So I haven’t blogged in a while, but we are still sort of alive. It’s not that the holidays were particularly time consuming or that nothing happened, but basically it seems like the entire town of Mumbai is getting new roads (and even some sidewalks) these days, so traffic has been, well, even worse. In fact, I’ve been heeding Ksenia’s advice and now let Deepak drive me home then and again – and even he has been quietly complaining about the traffic. They basically ripped open everything left, right and middle between home and work and are slowly starting from scratch. With hammers and little buckets of concrete carried by women in flip-flops, mind you, but there’s plenty of those around, so I guess it could be slower.
Of course, people still like to double park wherever they please and rickshaws still like to wait for customers practically in the middle of the road, and everyone still loves to make a u-turn against all odds, blocking all traffic in both directions. Nevermind the hawkers and slum dwellings that seem to re-appear within days on the shiny new sidewalks, pushing the pedestrians into the road. Anyways, I’ve been getting wild fantasies of running over rickshaws, pedestrians and little children, so I guess that was sort of a sign that maybe I should let Deepak drive then and again.
The holidays were pretty much non-existing. No snow, no Christmas trees (apart from plenty of fake ones in malls and stranger places), no days off, a busy business trip to Kanpur between Christmas and New Year, it was not the best birthday for little Jesus. It got a lot worse when we went to church on Christmas eve and the church choir started to sing, because not a single one of the 10 singers could get out a straight note. In fact, they were all solidly atrocious. Nevertheless, the church was packed to the hilt, people practically sitting on our laps, the fully unmemorable sermon and the, entirely dysfunctional sound system nonwithstanding.
Speaking of sound systems, we have yet to see an event where they use some sort of sound system that actually works. It is a given that there will be ear splitting feedbacks, crackling drop-outs, and some sound technician jumping around trying to fix the unfixable. Of course, if and when it does work, usually for a few seconds at a time, the volume is turned up to deafening levels, probably to make up for whatever was missed during the drop-outs.
But what else is new? Well, for starters, our apartment is missing a large mirror, a curtain rod, and the rod for the terrace awning. All gone since the last days of renovation while we were gone to Kerala. Instead, one wall is already leaking moisture again, and the awing has got a nice little hole now. That hole is new, courtesy of our neighbor who for some reason dropped a heavy steel kitchen utensil from her balcony. I have no idea how that utensil is called, suffice to say that it ripped straight through the awning and would certainly have killed anyone who might have happened to sit under the awning. Maybe when people talk about spiritual India what they really mean is that these sorts of things don’t even faze you all that much any more.
Or maybe they mean people like Deepak, our driver. He is the only one working in his family of mother, wife, kid, and two brothers, but he’s always in a good mood. He had tried to get a job in the army but was too slow a runner, and he tried to get a job with the police, but can’t afford the ridiculously high bribes required for that – $3000 or so, he says, and even that doesn’t guarantee a job; they might just keep the money. So now he’s a driver, and he says: my job no future, but I enjoy. Of course, the big attraction to a position with the police would be the large extra income in bribes, but we can’t even imagine him being able to take a bribe, he just seems more like the type who’d be happy to make the world a better place by standing at some road junction detangling traffic jams.
Anyways, he went out of his way to buy Ksenia a flower for Christmas, and we love him. At Rs7000 a month for five days a week, we are paying him a bit more than the standard Rs5000 or so for six days a week, but I think we’ll make him a big present when we leave, and I am not even sure he would take money. Our maid, by the way, has already asked us whether she can come with us back to New York, and if it weren’t so decadent and illegal, we’d actually be tempted, because she is great as well, even though she was very upset when we got back from Kerala and said to Ksenia: Oh my God, you are turning black! Madam, you have to use bleach creme!
One thing that isn’t illegal, but should be are Bollywood movies. The other day we made another desperate attempt at finding some quality entertainment and so we got Salaam Namaste, which was a big hit last year and apparently caused a bit of a circus, because it features a live-in relationship. Bottom line is, it’s simply and utterly unwatchable crap. How on earth anyone above the age of four can find this stuff funny is totally beyond me. It’s not even Louis De Funes or Jerry Lewis kind of stupid funny, it’s just painfully atrociously unbelievable not funny. It’s way beyond so unfunny that it even passed any chance of becoming funny in a twisted kind of way again. That’s how bad it is, and, yes, that’s pretty bad.
But enough of that. Wednesday is a holiday. I don’t even know which one, really, but we are off to the South again, until Sunday. We might have cramped our itinerary a bit too much, but the plan is to go to Nrityagram near Bangalore, then to Mysore, two nights in Mudumalai, via some weird mountain railway and a night express train to Kanchipuram, and then back home via Chennai.