Okay, so here’s me cribbing from Ritu’s page, because I sadly can’t remember the names of the places we’ve gone, and because I will be doing my best to post a good chunk of nice photos from the trip so far for all to enjoy.
Anyway, over the last few days we’ve done the following:
Dec 20: I arrived, stunned. John and Ritu picked me up at the airport, and then we went to the house, hung out a little, ate, and slept. Or that’s what I remember.
Dec. 21: I rested some, and we hung around the house, talking a lot. That night, we went over to the home of Ritu & John’s friend Hajib (Ajib? Ajiv? I’m not sure) and had drinks and dinner. I was, at this point, still slowly adjusting to the differences between Indo-English pronunciation and diction, and what I am used to. I was surprised to find, “I was like…” (as in, “I was saying…”) and “Yeah, man!” and especially the phrase “and all” (where I might say “et cetera” or “and so on”) to be in common use, the latter one because I’ve never seen it, the former two because I use them a lot myself and thought them dreadfully 1980s Canadian. It was a nice evening.
Dec. 22 (I think): Ritu, Koko, and I went to Qutb Minar (probably spelled wrong, of course). This is a big-ass tower built by a big-ass conqueror who wanted to show just how powerful he was. The tower was shrouded in fog but of course we le our fancy turn the smog to the mists of time, or something. The facades on the various buildings were exquisite, and I took a few closeup shots of them. There was also a very interesting iron pole that’s been standing for ages now, in the hot-humid-cold weather of Delhi, and neither rusted nor been knocked down, though it is scarred at the base from a failed British attempt to smash it down. Lots of pictures, including some with myself and Koko near the famous place where she once fell down (and wanted a picture to commemorate the event).
We also went to a bookshop, where I got an Iain Banks novel (mainly because it’s not gettable in Korea).
Dec. 23: I went in to Delhi with John and he got me a nice deal on a leather jacket. It was very kind of him! After that, we went to a fairly posh shopping area for foreigners, and stopped by a gigantic statue of Shiva that was on the way home, and quite impressive. There are a couple of pics of me around that, one before a small shrine to Shiva (I can’t remember if the lingam was present or not) and a few before the statue itself. It was freakin’ massive. That night, there was a party and with some of John and Ritu’s friends, Mama and Rosa. A lot of drinking, a lot of barbcued meat, a lot of Karaoke singing accompanied by John’s Noraebang machine. It was kind of surreal to hear Indian-accented voices singing North American pop songs to very characteristically Korean noraebang accompaniment. The world is dso very postmodern, isn’t it? I have a nice little video of Koko dancing while her Mamma sings, which I’ll post when I get the chance.
December 24: Oh, oh, hung over, yes. Yes. Ow. I tried to call home, and to Korea, but didn’t really succeed in getting through, hence my short message of Christmas greetings on my site. Christmas Eve was funny, hanging out and trying to see how well Koko could behave. One thing I goofed up was a glancing reference to remembering the time when I believed in Santa Claus, in front of Koko. John caught me and reminded me to ease off on that, and I realized I’m not used to kids speaking English anymore. I kind of assume little kids have no idea what I am saying, which is of course fine in Korea… but one of the first things I noticed (and said) about Koko is how good her English is. She’s a frightfully bright kid, and I can only begin to imagine the kind of person she’ll become later in life.
December 25: It’s Christmas, man. Quiet, hanging out, talking… A lot of relaxation and eating good food… especially John’s wonderful Korean food, but also some great Mughal-styled stuff (I think that was maybe actually the next day). I have really liked all the food we’ve had here.
December 26: We went into Delhi, to an enormous temple complex. I have a fair number of pictures from this… we actually went to two of the complexes among several along a street that John knew about. Having so many temples on one street is apparently quite unusual in Delhi, and let me tell you, they were impressive. Scale, scale, scale. I know they’re nothing next to the Taj Mahal, but you know Korean temples are so small and spare and ascetic compared to Indian ones.
I was surprised to find men sitting in several places in the temple, handing out sweets—essentially solidified sugar—which Ritu says is a token of the the gods’ blessings or favour, that sort of thing. We received what I think is called puja, a dab of red paste on our foreheads, and were (figuratively) dragged into worshipping two forms of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. I screwed up the waving-a-smoking-platter-clockwise bit, so I am keeping on a thread that was tied on during the ceremony, just in case it will keep me in her good books. You never know what might help, after all…
Dec. 27: Ritu and I went on walkabout in the ruins of the city built by Alaudin Khilji (12th century AD). It was really foggy (smoggy) and this somehow gave one to romanticizing the place, imagining the weight of history upon the place. Ritu went into the dank belows of the staircases for a bit, but returned before Koko could figure out I really wasn’t in control of her. Then I plunged down into the abyss of the ruins, and then up into the heights as well. Lots of pics from this day, as you’ll see soon. These ruins were just gorgeous.
Then we saw the India Gate and the old house of the Viceroy. The latter was obscured by smog, though the architecture of the gate itself was fascinating in its Britishness. The former we could only see from a distance, as terrorists have apparently threatened to blow it up. Isn’t that sad? On the way home, we hit another bookshop and then I got to see the Delhi police in action, stopping us for a bribe. The driver took a U-turn that wasn’t technically illegal, but which the cop claimed “was not good in heavy traffic”. Ritu told the cop she’d rather go to court than pay a bribe, and the cops argued with her a little… until finally, Koko began crying and they simply let us go. Now that is law enforcement at its finest, guys!
Dec. 28th: This was the day I went to the Old Fort with Ritu. We walked about in the areas where soldiers would have launched arrows and shot cannons down on invding armies, but what we saw out there was sweet, tranquil, silent landscape, not a human in sight. We ran into a woman who told us about coins from the times of the Pandavas (the folks in the Indian epic Mahabhrata, Ritu’s favorite story, I think), and about what the various parts of the fort were for. Of course there was a pack of children following us, as well, and meanwhile, John was rowing Koko about a pitifully small lake, getting his feet wet, the poor man. It was fascinating and just somehow mind-bending to be in a place with such a tremendously long and violent history, so calm and beautiful now.
Dec. 29th: This was a busy day, but amidst the hustle and bustle, I did see the Baha’i Lotus temple from afar (I declined going in as it’s apparently undecorated). Then, in the evening, Ritu accompanied me to a Bollywood movie titled Kal Ho Na Ho. I really enjoyed this film, let me tell you. I think I may even have a crush on the star, Preity Zinta. It had some great music and some hilarious moments, and the most shocking scene was when they all danced and sang a bhangra version of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman.
For those of you in Korea, no worries: I’ll be picking up a DVD so we can all enjoy this movie.
Dec. 30th: John and I went to a party. It was big and loud and I danced a lot. Sometimes I was dancing with middle-aged women, sometimes with younger ones, but the whole I night I had a pretty good time. The party was at Mama’s house, and it was full of Miso people, along with a few other foreigners who, like me, are associated with Dharamsala in some way. I apparently scared the heck out of some girl who I was chatting with nicely… I got so drunk she was shocked at it, John tells me. I must have been pretty drunk, because when Ritu called us on the way home (where, not being up to such a party on that day, she’d stayed with Koko) I asked her in mid-conversation, “Am I speaking in English or Korean?” I think I have a few phone numbers and emails in my book from then… aha, yes. Even a cute girl’s one. What would I do with that? Ah well, it’s not bad, for a tourist, eh? The highlight of the night was hearing Korean karaoke (noraebang) music sung along to with an Indian accent, while a dozen or more middle aged people danced joyfully. People love to dance inside their houses here. I’m trying to pretend it’s not a culture shock for me, because I actually like the idea somewhat.
Dec 31st: This day was pretty quiet, because John and I were dreadfully hung over. He took me for a shave and head massage, which was a profound experience. Late in a hangover, it’s almost as good a haejanguk and a trip to the sauna (Korean hangover remedies, those are…). The masseuse massaged not only my scalp but also my neck, spine, and arms. It was pretty intense and it cleared my head, for sure.
We ended up going to a party at Sanjit’s, a far different sort of party. The music was more of the Punjabi style, meaning a lot of bhangra (Indo-stye techno/pop) and the food was more of the barbecued style. It was more intimate, which was nice, but it was more of a two-families partying together thing, and instead of having young cute women to chat with I had a teenaged boy who wanted to show off his collection of wrestling stickers. Still, Sanjit was nice to me, and abundantly generous with his liquor. He even gave me a few MP3 CDs of Punjabi music to keep and savour. There are some funny photos from when we were barbecueing and dancing, which I’ll soon post.
Toward the end of the evening, while we were setting off fireworks out in the street, Koko began to wander too close to the place where her father was setting off the crackers. I was worried, so I picked her up, and then just kept her up. She seemed heavy, but not too much of a strain… at the time. But on the way home I realized I’d hurt my back, actually hurt it. More on that the next day…
Jan 1, 2004: What a way to start the new year: stuck in bed. That’s right, I pulled a muscle in my back lifting Koko. When I woke, I couldn’t walk unless I took on the posture of a grandpa. Pitiful. It freakin’ hurt. Ritu and I watched two Bollywood movies, Monsoon Wedding and another, the title of which I forget but which happens to be one of Bruce Sterling’s favorites (and Ritu’s, I think).
Jan 2: More quiet and relaxing. We went out in the afternoon for lunch, John and Koko and I (Ritu stayed home, tired), and had some South Indian food which was wonderful. Then John and I watched Scarface until the power went out. I finally went to the doctor (it cost about $10 for the visit and the medications, which are just pain killers and muscle relaxants. I feel like a dumbass. But, in a few days I should be okay…
That brings us to date. Tomorrow I am guessing more Bollywood film and bedrest, as well as trying to upload some photos so people can have a look at all of this that I’m blathering about. But before sleeping I want to say, back pain nonwithstanding, this has been an amazing trip for me. The hospitality, kindness, and frankly the sanity of being here with John and Ritu and Koko has been so refreshing for me. I just wish I wasn’t bent like a grandpa right now.
Now, I should get to bed. My back still hurts, and I need bedrest.