2006 #6: Weddings and Puppeteers

Yesterday, whilst wandering down the street with no particular mission, I bumped into a Rajasthani Puppeteer. He happened to also be talking to a Kiwi at the time and commented that the world suddenly seemed to be full of New Zealanders. We got chatting, the chai came out – wonderful habit, that one – and it turns out that he is well-travelled himself. He’s been to Germany several times, Norway, Sweden, Spain and one or two other places I can’t remember. He carves all the puppet faces himself and makes the costumes. Very clever guy. He was organising with the other Kiwi to do a show that afternoon for some kids at a leper colony/orphanage. I’d love to see these kids faces during the show – everyone loves a story and I’m sure these kids could do with all the cheering up they can get.

Back to R-Expo again, to deal with Mr Om some more. While Paul was dealing with him, I got chatting with one of the other staff and he ended up showing me three other floors they had that I didn’t know was there. Oh my, what a terribly dangerous shop! Rajasthani painted furniture, chunky wooden furniture, jewellery boxes of every description, brass ware to die for, musical instruments, cushion covers, etc etc etc. It was like being in Aladdin’s cave. I’m going to have to work on becoming a millionaire just so I can have a home like this. I must have been drooling for a good hour – had to wipe my chin several times….

Also, for a little while, I sat outside the shop and watched the street, camera in hand. I got one or two shots of the metal cages on wheels that the children go to and from school in. They’re only small, with bars on the windows, but I guess it’s a good idea for keeping them safe from the various dangers on the street – cow horns, rickshaw handlebars, etc.

Yesterday was also remarkable in that it was the most disgustingly hot and humid day yet. Imagine combining that with many power cuts, the heat and smell of half a million generators, several million other sweating bodies, the smell of urine and dung of course and you start to get an idea of this less than romantic situation. Especially when, stupidly, I popped into a clothing shop – I never learn do I? I’m still looking for something ever-cooler to wear – and their dressing room was a small enclosed oven at the back of the shop. You don’t take the clothing back off, you peel it off and wring it out. Oh dear. When will I learn?

I did, however, have some wonderful chats with several different wallahs, got to try out my tiny Hindi abilities and drink much chai, and all in all it was a peaceful and sociable day.

Last night we were just leaving our guesthouse to go for some aloo fry (potato chunks with spices and lemon on) and a wedding procession was coming up the road. It’s hard not to notice these, as they are proceeded by a band banging drums and playing assorted loud instruments. Then the Bride and Groom (or is it just the groom? Not sure…) come along on dressed up horses, followed by a rickshaw with a generator on it which is powering the guys behind them carrying elaborate electric lights above their heads. These lights are connected to each other with power cords – pretty innovative really. Although apparently a little awkward if the generator breaks down – each guys gets jerked to a stop by the next one, connections come undone, etc. And of course, meanwhile, the normal city traffic is still trying to flow around this whole situation, which is bad enough at the best of times. So inevitably, Pahar Ganj was complete and utter chaos for the duration of the parade, power cuts and madding crowds and the whole thing was wildly humorous and entertaining. Well, for those of us on holiday anyway. I imagine for a businessman or someone in a hurry the amusement level would have been a tad lower on the scale.

Finally, back to the rooftop. There’s a bunch of French circus types up there at the moment, so they kept us entertained by juggling with glowing juggling balls. One of the balls changed colour constantly and the effect was quite mesmerizing. So naturally we hauled our cameras out and had a bit of fun taking groovy psychedelic photos.

They were up there this morning also with balancing plates and all sorts of things. One of the waiters was having a go at juggling and lost one of the balls over the side of the building. I’m not sure what was more entertaining – the juggling, etc, or the locals trying to put together all sorts of pipes and bits and pieces to try and get this ball back. It must have been stuck in a pretty awkward place by the looks of these goings on.

Well, today we go to the railways station to buy tickets to Pathenkot (spelling?) as we’re finally going up to the hills. That means tonight we tackle the train station again. Cringe. I am practising calmness and breathing as I speak of this, keeping in mind the last lot of experiences in this wonderful, crazy world of Indian Railway travelling. But on the cheerful side, that might be eclipsed by the mountain bus ride experience. Time will tell.

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