*NOTE: This post was composted by Buttmunch and I and we’ve decided to use the same post on both of our blogs J
You know you’re in a sticky situation when your best option for survival is to stick your nose in your own armpit (or the armpit of your friend). This was the circumstance under which Buttmunch and I found ourselves. A very sticky, or rather, stinky situation indeed. Buttmunch and I went around Kolkota and on the way home, while riding the metro we found ourselves trapped amidst the smell of over-brewed, sour yogurt. It was also mixed with the smells of oiled hair, body odor, feet, and wet clothes (the rains earlier had been beautiful, but the stank it contributed to was not as pleasant). Most of this smell was due to the fact that there were twice as many people in an incredibly humid metro car as there are on the Boston T during rush hour (read: squeeze people into every possible nook and cranny and then add more), combined with Kolkata’s summer temperatures, and aided by the fact that the car’s engineer did not have the foresight to put the overhead hand rails at a height that most people could reach without having their arms fully extended and exposing yummy armpits to the world. Thus, Buttmunch and I were in the middle of a crowded train holding our breath as long as we could and when we had to give into our body’s demand for oxyen we took to inhaling what air we could that was somewhat filtered (and therefore bearable) by the sweet smell of our deodorant.
It was in this lovely, jam packed metro car that Buttmunch and I practiced trainspotting… or rather, train-spotting-and-staring-down. Just as we had relied on the miraculous nose-picking combined with the roll-and-flick tactic if matters got serious in Delhi, we have adapted to our new surroundings and now use our eyes to kill the fascinated stares of the various train passengers. Instructions for use: stare lazily around the train car, find some unsavory looking fellow (i.e. a 20 something guy with pants that are too tight, a highlighted mullet and a graphic tee that would put Hannah Montana’s designers to shame or an old man with absurdly hairy ears) staring at you and then begin with mild staring. If he does not look away, increase the intensity of the stare, widening your eyes and leaning forward slightly. If he still has the audacity to stare back, slowly raise one eyebrow and put on a mild puss face. If he STILL looks on, employ the help of your dear friend. Look away momentarily, describe the identifying characteristics of the unsavory fellow to your friend, then on the count of three, turn with your friend to stare hard at the fellow, both making the most intense staring face and hold it for as long as it takes for him to get scared away. They look away 100% of the time after this. (NOTE: This tactic also works on fat little kids who are staring unabashedly, or schoolgirls your age who are giggling and whispering and pointing.)
I personally have found that 50% of the men look away when they realize that you’re not afraid to look right back at them, but the trick that’s never failed me yet is the one eyebrow slightly raised that says (in Hindi, English, Bengali and any other language) “seriously? I’m sooo not impressed”. I’ve also found that even though the staring competition seems to have been won, a lot of these men have egos the size of fictions manhood and want to battle off in round two, round three and once in a while…even round four. These battles seem to last a lot shorter than the initial dueling of the eyes but with a friend by your side who stares back with equal intensity, victory is almost too easy.
Buttmunch and I spent the past few days in the company of a man that we can only refer to as ‘The Human Walrus’, a name quite befitting him. His grey moustache—missing half of its left side due to a lost battle with a razor—dangles down past his upper lip and into his mouth when he talks, or rather, yells. In his mouth there are only a few remaining teeth, browned from years of paan chewing, his incisors double as tusks seeing as he lacks the bottom teeth to complete a perfect smile. But the most amazing thing about the walrus is the way in which he can answer every single question you could imagine EXCEPT the one you have asked. You can ask him how frequently they test for X in his lab and he will take you through the names, purpose, methods for testing, applicable standards, etc. for EVERY SINGLE machine in the room with painstaking detail—making sure you write down that this test uses that chemical in double strength while the earlier test only uses single strength—but by the end of the 20 minute rant you still have no clue how frequently he tests for X.
His attitude alternates between a docile man eager to please and one who is irritated and condescending when you ask for confirmation on the question he never actually answered. “Madam please see, I already answered that”..umm…no, he didn’t. Buttmunch and I would try our best to listen to him (which is interesting seeing as the issue wasn’t volume…) he was just impossible to understand. We’d both look at him and nod and try to follow only to look at each other and realize we were both rather clueless. I suppose it was harder to grasp what he was trying to explain if his mustache and teeth and all around walrus-ness wasn’t so distracting. I believed he threw the word “madam” in at least 2 times per three sentences, he should have saved his breath and just answered our questions.
Okay, those were the (amazing) shared stories that Buttmunch and I had. For the remainder of this post it will remain my experiences, thoughts and writings:
Books and Escape
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and just read. I tend to forget how much I enjoy diving into a book and devouring all the words printed in front of me. Being in Kolkota, Buttmunch and I haven’t really met any people (save for the two girls we started talking to last night at dinner) and so instead of hanging out with wonderful people (like in Delhi and Lucknow) I find myself exploring the mini library at the hostel. My selection is limited seeing as the “library” consists of two shelves and a large quantity of the books are in Hindi, Korean or French, however, I’ve already been through 5 books in the week we’ve been here (The Namesake, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Three Musketeers, The White Tiger, The Paper Wife) and am now on book 6 and 7. Seeing as this trip has been rather full, I don’t mind the quiet of our days in Kolkota to allow my brain to absorb the writing of others. I only wish that I had the option of books that have been on my reading list of YEARS (anyone want to get me “Atlas Shrugged”?).
I’m brown, not Bengali
I suppose the sub-heading says it all. I’m brown…not Bengali. I do not speak Bengali, I don’t understand Bengali cultural references and treating me like I’m Bengali won’t help my confusion. Our warden at the hostel seems to be under the impression that my skin color bestows upon me a great wealth of knowledge about West Bengal. FALSE.
That’s all. More stories and comments and thoughts coming as they happen and as I/we bother to write them down.
Also…I’ve been following my blog stats, I currently have over 1400 hits which is AMAZING…so…THANK YOU…but…who the heck are you?! I can count on one hand the number of people I know who actually READ my blog…so the rest of you, any chance you want to let me know who you are?! Mmmkay thanks!!!