I wanted to post this one a little while ago. I feel like many of my blog entries are dark and heavy and about serious things, like mentally-ill homeless people or starving children. I am actually also doing and seeing fun, light-hearted things in India. A quick photogallery of some of those things:
A hilarious shirt that I saw for sale in Delhi. I have seen some prize-winning shirt slogans here, including several sightings of “Being Human” as well as below a small cartoon of a pregnant woman, “Mary Had A Little Lamb. The Doctor Was Surprised.”
There was also this excellent book title on a shelf in Darjeeling, i.e., the one about MBAs. Paging Becca Russell-Einhorn, Natalie Rubin and Rhiannon Kopynec… 🙂
Here’s my favorite local kati roll maker in Kolkata whipping up my lunch, a double egg roll. It’s not an egg roll like you’re picturing: it’s a thin layer of bread, roti, cooked with scrambled eggs inside it, then rolled up with onions, chilis, and hot sauces. Delicious. Cost 22 rupees (about 40 cents).
Mendhi design! Aka henna, as we call it in the States.
This story is slightly less fun as I was pretty badly ripped off for this design and also was told I was buying food for hungry children only to realize I was falling for a pretty routine scam run on Sudder Street (in Kolkata) and that the food would probably be resold and the money would likely go to an organized crime syndicate of some kind. But — I did want a good menhdi design, and I did get a good menhdi design. It’s only really fully disappeared in the past day, so it lasted about 2.5 weeks, which is pretty good.
It was Wed. night, the night before the volunteers’ day off, and we were celebrating with a few beers on the roof when one of the sisters materializes with a rail-thin white girl. Draped over her shoulders, in addition to the requisite backpack, are two huge sparkly hula hoops. Somehow — I really don’t remember the story — she was in Kolkata without either money or a room to stay in. Maybe she had a couple hundred rupees. Anyway, she found the motherhouse and the nuns helped her by directing her to my friend who had a spare bed in her room.
So this girl sits down. We start with the standard traveler questions: What’s your name? Chloe. Nice to meet you, Chloe. Where are you from? “That’s…complicated,” she says in a light British accent. She has an English passport but mostly grew up in France. Several of us on the roof (the group is two Americans, a Mexican, a German guy, and a Swiss guy) speak French and the conversation flows between English and French for the next few hours. We offer her a drink. She offers us weed that she picked by the side of the road somewhere in northern India. Of course.
We are wondering how Chloe has ended up on the roof of our hotel here in Kolkata with enormous sparkly hula hoops and virtually no money. She explains that she spent the past year traveling across Asia with two friends, earning money as they go through street performance. She refers to the group as a small traveling circus. Hence the sparkly hoops. We ask Chloe for a performance. She’s pretty good. Kevin, the other American, gives them a spin too.
Chloe explains that she’s due back in Bangkok in a few days. I’m a little fuzzy on how she got to Kolkata with almost no money or awareness that rooms here generally cost more than 100 rupees (about $1.80) a night. But it doesn’t matter, because this is the quintessential Indian travel experience and one of the things I love about India. These are exactly the kind of people you meet here. You’re just having a drink on the roof with some friends and someone materializes with a circus act en route to Thailand. Sure! Of course!
Oh. Did I mention that Chloe the traveling circus girl, with the homepicked weed, is 18? Years old?