Not India?

Fort Cochin today. A short ferry ride from Ernakulam, but a world away. Fort Cochin is a clean, expensive resort enclave. Lunch today cost me almost ten times what I’m used to paying, although my hotel room is not so bad. I’m enjoying the relatively cleanliness and quiet of Fort Cochin, but its surreal aspect is irking me slightly. I was hungry this morning and just wanted a snack from the street, but there weren’t any; there aren’t any girls selling flowers for your hair. Continue reading “Not India?”

Girly Stuff

Bought my first sari yesterday. I’ve heard so many people say that saris are too hard to put on and that westerners shouldn’t anyway because they just can’t pull it off. Well, I have the sort of cussed personality that makes me get annoyed when people say I can’t do something. So off I went to the biggest sari emporium in Trichy. Just to put this in perspective, when you travel around India by far the most advertisements you see are for saris (the second most prevalent are for jewelry). When you think that 500 million people wear them every day, you’ll realize that there are one hell of a lot of saris available. I’d been eying them for weeks, so at this point I had ideas about what I wanted: a mix of cotton and polyester so it doesn’t wrinkle easily, a bright color but dark enough not to show sweat stains, and a fair amount of gold. I came out with the above – a royal blue with a printed gold motif – for 275 rupees. One could pay as little 150 or as much as 15,000 in the store I went into. I imagine that in a bigger city it would be possible to pay a lot more, but as the 15,000 rupees saris were incredible, I think you would have to have actual gold thread and precious stones embroidered into the cloth to make it more special. Continue reading “Girly Stuff”

Temples and More Temples

I went to the Rock Fort Temple in Trichy yesterday afternoon. You enter through a portal in the bazaar and find yourself in a vast complex with covered stairs leading up every which way. All along the route are shrines, some lit by concealed shafts of sunlight. You emerge into day about 100 feet below the temple; in the last bit the stairs are carved out of the rock itself, not particularly regularly. The temple itself is not as dramatic as its setting, but from the top you can see all of Trichy. It’s not such a big city, which may be why I’m enjoying it so much.

There’s something about the fact that you are required to take off your shoes to enter temples that makes them more memorable. I’ve always loved walking barefoot, and I find that the experience of a place is heightened by feeling it underfoot: stone alternately cold and hot, rough and smooth. Continue reading “Temples and More Temples”


I had trouble sleeping last night: too hot,dehydrated, whatever, so it didn’t wake me up when at 3 am the neighborhood pack of dogs began to howl in time with a man shouting. After it had gone on for about half an hour, I stepped out onto my balcony and saw that there were other heads peering out of windows all along the street. I saw a man dressed all in white trying to drive away three dogs who obviously did not wish to be run off while two others, stuck together back to back, stood still in the street. The man kept a steady stream of invective or philosophizing or something going at the top of his lungs while lunging at the dogs up and down the street. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. In the first place, I’ve never seen dogs stuck together back to back before, so in my haze I wondered if they were cojoined twins or something. Maybe I had been asleep after all. I thought the other dogs were trying to attack the two-bodied dog and the man was protecting it. It eventually occurred to me that the man was stinking drunk and just felt like bothering dogs. In any case, what amazed me was that no one on the street yelled at him to shut up. Were they admiring his constant monologue, or were they just extremely polite? I, the ugly westerner, eventually took it upon myself to yell at him and then was immediately joined by others. He stumbled off and immediately the dogs lay down and went back to sleep. Continue reading “Ooty”