Friday, May 26, 2006

And therein lies the thrilling problem...

I read once a few years back that when you get angry with someone, it's because they broke one of your rules. It seems too simple to be universally true, but in my experience it seems close. It's not very satisfying, though, when you've got a good heat going, to have to consider the possibility that the asshole who's ruining your life may not have the same set of rules that you do. A good righteous anger (and what anger isn't righteous in the throes of it?) doesn't have time for those subtleties. 
And therein lies the thrilling problem of traveling in India: I don't know the rules. Pointing the soles of your feet at the guru is bad form; peeing against the side of a building in public is not. When you're buying a train ticket, the guy behind you can stick his arm past you, and through the little hole in the window up to his shoulder - and the agent will take his money as though you weren't there. I don't have that long-arm exemption clause in my rulebook, but I can't get mad, because apparently that's acceptable here. So when can I get mad? I DON'T KNOW! And that's the problem.
But I exaggerate, on occasion. The word "problem" takes on a different meaning when such poverty and hardship is evident. The 11-hour bus ride getting to Delhi wasn't that bad, even though it was 15 hours. And though the brakes did work, not everyone's deodorant did. We had one moist blast of fragrant rancidity as a passenger changed his shirt in dramatic fashion right next to us - and that was before the bus had even left the station. (Was that against the rules? I have no idea.) I sat in four different seats during the trip, and three of them were broken. But I also slept surprisingly well, so I have no complaints.
One bit of conventional wisdom, if not a rule, is that you're not supposed to like Delhi. But in my first few hours here I was getting driven around by Manu, a barrel-chested little guy with a round face and a beatific, mischevious smile. He wanted to prove to me that it really wasn't 4km to the destination, as I'd claimed in my lame bargaining salvo. After half an hour of driving, he said, "Now you see? Do you think that was 4km? I not so wrong. I charge you a little too much, but I not so wrong!" I love Manu of the mischevious grin, in spite of it all, and it was 100 degrees and sweltering as we drove in his three-wheeled auto rickshaw. I thought, I'm really loving being here in Delhi. But where did that love spring from? Was it in Delhi? Was it in me, somehow apart from the Delhi that I was loving? Or did the love just arise in that moment, free of location that can be pointed to? Those are the kinds of thoughts I had driving around in Delhi. I got rides from Manu three days in a row, and we came to kind of an agreement: he would overcharge me - and I would pay it.
To answer some people's question about this mysterious Tower of Love person, Jennifer: she was on the same 17-day meditation retreat I was on recently, she really is 4'9" tall, and though we're not in a romantic relationship, our friends say we argue like we've been married for years. We'll have more chances to argue, because we're leaving Delhi tomorrow on a 21-hour train trip to Darjeeling. Frivolity and gnashing of teeth will surely follow.
Am I ever going to write about the trekking, he asked, wondering whether some rule was being broken...
Love, love, love,
There are ten photos below:
Not so typical traffic on a busy street in Delhi:
Love 1
Love 2
Love 3 (and 4, I guess!)
Love 5
Love 6
This man was proud of the fact that he's 64, and can still carry 200 pounds (90 kgs) on his back.
This was one of the monkeys that hung out near the retreat center in Sattal.
Love 7
After taking this photo, this gentleman invited us in for tea.
(The End)