The Cave

The Cave

South Indian Christian tradition holds that Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus (you know, Doubting Thomas? yeah, that guy), came by boat to Kerala from Judea in 52 A.D. and preached between 52 A.D. and 72 A.D., when he was martyred on what is now known as St. Thomas Mount, in Chennai.
He is known around these parts as the patron saint of India and is credited with bringing Christianity to the subcontinent.
This is the cave where he is said to have hidden before being killed.
There is also a spring just outside the entrance to the cave. The sign on the stone wall behind it says that it cures diseases, and the lady who tried to get me to drink some of it told me that it was holy water. I had to pass on that. One – I don’t currently have any diseases that I know of that need curing. Two – I wasn’t sure how to explain it when holy water gave me diarrhea. So, I told the lady, as to not disrespect her belief in the holiness of the water, that I don’t think that my belly is so holy.

Men in Skirts

We spent a wonderful weekend this past weekend, visiting my new in-laws, in Chennai.

One of the differences I noticed, between life in Delhi and the surrounding capital region and the coastal area of Chennai, was the pace of life. It was more relaxed, more laid back. You know, like the kind of place a neighbor might just drop by and share some tea with you on your front porch.

Another difference that I noticed was in the men’s attire. Much of it was western, but many men also wore the more traditional lungi, which looks like a skirt to me. It looks like a big sheet wrapped around their waist. If it’s really hot, they fold it in half and make it short. Sometimes they match or coordinate with the shirt, if any, but just as often they don’t.

One of my friends who has family there but is much more modern and urban, commented that she thought they were horrendous. But I gotta tell ya: In the tropics of the South, among palm trees and coconut trees, when the highly humid temperature is already in the 90 degree (Farenheit) range in late March (while many of my friends and family in North Carolina and Tennessee are still battling snow)……………creating space for some breeze in one’s clothing is not such a bad idea!! 

The first one in this series is a picture of Captain Lungi (my new father-in-law) in his lounge wear reporting for coffee in the morning on the front porch. He was such a good sport!Image

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The Tourists Who Should Not Have Been

My sweetie and I took some young guests from the US to Jaipur the other day, to see what there was to see. On the way, we stopped at a hotel/restaurant to use the facilities and decided that a light snack might be in order. It was a bonafide restaurant, after all, not street food, right? And we were with someone who should know…..right, Sweetie?

Maybe the menu should have given us a clue. Have a look. We had a choice of SOAP (soup), a choice of SOTT BEVRGS (I think that meant soft drinks, or soft beverages) that included hot COFFE and LEAMON tea. We could also get some STEEM RICE and some CARD (curd, meaning yogurt). So we joked that the aloo prantha (kind of like a spicy potato pancake) was probably the safest option, and joked that if we went down, we’d all go down together (not at all really thinking that we would, because we weren’t REALLY tourists, we were with a native who would stop us if we were REALLY about to get into trouble, right, Sweetie? And, besides, we were very careful to only drink bottled water, and hot coffe (coffee) and tea, which are made with boiled water.

Well every one of us, except my dearest sweetie, did indeed go down that night. Some of us worse than others. The two young men with us (who shall remain un-named to protect their dignity) spent what they both called the worst night of their lives, sleeping (well, not really sleeping, exactly) in the bathtub and the shower respectively.

We really don’t know whether to blame our “rest” stop for ruining the “rest” of the trip, but I have my suspicions. I suggest that we not act so much like dumb tourists next time. Right, Sweetie?

 

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A Slice of LIfe

Soooo…….if capturing a slice of rural everyday America can be labeled as Americana, what do you call a slice of rural everyday life in India?

Indiana?

Sorry, that was bad. But I think I captured a small slice of it on the way to Jaipur, when we stopped to have the fateful snack I mentioned in my last post.

I thought I was getting candid shots of this family going about their day, but when I zoomed in on the pictures later, I found that I was SO busted. They were all looking my direction and smiling their best smiles!

The boy standing in the green tub is washing clothes, using his feet as the agitator.

Two women show up carrying hay for the buffalos on their heads.

Then the tiniest one, seen in the last picture, gets a bath standing in the blue tub. He was NOT AT ALL happy about it, either. I’m guessing the water was pretty cold.

Be thankful for your water heaters, children! (And your parents’ washing machines!)ImageImageImage

Just Wheelin Around

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I don’t know if you can see this well – I couldn’t seem to be able to compensate for the glare on the glass because of the position of the sun – but this is the oldest wheelchair I have ever seen, in one of the earliest known (to me, anyway) wheelchair accessible facilities. There are built-in ramps all over the Amber Fort in Jaipur.

What was the impetus for this, you might ask. A monarch with a disability? Nope. Not exactly. The queen had to be wheeled around on special occasions, because she was so burdened down under all her robes and crown and jewelry (more than 40 pounds of it) that she couldn’t walk. Now THAT’s some major BLING!

Lotsa Laksa!

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On our way out of Singapore, my sweetie happens to mention to me in the cab to the airport that we are a few minutes early and therefore should find a place in the airport to have some Laksa.  The spicy curry-based noodle soup with prawns is very popular in Asia, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, and he didn’t want me to leave town without having tried it.

Our friendly cab driver overhears this and says, “You have time, I take you to Katong Laksa.  Best Laksa.  Very famous.  I drop you off, I wait for you, don’t worry.”

We are very appreciative and decide that with service like that, this guy needs to have some Laksa too.  So the three of us – my sweetie, Taxi Boy, and I – sit down to have some AMAZING world-famous Laksa in this hole-in-the-wall place that sports pictures on the wall of customers Anthony Bourdain and Samantha Brown of Food Network fame.

And yes, that’s his real name (sort of).  When we asked him what his name is he said, “Boy (I thought for a second that he had said Boyd)……….people call me Taxi Boy.”  That kind of reminded me of James Bond.  You know, when he says “Bond………….James Bond.”

Thanks Taxi Boy!!

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Shish Gumbab

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I can remember that because it sounds like shish kabob, and I love food. As a matter of fact, just as a side note – my sweetie’s new favorite pet name for me is Lunch Box.  I’ll let you guess why, then I’ll tell you the story when I see you, if you remind me.

One of the many things that I have found to love about India is the element of surprise.  You never know what you’ll see or encounter next.

An example of that is these ancient structures, many of them tombs, built many moons before my country even existed, that just appear in the middle of random places.  This one is in a park, at Lodi Garden.

It’s a tomb called Shish Gumbad, named for the blue glazed tiles that covered it. You can still see some on the upper part after 500-600 years. Mughal architecture, with its arches within arches design, is so beautiful.

No one seems to know who the three people are who are buried inside, but it is assumed that they were part of the royal Lodi family who ruled this part of India 600 years or so ago.  Whoever they are, they don’t have much of a chance to get lonely, as there are always people milling about. Lodi Garden is the most beautiful and pleasant green area in the whole Delhi NCR (National Capital Region), so it’s a very popular place to hang out.  And eat lunch.

They Call Me Skeeter

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I have what I call a healthy respect for mosquitos. I don’t like them AT ALL!  Others might call it a paranoia, an unreasonable aversion, but I think it’s pretty reasonable.

I came by the name Skeeter when, back at home in the US, I developed a pretty severe allergy to the saliva of the local mosquitos at my home by a lake in North Carolina.

I have the body chemistry that they love, I suppose, because a lone mosquito can smell me at 20 miles away and pick me out of a crowd of a hundred. And she doesn’t just peg me once…..she’ll track a trail up an arm or a leg like she’s trying to drop bread crumbs of spit into my skin. That escapade would leave an arm swelled to the size of my thighs, which aren’t small, and the skin red and angry like it had been burned, itching so bad that it hurt. I’d have ice packs, hydrocortisone cream, and Benadryl along with my computer in my giant rolling briefcase.

I looked up the symptoms online and discovered that the condition had a name. The name was, oddly enough, fashioned after a rather back-country Appalachian term for mosquitos that we used in Tennessee where I grew up: Skeeters. My condition was called “Skeeter Syndrome”. I had to laugh. One of my colleagues at work found that quite funny as well, and took to calling me “Skeeter”.

So you can imagine my anxiety when I was planning the move to India and discovered that Malaria and Dengue, two serious although rarely life-threatening if treated diseases in India, are mosquito borne diseases. I learned that there was a Malaria preventive medication, but it is not a vaccination. It is an oral once a week pill that one takes, starting a week before the trip and ending a week after. I go to my doctor and ask for Malaria pills for a trip. She asks how long I’ll be gone. Oh, three years or so, I say. Oh. Three years. Huh. I don’t know if it’s good to be on medication for that long……it’s really meant for short term use. Let me do some research, she says. “Please”, I think to myself, like a junkie needing a fix, “ I need my pills!” The good doctor comes through.

Fortunately for me, I don’t seem to be as allergic to the Indian mosquitos, and they don’t seem to like my foreign blood. I guess it’s an acquired taste.

I still have a healthy respect for mosquitos, though, and am always glad to hear the fog blower start up in our neighborhood every evening at 7:30. A guy walks around the whole place with a mosquito fog blower that looks and sounds like a giant leaf blower that leaves the place shrouded in a fog that makes it look haunted for the next few minutes.

‘YEAH!” I say to myself. “Now, THAT’S what we do to Skeeters round here! Go get em Dude!”

Because 1) there’s not much standing water around our place, 2) you don’t hear much about Malaria in the urban areas, and 3) I’ve only had a couple of bites since we got here, I stopped taking my weekly dose of Malaria meds, saving it for trips that might involve trekking into more undeveloped terrain and/or a lot of water.

I have heard recently, though, of a few cases of Dengue that friends or family of acquaintances are fighting, and they ask for urgent blood donors to go directly to the hospital. Kinda scary.

So when I saw this sign on someone’s facebook wall, I had to adopt it. Keep calm. Breathe (but not in the fog). And kill those little buggars.