India 2008 # 12: Uncle Chips and Penguin Spit

Before dawn I was woken by the sound of what seemed like the Tibetan version of
the bagpipes coming from the temple. Of course, that started off the dog packs
who accompanied this strident sound with what they thought was rather a nice
rendition of the Barking Symphony Number 3 in C Minor. Even that may have been almost tolerable had it not been for the monkey packs singing their Screech
Symphony Number 8 in D Sharp. As any musician will tell you, these particular
notes go not together. Finally, thank goodness, the Tibetan bagpipes stopped
– ‘insert sigh of relief’. Alas, too soon. Horns started up, replacing
the bagpipes, with an accompaniment of drums keeping beat as loudly as
possible. Okay, at least the horns weren’t being played at as high a pitch as
the bagpipe thingys. But I didn’t reckon with the pending cymbols about to be played at a definate clash of tempo with the drums. Conches then competed this cocophony of sound.

I gave up any idea of continuing my sleep and looked out the window at the poor monkeys racing up and down the temple exterior- I swear they had paws over their ears. One of them was particularly upset at the fact someone had lit a good sized fire at the minor temple next door – which apparently exists to keep any wrathful deities at bay. Well, if that didn’t work, the noise sure would have. As a lovely finale, a lone monk went over to the giant bell in the courtyard and got that going. The size of the noise is in direct proportion to the size of the bell, which is at
the very least 8 foot high.

Okay, I’m not really a morning person, but in my humble opinion, mornings
should start IN the morning. Not quite a while before dawn. But at least the
singing of a bunch of enthusiastic Tibetans from Ladakh or somewhere waited
until just after light before they started. So, all this combined with my
granite mattresss meant that I was off to a rather late start today and I
confess to not being quite as cheerful as I may otherwise have been. Serves me
right for wanting to witness Tibetan culture and sleep right next to a temple.
Not one of my brighter ideas, in retrospect.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I amused myself once more watching the world from the monkey hiding place.
There was a group of monks feeding the fish round the lake a little, and once again the monkeys amused themselves jumping out of the trees into the water. Then they’d rush over to the monks and chase them around a bit, until some guy
came to the rescue with a large stick. I’m hoping to catch the monkeys at it again today with my camera. They have to jump quite a way out of the trees to make it over a steel barrier in the water. Awesome.

A few more observations:

  • There’s a serious epidemic in India, once which I noticed last year also. The Case of the Squeaky Shoes. Little children wearing shoes that squeak with every step they take. Now I realise that this is probably extremely practical at a busy railway station, where you don’t want to lose your kid in the crowd, but on an average daily basis, I don’t know how the parents can stand it. I know I grit my teeth every time I hear it. Whoever invented those things ought to be shot. (Did I mention I was a little grumpy today?)
  • Monkeys do a strange thing (well, several actually, but this is just one of them). They like to sit on very high ledges or on the roofs of buildings with their backs to
    the edge. I can see this as a bit of a safety thing (no one can creep up on them) but I’d hate to see them get it wrong. Mind you, I haven’t seen any monkeys
    splatted on the ground so far. I know I seem to rave on about monkeys a lot, but there’s a severe lack of lizards up here and I have to watch something.
  • They have cute ideas for condiment containers at the cafes here. They put soy sauce, vinegar, garlic water, etc, into old whiskey and gin hip flasks or vodka bottles. Or plastic cats that spill out salt, or – a favourite of Ernie’s – plastic
    penguins with tomato sauce in. Imagine sitting to enjoy your meal, and then “Penguin spit anyone?” Talk about cordon bleau.
  • It’s fun to sit at the cafe upstairs and watch the cows trying to steal food. One miscreant walked away with a cardboard box in it’s mouth yesterday and almost got away with it.

I had a dog have a go at me one of the first days I was here. Thank
goodness it had been tied up. It was the only dog that had done so here. Then when I went up for breakfast (well, brunch, in all honesty), there it was, tied up and sitting next to it’s owner, who is a Westerner who’s been in India for a long time and kind of lost the plot. You see at least one of these people in every town in India I think. I instantly recognised the dog and the look in its eye. I was quite glad to realise that this wasn’t one of the local dogs, with which I generally get on fine. This one is an imposter. Huh! One day it will meet it’s match.
Maybe in one of the monkeys if it’s really unlucky.

Other random observations;

  • The local stores here are often called “Daily Needs Stores’. Oh, and just because they advertise that they have something, i.e. a computer with internet, doesn’t mean it’s actually true. Sometimes you walk in and ask for what they’re advertising and they look at you as if you’re mad.
  • Up here in the mountain villages, flat roads are a little less than common. There are often piles of bricks or large stones around to use as handbrakes. So one person will park the vehicle and anothe couple will race over and put these ‘handbrakes
    place. Obviously, they’ve learnt to be pretty quick at it.
  • On t.v. there are a lot of ads with ‘skin-lightening’ or ‘skin whitening’ cream. I shudder to think what’s in the darned things. There seems to be quite an attitude here that lighter skin is better. I dunno. I think many of the people in this country are absolutely gorgeous, each to his own I guess.
  • Snacks (packets of chips, nuts, buja, etc) are manufactured so that they hang in rows outside the shops. Then you just have to tear a packet off. Very practical.
  • We were wondering when looking at the menu at our favourite cafe what ‘Uncle Chips’ are. They call french fries ‘finger chips’ but we couldn’t figure out the ‘Uncle Chips’. Turns out it’s just a packet of chips that they race across to the daily needs shop to get for you.

Footnote: I was one minute too late in closing this. The power cut did happen. I must listen to my intuition more and never mind the grammar check.

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