Published: September 15th 2012September 15th 2012
Today was my first excursion day into India! Ally (my roommate), Stephanie (co-worker), and I traveled by auto-rickshaw to the small city of Hosur. Most of the drive was beautiful, with vast landscapes and a sunny day. People were walking by with their goats, cows, and donkeys, and people were sitting on their stoops doing chores. I spent most of the ride trying to catch images that would have been gorgeous if I knew when to press the button on my camera while we rushed by the subject of interest.
When we arrived in the city, though, my senses were rattled by the noise--in India, you use your carhorn to communicate every possible message, from "Get out of the way" to "I'm passing you" to "How you doin'?" to "I'm coming around this blind corner!" And in a city with traffic, I cannot understand how anyone knows who is honking at who. It's a panic attack waiting to happen.
In any case, we started at this lovely restaurant called Janani. It turns out that Stephanie is quite the linguistic socialite, and she quickly endeared herself with the waitstaff by practicing her Tamil and asking for phrases. They actually approached us
to ask if they could take a picture with us with their phones. This was my first experience of "celebrity" as Stephanie called it. In general, it did sort of feel that way. The waitstaff were very excited to have Americans in their restaurant, and some children would speak to us in English and smile. But, then again, some people stared, some took pictures, some scowled. I'd argue that it wasn't "celebrity" as much as just plain "otherness."
After lunch, our rickshaw driver took us clothes shopping, and we bought several very cheap kurtas (tunics, 100 rupees ($2) each) at a street vendor before moving onto a bigger store that sold full outfits. Sadly, I had little success at the bigger store because the ensemble that I had my heart set on was only made in size 2XL and could not be tailored for me. But I will have plenty of opportunities to search for a new favorite, so I figure I'm in no hurry.
When I'm in street-walking mode abroad, I tend to avoid eye contact and look stern, as if I know exactly what I'm doing. Because of this, I wasn't as aware of our
"celebrity" as my friends. It was impossible to ignore the fact that we were of interest, though, when a beggar woman grabbed my sleeve tightly and tried to keep me from going to the rickshaw. I hate to think about how harshly I had to pull away from her, and how loudly I had to say, "No!" I had been warned that beggars could be aggressive, but I was shocked by how desperately she clung to me. The problem is, if you give something to one beggar, you are swarmed--Stephanie had experienced this in the past the hard way. But I can't help but wonder if I maybe should have given her the coconut water I had just bought at a grocery store.
I again tried to take a lot more pictures on the way back to SB, with some success. And about 5 minutes from SB it began to rain. It came in the open sides of the rickshaw, so by the time we reached the gates, all four of us (including the driver) were yelling and laughing, which was a wonderfully refreshing way to end the trip.
There are more photos below