happnin'      Boxed Bits - Anecdotes and observations

Bubble wrap man
Trivandrum train station platform. I was reading waiting for the train to Varkala when the thing stopped half meter in front of me. My eyes landed on some monstrously deformed feet made up of different sized meat bubbles with no space in between each other. Immediately my eyes flew to the thing's head which was a plantation of the same growths. It took no more than half a second for me to glue my eyes well deep into my book, feeling dizzy.
Whatever happens, don't look away from your book!!! Please, take that thing away from me!

When it was at a safe distance from me, I ventured my eyes to encounter this shape and reassure myself on its existence. His entire body was a formless heap of meat bubbles.
A white woman arrived to the platform carrying her heavy luggage. The thing stopped right beside her. She panicked and moved to different spots along the platform, discreetly running away from it. That's the wrong thing to do because what IT wants is for you to notice and acknowledge him so you cannot pretend he doesn't exist.
I kept an eye on it from the corner of my eye pretending to be stuck in my book.

You see deformed, leprous, cripples, mutilated beggars all over India and you build a psychological-emotional-moral shield against them. This was the worst I'd seen so far and the strongest feeling I had, to my own disgust, was "I cannot bear the sight of that thing near me".
Everyone has their deformed beggar story to tell. There was this English bloke who, on a train trip, encountered a beggar who held an asking hand out to him. He had a hole through his chest and you could see his heart pounding in the middle. He decided he definitely needed some help.

Play in three acts on the roof of a hotel. There is first an introduction to the art of Katakhali in which a narrator announces the main different expressions represented such as anger, fight, coming, sucking the honey from the lotus flower, desire, elephant, astonishment, etc.
There's three tabla musicians on one side and a singer on the other throughout the performance. The actor, disguised in a very complicated and difficult costume, all colors and bells and mirrors, jewelry, a wide and short skirt of infinite convolutions and a turban. His make up matches the rest. Red face with white designs and eyes, eyebrows and mouth strongly stressed in black.
He represents the different expressions with a few jumps, lots of flowery arm and hands movements and mainly, the infinite range of face muscle movement possibilities. Eyes, eyebrows and mouth move in unthinkable ways.

The first act is King Whatsit visiting neighboring town and getting crazy with desire for the married princess. He's the bad one and the most complicated figure aesthetically and acting wise. Typical green face with huge red mouth, black eyes, white wrinkly fan shape paper sticking out all around his face, 5 tiers gold and red cake type of conic hat on his head. The dress makes him four times his real volume with a 2m. Diameter superconvoluted skirt sticking out.
The Princess -who is a bloke- , quite simply made up, doesn't move at all. She only puts one or two disgusted faces and moves her hand every now and then to indicate "I don't want you". There's no talk at all. The bad King jumps and smiles evil smiles and moves hands and eyes in anticipation of what is to come. The Princess escapes his advances. The only sounds emitted are the King repeating incessantly something like "aaaaaaaaaaaw wright!" in all possible lengths and cadences, intonations and volumes.

Second act. The Princess tells her husband, he gets very angry, she convinces him to kill the King.

Third act. The King enters the alcove of the Princess, who is sleeping, his mouth dribbling. He reaches for her body under the covers and fondles it greedily. She wakes up: It's her husband!!! (he was awaiting him)
Fight follows, with costumes entangling and making the fight quite acrobatic, finally the King dies by waist strangling, tongue sticking out and copious thick red blood streaming from between his enormous fangs.

This nice simple story happens in the space of two hours with deafening drums and songs wailing and paralyzing awwwwwwwww wrights!

"The real travelers' scene"
By now the difference between tourist and real traveler has become unclear to me. If I were bad I would say they both do the same things and go to the same places in the end. But on the other hand tourists go for shorter time and with lots of money while travelers for much longer with sometimes no money at all. Travelers don't go to places that, though they're fun, they can't afford and are therefore labeled uncool. Tourists don't go to cheap though interesting rougher places they can't cope with and are therefore labeled as the third world experience not up to their standards. Tourists go to the same places as other tourists competing for fun and consumerist experiences with an exotic flair. Travelers go to the same places as other travelers competing for cheaper and cooler experiences that will leave a deeper mark on their skin.

Happy zombies
After almost a month in Koh Pha-gnan a strange feeling I've been having since I got to Thailand starts to take shape. There was something strange about other travelers here and their behavior which I couldn't quite grasp and I was conscious of being different. But what was it? There's obviously a high percentage of average young fun-loving tourists here on a short holiday. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the travelers. They are not the same travelers. as in India. Not that they are more or less valid, it's not that. They are alive, active (to certain extent, heat allowing), expressive, talkative, cheery, jolly, communicative, having a good time. Travelers. in India aren't like that. It was such a usual view to see a traveler walking aimlessly in no particular place at all, his appearance not being taken care of, his eyes blank fixed in some unknown point of infinity or of his mind... Like walking zombies, maybe blanking out the world around them which they had chosen as a holiday. A world that becomes too much and the mind needs guarding to survive.

When you meet people traveling you don't really make friends, you are on some trip together or on the same trip; there's a particular kind of bond and complicity on that.

Suffering Cycles
Asia we have seen great suffering of many kinds which has troubled us deeply. One that has managed to amuse us though is the plight of the small mopeds that comprise a large part of the continent's transport solution. How they manage to bear the loads that their riders bestow upon them we do not know! Whole Indian families ride a small 2-stroke Honda. We got accustomed to seeing Ma, Pa and 2-3 children speeding through traffic as if this were the most natural thing in the world (which for them it is).
Another astounding feat was the passenger on the back grasping a 38" television set. Various farm animals and pieces of furniture make their way across the countryside like this.
The Vietnamese have impressed us the most so far: We saw a fully-grown Sow strapped to the back of one, but best of all was the rider weaving through the Hanoi streets who had an upright Fridge-Freezer balanced on the back of his seat (it wasn't even strapped or tied on with anything).

Monkey Watching
Of how I was hypnotized for hours by a bunch of Tibetan monkeys debugging each other and fighting for each other's bugs on the nearby roofs. Searching each other's super hairy bodies fast and methodically on the sun. Such funny creatures! A tiny one was destroying a whole bunch of flowers. He ate them all. Another one climbed up the terrace and stole the sugar pot and he ate it all fast and greedily on the big table watching out for any mates wanting to steal it from him. The owner's expert catapult ended it all. ji ji ji!

Friendly Indians
Indians are very very friendly and seem to be insatiably curious. I must have met hundreds in my few months in India just from having people walk up to me, shake my hand and ask "your good name sah?" which is inevitably followed by the next standard question "and you are from?" If it is a group of Indians you then shake all of their hands in turn and carry on your way. It becomes predictable.

Laying on the ground one night gazing at the starlit sky a guy pops into my peripheral from above, "your good name sah?"
Another removed his clothes, slowly waded out into the sea where Yolanda and I are swimming, extends his hand, "hello sah" he says, and so it goes on. I toyed with the idea of taking on various exotic or comical identities but in the end hadn't the heart to mess with them because they come across as being so genuinely intrigued.

Point of Reference
In every town visited, a point of reference is established straight away by intuition? survival instinct? It all gravitates around it. Be it a cafe, a hotel, etc. Establishing a portable security quickly.

Although there is still great unemployment in India, statistics to be improved on by job sharing, or so it seems! Take for example, a Bus journey:

You start in a travel agency to get a long distance bus from one town to another. You only really need one person to sell you the ticket but you'll find that the owner, his partner-associate, his 2 younger nephews, a chair-wallah and sometimes a kid runner standing outside all have some part to play in the transaction.
You're then passed on to the "get the foreign passenger to the bus" crew, usually a few adolescent aged boys who herd you a couple of streets to a waiting car driver (along with his 2 mates) who drives you the final stretch to the actual bus. At the bus it get worse. There is usually a whole crowd of baggage wallahs all-desperate to load your rucksack onto the roof of the bus. Then you're handed on to the "get the foreign passenger on to the bus" people, a group of about half-dozen who all want to inspect your ticket confer with each other then not really say anything.

Finally there is the Bus Driver, and oddly there is only actually the one, which is a little bit disconcerting when you know that there is a 16-hour drive through the night ahead.

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