayed etched in my mind. One was the lines of bare, shitting asses all along the highway…. What with the floodwaters raging below them, there was nowhere else for these poor people to go. The other was scores of dogs run over by trucks on the road, both in Bihar and Bengal.

A study of the bureaucracy would reveal a surprising number of clinically depressed people – roughly 25 per cent, I’d say. All of them square pegs hammered into round holes.

The chicken-neck to Assam was a long and ….wet ride. Passing through the tribal countryside was interesting. Women looked you in the eye boldly. This was a change for me.

I meet Keralites all over the country at the oddest places.

I got talking to the waiter with the grand name of Morning Star. One of the attractive things about people in Meghalaya is that you never know what sort of name will next be sprung at you. From Evening Star, Hopping Stone, General and Captain to Oneboxstar and Cabinet.

Contrary to popular belief, mindless violence does not happen all the time in Bihar. I was greeted and treated well in that state of earthy people. You just didn’t act funny with them – or you lay yourself open to losing a limb or two.

The roads in south India are far better than those in most of the rest of the country.

I wonder why nuns have to look so serious. Loving Jesus should make them smile.

Today, on the west coast road, was a day without public transport and I was happy to give lifts to people who asked. Unlike some other states, Kerala provides a safe community and there was no hesitation on my part.

Goa is very different to the rest of India. The religion, dress, the emancipation of women, its architecture and its ocean of bars, all set it apart. The roads are narrower but well kept.

…Rajasthan…I landed in Beawar. I found the people of the region simple, with an innate sense of hospitality.

No comments: