Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"Ganesh gives us the strength to do our work."

Wed, 28 Sept 2004 7:21 AM IST

I've been up for the last three hours, trying to catch up on my reading. I'm half-way there, but I'm nowhere close to being caught up. I guess it's like it's always been.

The Gannpati festival was incredibly amazingly weird and ... it's hard to explain. So, a bunch of the other students and I walked down J.M. Road, to go see Ganesh being submerged into one of the rivers. We stop at this dance party in an alleyway/backroad, and it's amazing. Everyone wanted to dance with the white guy, and so I was boogying with them for like five songs. I took pictures (but my batteries were low, so they're all blurry), and talked and introduced myself to like 20 people (all in English, I don't know any useful Hindi quite yet, and I definitely don't know Marathi, the language that people actually speak here). And some guy gave Sara a coconut. After we left, a bunch of kids followed us for a mile or so, every so often calling out my name 'Jeremy!'.

Anyway, we couldn't actually see Ganesh being submerged --- because there were five or six thousand people in the intersection. It's amazing; we're in this giant crowd, and there's pushing and shoving and toppling, and the guards/police smush us further to make way for the parade floats. Eventually, we get let out of the crowd area and go dance in front of a parade float (I think we got preferential treatment cuz we're stupid gaijin). We're dancing in this all girls/women's area, because my five companions were all girls. I'm dancing and walking and meeting people left and right. I met this guy, and his sister, and his sister-in-law, and some other guy who owns a hotel, and another guy who's a science student at a college, and all these other people. Eventually, I'm getting kinda sick, so me and another student make a mad dash out of the parade dancing area, and we get home via walking and autorickshaw. A very tiring evening, but eye-opening and enjoyable at times.

In soc, I studied group violence (riots) in South Asia, which is predominantly caused by disagreements between ethnic, religious, or linguistic groups. I could never quite imagine what would make perfectly nice people go on rampages of death and destruction. Now that I've been in a giant group at a festival, feeling everyone step on me and with the pushing and shoving and nowhere to go, I have a much better understanding of how riots can happen. I'm not saying that this festival was violent --- there was nobody hurt, and everyone seemed to be having fun on the whole; I'm just saying that my understanding of the riot mentality is much more real and concrete.

These are the types of experiences you can't have studying the sub-continent in Chicago. I wish I could hop back to the States every now and again, especially to see friends and family [especially especially to see Cat].

By the way, Ganesh is supposed to get pissed off at us for submerging him into the river. In four or five days, we are supposed to have some pretty bad rains in this region (but not too bad in Pune). Last night it rained a bit, and I just smiled. I guess Ganesh was getting anxious in his payback.

Monday, September 27, 2004


Mon, 27 Sept 2004 3:27 PM IST

First day of classes (or lectures, as they call classes in India). Things went well. We took these auto-rickshaws to class. They're like half-sized taxi cabs, open-air with three wheels. We had our director argue with the drivers, to make sure we got a fair price (Rs. 42 for the three of us [~ $1], and it's like a 15 minute drive). Deccan college is not at all what I was expecting it to be. No AC, old buildings (like bungalows or something), cows/water buffaloes grazing in the fields, tropical plant life everywhere. The building that classes are in is actually kinda famous; it was used for the movie 'Gandhi' as Gandhi's house in South Africa.

Our Hindi teacher seems OK; he studied linguistics, and I was able to tell him the phonetic symbol for a particular sound, which was kinda cool. It turns out we all have the wrong book, so some mad photo-copying will have to be done... Then we had tea time, with little cookies and milk tea, which was quite nice. The Civ teacher for this three-week session (Arshia) is pretty friggin' awesome. We talked about the Indus Valley Civilization, the proto-Indo-Europeans, historical linguistics, and the Rig Veda. I'll have to do a ton of reading, but I think this class is going to be good.

After class we took auto-rickshaws to the Pizza Hut, which is apparently somewhat a landmark. There was a Citibank ATM there, so I got some cash, and then we went to some place for lunch. It was like a 'we do all types of food' type of restaurant, and so I got 'Szechwan noodles', which were surprisingly good and Szechwanny. On the way home, the rickshaw guy said his meter was broken, offering us a Rs. 40 flat fee. We were like, no way, so we got some dude who had a working meter, and got in there and it was only Rs. 11.

On the way to 'Pizza Hut nuhsuh' (near Pizza Hut), we got smeared in pink powder in a celebratory manner. Today is the last day of Gannpati (the nn is a retroflex n), a festival celebrated in this area and in the south, where they worship Ganesh, the elephant god. That's why we were attacked by pink powder. I'm going to one of the parade/celebration things later tonight, after dinner. I think it'll be amazing, and I don't really know what to expect.

All is well, and hopefully I'll get this journal set up so I don't have 15 journal entries posted at the exact same moment.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Pune, Pune, It's a hell of a town.

Sun, 26 Sept 2004, 5:24 PM IST, Pune, India

I'm sick, so these last couple of days have been kinda meh. I've had bad allergies here, and the heat and humidity have not made me feel much better.

In Mumbai, we did do lunch, internet cafe, bookstore, etc. It was pretty fun, actually. The bookstore had Harry Potter books in the original British English (and with cooler cover art), and the magazines there were really cheap (like Time Out Mumbai was only 25 Rupees (~ 60 cents US)). The internet cafes are really cheap, like Rs. 30 per hour. Lunch was also good. We ate at an Asian fusion restaurant, and I had some crazy Teppan Yaki with french fries.

Right now I'm watching the Simpsons dubbed into Hindi (or Marathi, I'm not actually sure). About half the channels on TV are in English, and the others are in Hindi I gather. They have HBO (but with commercials), and Cartoon Network dubbed into Hindi. MTV shows sexy Indian music videos. There was the anime channel in Mumbai, but I don't think the cable in Pune has it.

Pune looks like it'll be pretty great. The hotel we're at is nice; it has like five restaurants, and it's centrally air conditioned. I'm gonna go out and see some more of the city later today. In a few days, if all goes according to plan, I'll devise some way to put pictures up on the interweb for all to see.

Friday, September 24, 2004


Fri, 24 Sept 2004, 5:24 AM IST, Mumbai, India

Thur 6:55 PM CDT (Chicago)
Thur 7:55 PM EDT (Detroit)

Cat is 10.5 hours behind me
Aunt B is 9.5 hours behind me

I arrived in Mumbai without any problems. The flights were fine. The new Northwest terminal at Detroit Metro is really really nice. The flight to Amsterdam was also really nice, cuz we had individual entertainment centers in out seats. I played lots of Bejeweled, watched Harry Potter 3, and regretably, I watched the first half hour of Garfield, the movie. Amsterdam was brief... I just walked around the airport for 10 minutes. First time to Europe, though, so I got one and a half new continents under my belt today (Europe + Indian subcontinent). The trip from Amsterdam to Mumbai was OK, nothing exciting. We got to Mumbai, went through customs and such, and then waited for more flights to come in, so we could fill our bus up before heading to the (cue music) YWCA.

The Y's OK, I guess. Western style toilet, large and powerful ceiling fan, tiny TV with 70 channels. The luxury hotel we'll be moving into on Saturday should be many times groovier and more livable. At the moment, I'm actually a little cold, which I will be desperately trying to remember later today when it gets hot and muggy (chou magi magi).

I'm having a good time, so far. I imagine more spectacular things will come tomorrow --- lunch, bookstore, internet cafe, walking around. For the time being, I'm gonna try to go back to sleep and get into a regular sleeping schedule.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I'm in Pune

** EDIT: I'm putting this at the beginning of my blog, for consistancy's sake. I originally wrote this on 28 Sept. **

Here's my blog. It won't be updated every day, because the internet place I use really sucks, and only a couple of their computers have browsers that work with blogger, so we'll see. Also, I don't know how easily I can upload photos here, so it might be a text-only blog for a while.

The last seven days since I'm been in Chicago have been crazy, nonstop, and amazing. I'll fill you all in later. In the mean time, leave me a post or something if you feel like it.

Everyone, try to take it easy.