Sunday, January 01, 2006

Slam-Dancing with the Sikhs

House of the Rising Monks

The net was down all day long all over McLeod on New Year's Eve, and phone lines were so jammed it was a miracle that I got my reservation to Hyderabad. My saviour came in the form of an AirDeccan employee who promised he would "do the needful." Once an Indian says that, they really mean it, and you know your troubles are over.

Later attempts to phone people for New Year's greetings were all stymied. I couldn't get a hot bath until 2pm. Nor could I get through to the Andhra number for the Norbulingka Institute (the people running Kalachakra) to upgrade my accomodations. So, those are my excuses for not sending out timely New Year's greetings.

Getting practically nothing done took most of the day. How is it that, no matter what other amenities are down (phone, net, hot water), the damned TV showing Hindi movies always works? The TV did provide a diversion while hitting redial to the airline all afternoon and gave me a friendly way to pass the time with the little fellow who runs the net-phone-travel shop ("Who's that - Madhuri Dixit? Which film is this?"). (Here, public phones are usually on a desk in a small shop, which often is home to an internet service, among other things. Since there are frequently delays and interruptions in service, when the phone doesn't go through, you can always try the net, and when the net isn't working, you can watch TV. When nothing's working you go out and get chai for everyone, bring it back and talk about what you're going to do when the power comes back on.)

This ensured that just a couple phone calls turned into an entire day's stress. So after tea at McLlo's, we all went to see Monty Python's the Life of Brian. By the time it had finished McLeod Square was chock-full of drunken Punjabis slam-dancing to bhangra music. It was quite colourful to watch all the bright turbans bouncing (pink, orange, red, baby blue) bouncing round in a mini mosh-pit. McLlo's had actually pulled the gate shut to keep the rowdies from flooding the place, but as we're regulars they recognized us. We shared the upstairs with a fair number of bewildered-looking Indian families on holiday, the girls and ladies very cute with their knit toboggan caps matching their salwar suits.

Tom, Toto, the Swedish Guy, the Finnish Guy, two beautiful Australian girls whose names I didn't get, Tim and Tam (yes, there was a Tom, Tim, Toto, and Tam) and I watched the amateur fireworks at the bus stand from the relative safety of our upstairs aerie. We drowned out the crappy boy-band music the restaurant was playing by screaming along to Dylan songs Tim played on his guitar. No one could remember how many verses "House of the Rising Sun" really has.

At midnight all the Punjabi Sikh boys (some of whom had infiltrated the upstairs) went wild jumping up and down chanting "East or West, Punjab is the Best." (Where are all the Sikh women, I wondered?) Rather than big romantic kisses at midnight, the fashion here seems to be to shake the hand of every single person in the room. The Australian girls made our table the most popular handshaking target by far.

Happy New Year! and to all those friends and well-wishers who sent their kind thoughts and wishes for didn't do a damn bit of good, please send cash for 2006.

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