"I Know Cheap and Best"
While I recover slowly from my general achy-breaky, nameless malaise, Vijay and I are here working late at Subramanyam's Sri Net Shoppe in the Indian Mayberry - that is, Brodipet, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.
Subramanyam, the shoppe proprietor, is named after the Hindu god who is extremely popular here in South India. He (the proprietor, not the god) has the best net shoppe in the neighborhood because it's a fast connection and he charges only 10Rs an hour (about 24 cents). We type furiously on semi-sticky keyboards, listening to Hindu devotional music. It's a nice change from the hyper-active Hindi film scores. Technicolour images of Indian deities peer down benevolently from the walls, between posters of naive oil painting landscapes with slogans like "Only people can make a house into a home." My favourite is, "Things don't change...you change your way of looking, that's all." Or in Indian terminology, Adjust (pron. "Add-just").
Subramanyam's (the god, not the proprietor) major holiday is coming up on February 11 - Thai Poosam. It's famous for the ardent devotees who pierce their bodies, especially their tongues, with vel (long-handled spears) after going into trances. As far as I know Thai Poosam is celebrated only in South India (along with Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and other places of Tamil immigration). Maybe I can witness this holiday in Tamil Nadu.
The ceiling fans disperse whiffs of incense from the evening arati (prayers offered at opening time and again around 6pm). In this case, Subramanyam offers arati to his Shirdi Sai Baba shrine - just a wooden shelf tacked up in the far corner, with a poster of the Marathi holy man. Baba needs some fresh flowers - the marigold garland someone gave him a few weeks ago is now dried into crispy potpourri.
Till I fully recover, here's a word from the US Embassy in Kathmandu:
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) bandh remains in effect until February 11, 2006. The seven-political party alliance has called for a "blackout" from 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, February 7, 2006. During the blackout there is a risk that houses showing lights may be attacked with rocks or bricks. The Embassy has also received reports that telephones may be disconnected for 48 hours, starting sometime Tuesday, February 7, 2006.
...And now - a Special Guest Star! - "DalBhattTakari," a Nepali correspondent who writes under this name from Kathmandu, since criticism of His Majesty's Government is officially a crime punishable by law.
(Dal Bhatt Takari - aka lentils, rice and vegetables - is the name of the national dish of Nepal; 26 million Nepalis eat this twice a day.)
from DBT, our Man on the Street in Nepal:
It is 6.30 pm in Kathmandu. Because of the killing of a taxi driver last night in Patan I saw fewer taxis in the streets today. Life has been severely affected on the third day of the bandh (general strike). Still not many shops open today in the heart of Kathmandu. Most shops in the Thamel area have already closed down at 6 pm. Thamel looks dark and deserted at this time. Only a few restaurants are open (ed. note: Thamel is the center of tourism and always a lively hub of activity). The phone and Internet lines haven't been cut yet as an Indian website was reporting. The paranoid government will do anything to supress any opposition one day before the controversial municipality election. But on the other hand I don't think the phone lines are being cut off this time because the government's communication network with the district head quarters where elections are being held will be cut off. The common people are suffering because the prices of commodities especially fresh vegetables have gone up sharply in the last few days as the supply from outside the valley has been cut off.
The government's propaganda machinery is saying that life in Kathmandu has returned to normalcy today due to adequate security. I cannot agree. This evening there is a sense of tension in the city. When I was walking around I saw people rushing around buying fresh vegetables in the bazaars. From what I heard foreign embassies have advised their staff not to use any vehicles on Wednesday. They also requested people not to go near areas where polling stations (mostly schools) are located because of fear of Maoist attacks. I would suggest to the few tourists who are still in Nepal not to move around on Wednesday (Election Day) and not using any public transportation at all.
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