The Chronic-(what?)-les of Art In India–Days 5 and 6

It’s Sunday afternoon right now.  I just got back from a shopping trip and they knocked on my door to clean my room, so I came down to the lobby to have a couple drinks and type up the blog.

2011-02-19_11-55-42_501Yesterday I worked from my hotel room, ordered lunch and hung out in the room until the Cricket World Cup started.

I ordered the club sandwich, which I had the first day I was here.  The club sandwich at this hotel consists of a fried egg, coleslaw, and bacon on brown onion bread.  They are always sure to ask me if I want the bacon.  Everything’s better with bacon!

I ordered two beers, too, but I didn’t finish the second.  Instead I fell asleep.  I thought I would be in trouble sleeping from 3pm until 8pm yesterday, but as it turns out I was tired again by midnight and fell alseep until around 7am.

Perhaps I was wrong the first day trying to stay awake, and I should have just slept, and slept, and slept.  Maybe when I get home I’ll try that.  Right Teresa?

I had to look up the score of the India / Bangladesh cricket match since I didn’t stay awake for the entire thing.  I barely stayed awake for the first couple overs (similar to an inning I think).  I was aware enough of what was happening that I knew India was having a pretty good time of it.

I had dinner, worked some more, and then went back to sleep.  Barely left my room.

2011-02-20_10-54-37_963

This morning I was determined (mostly by Teresa’s prodding through IM last night) to do something more.  The breakfast buffet had a bunch of flight crews.  Not an Emirates flight, though.

I looked up the meaning of the bindi last night.  That’s the dot between the eyebrows, and it signifies the woman is married.

 

My host from HP here recommended against scheduling a car from the hotel because they were so expensive, but I hadn’t heard from him and didn’t have a number to call so I scheduled a car to take me to Spencer Plaza, at one time the largest mall of something or another.

It was rather disappointing, actually.  Narrow, maze-like corridors and an atmosphere a lot like a flea market, or a K-mart on the bad side of town.  The shops I did go into were high-pressure sales, and I’m a stupid American that doesn’t do well with that.  I haggled as best as I know how, “ten for that you must be mad!”  I cut maybe 10-15% off the prices.2011-02-20_11-23-22_859

2011-02-20_11-38-37_303The taxi driver insisted I stop at an “Indian Cultural Shop” on the way home, and who am I to refuse.  I tell you, I wouldn’t mind some of these Hindu god sculptures.  I just like them.  First they tried to sell me rugs/carpets (“I don’t need carpets” “Just look, perhaps you will see one you like” “No, really, I don’t need them” x 4), then they tried to sell me shawls (for $50 each!) made from the wool that comes from the chin of goats.   Anyway, high pressure stuff again.  Meh.

2011-02-20_11-36-14_113On the way back the taxi driver did a whirlwind 30 minute tour of Chennai, driving past the governor’s palace, Gandhi’s memorial (I might have liked to stop there, actually), India national park, a large dirt park where locals were playing pickup Cricket, a huge hotel complex being built…

2011-02-20_12-09-12_860I couldn’t get any pictures.  He would point, say it, I’d say “What?” (India drivers on on the right, my deaf side), he’d repeat it, I’d say “Oh, I want a picture,” struggle with my phone and it would be too late since we would be going about 40km/hour past it.  I got two pictures of my legs and shoes.

It was interesting.  I saw more of Chennai.  My impression of this city is a stark contrast, between very beautiful, artistic, and colorful sense of beauty and something very, very old.  The carvings you see on older buildings and the temples are intricate, and done with care, but they stand next to (and can be overshadowed by) square, mildewed, utilitarian concrete buildings.  Signs for pedestrians and motorists are scrawled on the sides of buildings.  Street gutters have mounds of dirt and refuse in them.  Motorcycles are parked everywhere.  Every inch of space along the road, and off the road like sidewalks.  Most entrances to places have two, one for 2-wheelers and one for 4-wheelers.  3-wheeled auto-rickshaws are out of luck, I suppose.2011-02-20_12-18-11_614

Traffic police are very visible, every two blocks or so, standing next to their motorcycles.  Nobody pulled over.  I wonder what constitutes a traffic violation.

Great buildings are being built, but each one has a wall and a gate around it.  Even the library.

At one point we drove down a road and the taxi driver said it was the rich section of Chennai.  Large walled houses with a lot of landscaping was all that I could see of them.  Houses almost a block in size, with three people living in it.

That is a very big deal in a city of 4 million, where in other sections of the city stalls selling produce and cellphones are in spaces no bigger than a display window.

I read on a website regarding India that you either fall in love with India, or you leave it running and screaming.  I’m definitely not running and screaming, but I’ve not fallen in love, either.  I’m intrigued at the contrasts and the beauty, but I don’t think it is for me.  I think I am too set in my American ways, with sports bars, fast food, no haggle prices and super stores.

If I felt I could venture out, and not pay too much for the cab, or the shawl or even the Diet Cokes, I might feel different, too.

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