Archive for September, 2009

I woke up twice last night, it was raining that heavily.

With a month delay, winning once again against global warming, the monsoon is back in town. Exotic, wonderful. And discomforting.

When I woke up this morning, late because of the dark sky outside, it was raining inside my bathroom too. The ceiling failed once again.

It happened last year as well, and although I paid for it to be fixed, six months ago, I wasn’t really expecting the ceiling were going to make it through the monsoon. It’s one of the first things I learned here: you must try to get things fixed – because you must – but you also must not expect that they will be – fixed.

A year ago the first sight of a ceiling shower in my bathroom caused me a mix of distress, anger, sense of impotence and a tiny bit of incredulous amusement.

Today I emptied the bathroom, locked the door, and almost seamlessly proceeded to my morning tea routine.

Roads in Delhi become rivers after fifteen minutes of regular rain. Monsoon showers are just too much for the city’s poor drainage system.

For days, after the rain you’ll see papers, chairs, tables, computers covered in mud and water emerging from flooded basements, carried in the sun by people who don’t really hope to save anything, but are simply following the rule: you must try to get things fixed, because you must, but you also must not expect that they will be – fixed.

In my block. It took three days to empty the basement.

Drenched paper always breaks my heart

Walking out of your home is out of question. Well, unless someone you know and trust talks you into a walk in the rain in shorts and slippers, but that is a whole different story (and one whose memory will have the power to disgust you for years to come).

Anyway today was no day for adventures, nor for auto-rickshaw rides. So I called the taxi stand to learn that “Today is very jam day, sorry”.

No taxis. Again, what would have made me angry and restless a few moths ago didn’t really hit me much. I hung out in my living room, enjoying the unusual fresh air that was coming in from the balcony.

When I finally – not too long later – got into a cab,¬† it wasn’t for a smooth ride. Traffic was blocked. Broken cars would jam the roads.

Broken, yes. Cars, even expensive imported German cars, break here, when it rains. That is a mystery I will never be able to solve, and a reality I will never believe.

Slowly, I made it to the office. Past pools of mud and rain in which half naked children were -my goodness- playing. Past goats, and cows and calves (cows always seem to multiply, during the monsoon). Past the stray dogs. Past crowds of people seeking shelter under bus stops. And past all the street people that were, instead, just staying there, under the rain that no longer that heavy. Getting wet. With their polyester pants. And their polyester bright saaris.

My drive was like a slow-motion tour of the chaos. Dreadful but somewhat wonderful.

It made me remember something I was told about India, way before I moved here: “There’s so much life, there. So much. Most of times, there isn’t much more than that – a lot of life. And it’s beautiful”.

And it is – beautiful. In the only way I have ever experienced in which beautiful has nothing – nothing at all – to do with pretty.


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Picture by someone else

Picture by someone else

I was in Ladakh a few weeks ago. It’s the most incredible place I have ever seen in my life. I reached it by jeep from Manali, driving over the highest (and scariest) motorable road in the world. My car crossed streams on the edge of the mountains, climbed up above 5000 meters and jumped and bumped on roads that you can’t really call such, while the landscape around became progressively deserted. Ladakh is a high altitude desert.

At a point my car drove up and up along the side of a mountain, and when it reached the peak I was naturally expecting a descent. Instead, it was like the entire valley had come up: on the other side of the peak there was a huge flat desert, and while the altitude sickness made my head lighter, I felt like I was on the moon, for I had never imagined a place like that could exist on Planet Earth.

This just to give you a vague idea.

Anyway, while in Ladakh I visited the Nubra Valley, which is a desert. Above 3000 meters. A real desert, with sand dunes.

On that desert it rained, while I was there. I saw one rainbow, two rainbows, two rainbows and a half. It felt unreal, as if something – someone – was looking over my life and nodding at the perfection of that very moment.

But back to the real desert. There are real camels there, too. Bactrians not dromedaries, silk road leftovers with two humps, a furry head and a funky smell. They hang out in a group, right at the beginning of the sand dunes, and wait for tourist to go ride them.

Funny animals, those camels. Lazy. When they’re not carrying anyone they lay down and roll on the ground until, with their belly up, they release the biggest farts. Loud, hilarious camel farts.

It’s funny and almost cute (if you can say cute of something that involves a fart). A group of camels lazying about, chewing on grass, rolling around. Some twenty camels, small, big, and very big.

Twenty camels, and a donkey.

A donkey, yes. He hangs out with the camels, shares the slow life of the group, only he doesn’t carry tourists around because they don’t find it interesting enough (their bad, I say, because donkeys are very cute creatures, with those eyes).

And – this is the story I heard – he believes he’s a camel. Same laziness, same rolling around, (almost) same farts. The camel owners don’t seem bothered by the stranger: if the donkey feels like a camel, he has the right to live as one.

This reminded me of a similar story, which is the first funny Indian story I heard when I moved here.

As everyone knows, there’s no better place in the world than India, if you’re a cow. You’re respected, somewhat worshiped, and people really do take care of you. So much that there is a thing called Gaushala, which is a home for “retired” cows, that are old and no longer make milk.

One of this Gaushala is right outside Delhi, and I had just landed in India when a friend told me about it. I must say the thought of a shelter exclusively for cows amused me quite a bit back then, whereas now it feels like another of those Indian things that are just normal, even if maybe they aren’t.

Anyway, I asked whether the shelter seriously only admitted cows. My friend confirmed that yes, only cows were allowed. Well, with one exception.

In the shelter, together with all those cows, lived a deer. Just one.

Because the deer believed he’s a cow.

And the people at the shelter respected that. If you feel like you’re cow you should be free to behave like a cow, live with cows, and be treated like a cow even if you don’t look like one.

It’s not bad, is it, for a conservative country?

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