Alright folks, it’s been a while since I’ve given you stories from Kolkata…and the list of stories to tell has grown tenfold. This is how this is going to work, Buttmunch and I have compiled a list of stories, I’m going through and choosing a few to talk about and she’ll do the same … so for twice the amount of stories and DOUBLE the fun make sure you check out her blog too (http://globalbumblebuzz.wordpress.com)!!! Trust me, you do NOT want to miss story time with Buttmunch…but now for something to whet your appetite: the story of HOW I NEARLY DIED ON A TRAIN!!
My near death experience
Buttmunch and I take whatever half reliable and not outrageously expensive mode of transportation we can to get to our meetings. This meant that a few days ago we found ourselves on a local train headed over an hour outside of Calcutta. On the way there, there were no seats to be found, so, much to the amusement of the local women in the “ladies compartment”, we took our shoes off and used them as seats and plopped ourselves down by the open doors to the train. We felt like we blended in pretty well. You might be asking yourself “what does that have to do with her near death experience?”…well…it doesn’t. I got side tracked and this post has only just begun. Fear not, this has a connection…the TRAIN.
So, on the train BACK from our meeting, Buttmunch and I somehow found free seats and we opted to sit on benches facing each other so that both of us were by the window (beautiful view only amplified by the glorious monsoon rain!). A woman sat next to me and left enough space for perhaps a small child to sit somewhat comfortably. I’m going to repeat, a SMALL CHILD could have fit. As my luck would have it, it was not a small child, but instead a rather LARGE woman who decided to create space where there was none. I was skeptical about how she would maneuver her large derriere in the small space next to me and to quell you of your suspense let me give you a detailed account of what ensued:
Instead of just plopping down like normal people do to sit, she literally bent OVER (at as much of a 90 degree angle as she could manage) and BACKED UP. You know those angle shots in movies where you see a large butt back up and in your head you’re thinking “oh man. This isn’t going to go anywhere good”…yeps…THAT is the view I got. So this MASSIVE butt (I am not kidding, one of her butt cheeks was about the size of both of mine) is in front of me and with her arse aimed right above the small space (that began to look even smaller to me), she lowered herself down. Her left butt cheek managed to fill the gap on the bench and her right butt cheek (as well as the weight of her upper body) found itself on the lap of yours truly. To make matters worse, she attempted to wiggle her way onto the bench. Not happening lady. Not happening. I was already pressed up against the wall and even if there was an inch to spare (that I would have gladly given her,) I was PINNED UNDER HER. Fortunately for me, an actual seat (with plenty of room for all of her butt) became available and I was freed although I fear my left leg will never be the same. Truth be told, I consider myself lucky to be here and able to tell you this tale. It would not have been as enjoyable if you were to hear that I had passed away due to a fatal squish. Death by fat lady.
Metro Stank – 2
In the last post, one of the stories Buttmunch and I wrote about was about the stench in the metro. If you’ve forgotten it, look at my previous post in the section titled “Stank”. This is Metro Stank 2. Buttmunch and I were on the metro one day and to our dismay (and mega amusement) we found yet another smell that stimulated our senses. The source of this aromatic deliciousness remains unknown to us (perhaps for the best) but in a short phrase Buttmunch managed to pinpoint EXACTLY what it smelled like. For your benefit, allow me to tell you, the yummy odor we found ourselves immersed in was a cocktail of sweat, diarrhea and chaat. (If you don’t know what “chaat” is, it’s a very distinct combo of Indian spices that is a mixture of spice and sour that jolts your taste buds). I would have gladly taken the stench of open sewers (which, Buttmunch and I actually do quite often) or even vomit (which I haaaaaaate) over that putrid stank.
Oh wait…what did you say? You want MORE stories of metro stank? Well, I have one…and this one has to do with armpits. Suffice to say, although India seems to have a plethora of products to combat body odor, it’s a battle the products never seem to be able to win. Buttmunch and I find ourselves wandering from rancid armpit stank to more rancid armpit stank especially as arms raised on metros give way for sweat and body odor to fill our nostrils. Once I found an especially pungent wave of armpit odor in the air and there was nothing I could do as fear crept into my heart and I gave Buttmunch a petrified look as I stage whispered “foul armpit!! foul arm pit!! fooul aaaarrrrrmmmmpiiiiit!!!” to her whilst quivering. After sputtering for breath, I survived the incident. Tragically, many of my brain cells didn’t.
Trainspotting (the drunken episode)
Again, in the previous post (under “Trainspotting), Buttmunch and I recounted how we battle off the unwavering stares of men on the metro. I had mentioned how most of the time one battle wins the war, however, there have been a few cases of a not –so-gentle-man who wants a go at round two or three. This is a story where round three was not enough.
In one episode of trainspotting I found myself dueling with a man who stood directly behind Buttmunch but was face to face with me. His eyes were bloodshot which should have been a clear indication of his booze induced stupor but the other lovely smells of the metro masked his sin and I was none the wiser. It was after we disembarked from the train that I was informed of the alcohol that seeped out of his pores and off his breath so, while in the height of combat I was unaware of the inebriated state of my opponent.
I employed my usual tactic of staring until he looked away only to find his eyes would find mine again right after I had just won. I stared until he looked away again and again and again. I gave him the raised eyebrow that had never failed me until then but alas, that too wasn’t enough to deter his imploring eyes. I quickly summoned the help of Buttmunch and she too, like I, found that her unblinking stares and her rat face would not suffice in taking down this man.
We would always “win” in that it would be our drunken nemesis who would look away first (Buttmunch and I stood our ground) but we just couldn’t shake him off. Both of us would stare at him to show him that he had no means of winning with us, but give us a fight he did. We battled with him for probably the better of 20 minutes until at least we got off at our destination. We were astounded when having walked away from the battle grounds I realized that he had fought with us probably until about round 18. Never again though, never again.
You mean, the whole world doesn’t know about my anti-KFC campaign?
I don’t like KFC. For those of you that you don’t know this, KFC opened in Nepal in the last year and is the first of the major global franchises to weasel its way into my little country. I am not a fan of this and for reasons I won’t bother listing here, I have taken a vow to never eat at the KFC in Nepal. During my time in India, as luck would have it, I met a person who works for KFC and is responsible for the marketing (I think) of KFC in India…AND Nepal. Whatever. Point being, this pro-materialism, pro-exploitation, pro-KFC individual who stood and openly admitted and embraced characteristics and flaws about the world that I abhor has turned me off of KFC completely and I will probably never eat at a KFC (anywhere in the world) again.
SO….with all of that background knowledge let me let you about earlier this week when I was going to meet my cousin who recently moved to Kolkata. My cousin and I haven’t seen each other for a while and since both of us are in the city a meeting had to happen. That being said, we set a date and a time and I fumbled my way around Kolkata to the designated location. Being the time conscious anal person that I am, I was there earlier than my cousin and seeing as I was in a place completely unknown to me I roosted near an easily recognizable landmark: Pizza Hut. (I have no qualms with Pizza Hut even though it’s owned by the same company.)
I, being the tourist that I am feared wandering around and getting lost, so I put earphones in, listened to music and decided it was an opportune time to send texts to friends. This is the general “I clearly know what I’m doing, don’t look at me like I’m a fool” move that people resort to by default when they are clueless. I am no exception to the rule, and I employed that stance hoping not to attract too much attention. As I stood pretending to have a purpose a fellow walked over and asked me a question:
“Excuse me, do you know where KFC is?”
This question gave way to various responses in my head which I shall list for you:
My first thought: “Do I look like I eat at KFC?!!”
My second thought: Man walks down mall. Man is looking for KFC. Man sees girl. Man thinks “Oh, now there’s a girl who looks like she gorges on KFC on a regular basis…she’ll know where it is”
My third thought: “NO DAMMIT. I’M A TOURIST”
My fourth thought: “pretend not to speak English….or Hindi…or any language”
My fifth thought: shake head and act stupid.
My sixth thought: “MUST GIVE LECTURE ON HOW BAD KFC IS FOR HEALTH….AND NEPAL”
Finally, I settled on telling the truth… “ummm, I think that’s it right over there”. KFC was located RIGHT next to the Pizza Hut I was standing by. I decided his humiliation at being so close to the KFC and missing it far surpassed the humiliation I felt at his assumption that I of all people would know where stupid frickin’ KFC was. How dare he. Lucky for him I did know and I probably would have looked more stupid if I had said “no” when KFC was right in front of me. Good work brain, good work.
The real scarecrow
Right by where our hostel is located, Buttmunch and I happened to stumble on a real scare crow. “What’s that?” you ask, “a REAL scarecrow?”…yes. A REAL one. “What does it look like?” It looks like a pole on a random street that has a rope hanging off of it, attached to the end of the rope is a DEAD CROW tied by its ankle.
There is nothing more I could tell you. No idea how it got there or who put it there. My bet – it’s to serve as a warning to all other crows, you know…scare ‘em away.
Potty Park Paradise
I love parks. I love parks of all sorts. I love parks with benches and treeeeees. I love water parks with slides and pooooools. I love amusement parks with rides and caaaaaandy. I love sanitation parks….hold on…sanitation parks?!! Oh, you’ve never heard of Sanitation Parks?! Allow me to enlighten you, a “Sanitation Park” is a “park” that houses various structures to model the array of toilets that can be and are found in rural India.
Please follow me. To your left here we have the “school toilet block” made from concrete that costs about ten thousand rupees to build. These school toilets have a “boys” and “girls” side with happy peeing children painted on the white walls. *Opens door* Please see, squatty potties.
Next to the school toilet we have the “house hold latrine”. Opposite that, for your viewing pleasure, we have toilets build from different materials (concrete, wood, bamboo) that range in price from ten thousand rupees to four thousand rupees!!!
Mildly awkward. Buttmunch and I thought running into ONE sanitation park was AWESOME but no, in the course of two days out in the field collecting data, we were taken on a grand tour of THREE sanitation parks. To be fair these sanitation parks are part of an awareness campaign in rural India to teach hygiene and proper methods of waste control. This also works in decreasing fecal contamination in the water which is REALLY cool because then there is less ecoli and bacterial contamination causing people to get sick. That being said…c’mon…potty parks are still hilarious. Who knew there were so many parks dedicated to showing you all the various structures you can take a shit in? Incredible India indeed.
Inspiration for Skymalls
I’m currently reading a book (“Strangers”) which is a collection of short stories by Satyajit Ray and in one of the stories one character says “…I tell you, a tremendous lot has indeed happened here [India], but how many know about it? We were never a nation to show off our knowledge, were we?” so without further adieu let me give credit where credit is due. I am convinced that the idea for the highly innovative “sky malls” were inspired by the local trains in India. Confused? Flying across the Atlantic, you will find a nice catalogue tucked in the pocket of the seat in front of you that gives you the option of purchasing a wide variety of items. In moments of boredom, I’ve browsed and wondered who sits in a plane and thinks “why yes, I have been meaning to buy that elliptical and now is indeed the best time to do so”. Anyways, the stuff in the planes range from gold trimmed roses (no joke) to boxes of chocolates, last min gifts for loved one, speakers and other random things. I don’t recall, however, ever seeing plastic bracelets, lipstick, nail polish, hair brushes, comb, gas stove lighters, moth balls, rubrics cube, safety pins, or shoe laces in those magazines. And we all know that’s the stuff you actually need. What about bobby pins, various hair accessories, fake hair, necklaces, cellphone holders, wallets, slider puzzles, bindis, kajal/eyeliners, loofahs, dish scrubbers, steel wool and fake Barbie cellphones? Nope. Don’t see those too. There MUST be a catalogue perhaps on American Airlines that sells nail clippers, nail files, scissors, tiger balm, mirrors, purses, coin purses, ID card holders, ghetto etch-a-sketch, clothes pin, anti-cockroaches and soccer whistles. No? No magnets, no potholders, no makeup brushes either?! Well FEAR NOT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, all the listed items and MORE (creams, handkerchiefs, sweat rags, mini towels, gumdrops) are available for sale on the local Kolkata trains. No.Joke. These vendors step in on one station and leave at the next one, but in the few minutes in between they entice ladies with their individually plastic wrapped goods at amazing prices.
So, I’m kinda mocking the whole concept, but if you think about it – food carts on planes are a necessity (people HAVE to eat), but selling these knick knacks and toys to keep the kids entertained and Indian house wives happy? It’s genius. My personal favorite items for sale on the train? – toothbrushes, socks and back scratchers. Buttmunch and I took up on the opportunity to buy a great hair clip and we also got ear buds, after all, a train is as good of a place to get q-tips right?