Sunday, January 30, 2011

How was the festival? What, you weren't there?!

Sarson, i.e mustard, i.e pretty yellow flowers, i.e playground of atleast the one legendary Bollywood rom com was my obsession on the drive to Jaipur last week for the lit fest.

The Hunchback of Akshardham and I, the Bendy Yogi

Never mind authors I was perfectly amenable to listening to at the festival. Sarson -- ‘sar’ like dur in Durham and ‘son’ like no nasal equivalent in English -- was my muse for the four-hour drive to the crummy little pink city with camel shit for local currency.

I’ve been to Jaipur earlier. Yet my role was chosen. I was the tourist. Everything was new. This was my camera and ooh, aah the smell of rural India!

Less taken in by the bright-smelling rustic surroundings was the person on my right - driver and lover of Beatles-covers who doubles as Boyfriend. He’s also, in my humble opinion, winner of person-most-easily-enraged-behind-the-wheel-award. If he had three wishes on the road, I bet they’d be a very focused:
  • Let no one ever again cut me off
  • Drive in your lane, bitches and
  • Less road kill for all
Well, maybe two of those and one wish more risqué, but poor chap, in his determined, let’s-see-how-much-the-new-car-can-do mode, would push to 180 kmph and then have to slam the breaks to deal with my STOP! STOP! Hark! I-see –yet-another-totally-similar-mustard-field nonsense.

He: You’re like someone with Tourette's syndrome – every three seconds: click, click, click!

Me: That’s not a nice thing to say about people with turrets.

He: Good thing that’s no one in this car then.

Me: *Click*

On nearing Jaipur, my STOP! STOP! Mustard! chant became Slow down! Elephants!

By now, driver boy’s patience was running thin because he wanted to be directed only by the GPS on his phone. And I had switched roles, now playing the lead in Mean Girls.

Me: Screw technology, why can’t we just ASK someone, ya?!

He: Shhh, one second...

Me: Fine! Do what you want.

All I saw were arrows and lines on his, at that moment, not very smart phone. Saying such things aloud, did you know, does not help soothe tempers? Aah, enlightenment on a crisp, winter, choked-with-rickshaws in this small town Marutis-honking-everywhere day.

The shhh, one second worked fine because, yes of course I’ve seen an elephant before, but what is anyone else’s problem if I want to zoom into its snout today in the middle of a busy intersection?!

GPS was being a slow tease. I felt I won this round of our constant debate -- efficiency-of- people-versus-machines -- because asking a local for directions finally bloody got us to our destination.
Amer Fort -- not 'our' destination

It’s fatal if you start thinking about what people will think. Readers are abstract. You’ve just got to press on.
– Martin Amis discussing Memoir-writing.

The lit fest was like a mass wedding. Yes, there were authors and quotes and listeners and questions and answers and panel discussions every hour on every surface of lawn under beautiful tents done up in lovely pastels, but I’m not sure that’s what draws us people in.

It’s free, it’s accessible and you bump into the world. You can walk up to Coetzee and meet Rushdie at the bar. Some long lost college friend will be found floating near the fringes. What are you doing here? will not be said as much as When did you get here?. New people will be met and remembered for a firm handshake, others for impressions less complimentary. Young novelists with whom you have eight mutual friends on Facebook will lend you their delegate’s pass against which you can get a beer. Same young novelist will recommend the session on Kashmir. And because he facilitated free beer, you will nod as if militancy is a subject totally up your alley and to which you can of course, totally, uh huh -- contribute.

At the counter for tea that they hand out in mud-kulhars, shoulders will be rubbed with college kids, grey-haired professors, sari-wearing theatre-types and peach-complexioned nymphs sneezing but dressed for Goa. Old colleagues will tell you Kiran Desai looks damn young and everyone’s running after her. Photographer friends will light your cigarettes. Female groupies will flock to your boyfriend and introduce him to their other friends as a pianist genius. He, on his birthday eve, will blush. You, with no ready gift, will smile. Someone will say, where’s the loo? Small blue doors will be pointed to. All the while, you’ll be checking out the crowd, the hot women in abundance, the too few attractive men and the idiots who, by the looks of it, made it big.


On the way back from Jaipur, so after the lit fest, I lost my slippers. This would, of course, have been more of a problem if it was on the way to Jaipur, and before stepping foot into the lit fest. I had left my shoes back in Delhi and thus had zero back up. (So much for jibes directed at smart phones and their android owners, I’m supposed to be a smart person, also owner of an android device, but this round of machine versus man argument, for me, was obviously advantage out).

It was bad enough to parade about in worn out pink flip flops instead of tapping around in boots and saying to Pamuk Hello, sorry I couldn’t read The New Life and nor do I have it with me for you to inscribe and, like Amis, call me your beloved with an accent on the ‘e’ even though your lady, Kiran with a K, might not like that.

Plan wasn’t working. Now even the worn out pink flip flops had, as Rowling likes to say, apparated. I was the slum dog, naked ankle down, feeling not bohemian at all -- unlike arty Hussain, the eternally barefooted brilliance in exile.

Turns out a camel walker had whacked them. Yes, I know, it’s a difficult-to-imagine, somewhat embarrassing story of absent mindedness, but stay with me.

I wanted to stand on the roof of the car to take a picture (Tourette's, Tourette's!) of one stupid fort in the middle of a lake – Jal Mahal? But this boy was not letting me stand on the roof of his car, reasoning that tin roofs are not made to withstand such weight. (Such weight?! What weight, I’m a lithe, bendy yogi! See above picture of me in sarson ke fields forever!)

But maybe he’s right, I thought. Fine, I won’t climb on to the roof. Next option, as per He-man’s suggestion: balance on the window of my zippy little Volkswagen. Slippers removed (aaah! you see?), I try to get up there but realise quickly this is not happening and so I semi-pout and say, forget it, start the car.

He: What, are you sure? Do you want me to take a u-turn so you can take a shot from that side?

Me: No, no, drive. It’s fine.

Within five minutes, I’m saying, STOP! STOP! I want to get off and take a picture of the great wall of Jaipur! (Ooh, plus one number coloured tusker!)

So he stops. I feel around for my chappals. Obviously, they’re not there. Makes no sense, up until the second after when – aaah! -- realisation dawns on I, the cluck.

Me: Sweetheart... do you think we can go back...?

End of nail biting anecdote: I left them on the side of the road when I got off to want to climb the roof. Maybe they’re still there.

U-turn taken, I see them from this side of the road. But now that we’re on the Jal Mahal side, I may as well get that one damn shot. Slippers aren’t going anywhere. Who knew that in the few moments it takes to manual focus on the distant fort, they’d change their mind? Not I, the cluck again.

Imagine my surprise, my confoundedness, my complete dismay at the repeat absenteeism of the only footwear at my disposal. But they were just here! We just saw them from that side! How could this be?!

Driver boy thought this hilarious -- not just ha-ha-hilarious, but laughter that gets shrill and sadistic hilarious.

Shut up and chase the camels, you ass!

And so we pull up next to two camel men with their two camels, on whose, er, two humps were seated two tickled oriental tourists, aiming their two big digital lenses down at -- dare I imagine it – one bare-footed cluck?

Not the time to be conscious, I yell out to camel-man 1 asking if he’s seen a pair of pink chappals lying around: Bhaiiya jiii, aapne koi gulabi rang ki chappalein dekhin hain yahan?

Camel man 1 looks at me, then to his friend, Camel man 2, says haan ji, madam, rukiye. And so I wait and watch him pull out from the secret compartments in his camel’s saddle, my two tattered babies. Never have I been more relieved to see a pair of slippers. And how sweet of the guy/ thief to return them! He could just as easily have said, I never saw no slippers, lady, check ahead. And I would’ve reconciled myself to the poetic if corny justice of losing my pink slippers in the pink city. Just as well the charm and honesty of kindly Rajput gents saved me from such schmaltzy justice.
Slippers retrieved, camera put away, and before I polished off a bottle of wine on my own, I ask birthday boy as he zooms ahead making up for time lost time, do you think I should have given the highway robbers a tenner? Naah, apparently -- decency’s not a money thing, even for a finders-keepers sort of pilferer. I did though take the cheap way out by saying an enthusiastic thank you and baring my teeth like I do when I’m drunk and there is a camera around.


Perakath said...

Hehe great post.

I recently tried solo-navigating Bangalore using gmaps and gps on my Android: phone mapping the route in blue, and I a moving blue dot on the route. That didn't work out too well (I kept missing turns), so I thought I'd leave out the gps bit and try to navigate using just gmaps, ie as I would a paper map. I gave up after arriving at the start of what I thought was marked on the map as a shortcut through a forest, but which turned out to be not a road but a wall.

Nimpipi said...

Per: Nobody was commenting and I thought that's it, I'd gone on too long for my own good, which is still true but phew+tanks, I say!

Fuck gmaps/ emaps! Why does every man, every time have to prove those jaded email forwards right by NEVER asking for directions?! I zon't gets it, I just zon't.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Your boyfriend has the patience of a saint, don't you think? A keeper, that one.

Don't worry about comments. You're doing this for yourself, correct? Isn't that why we all do this? Please carry on.

The last pic of the camel was vile and unnecessary. It robbed me of my breakfast appetite. But overall, a landmark post. A great story with a proper arc.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you're feeling all insecure about comments and stuff...

I do feel for the person on your right. Having once spent a bomb on a camera, and then progressed to the stage where I was regularly annoying the hell out of everyone around me with 20 minutes of fiddling with the tripod to take an absolute shit of a photograph, my current views on amateur photography are remarkably similar to this.

Nimpipi said...

Unbearable b: Finders of keepers are oft the weepers. Can't fault the patience, though, no.

Doing this for myself? You're serious, are you not? Of course I'm not doing this for myself! I have banished that pretence from my life. If you stopped reading me, I would cry. Nobody does this for themselves because there's no fun blogging without some noise over at the comments.

In the case of this post though, the last picture was most definitely for myself! :)

Rohan: For the kindness shown in ridding me of insecurities, thank you. But don't over do feeling for the person on my right, I'm excellent company. And photos be damned. I love my point and shoot and I'm getting better but I'd rather you hang on to my every word :D

Anonymous said...

your....ummm....derriere is quite...shall we say...


i'm just being honest, you know. ha ha!

- ry

Anonymous said...


not that i didn't quite enjoy it


- ry

The.Mystic said...

GPS sucks! What happened to good ol' "Bhaiya! Yeh _____ kidar padega". I see you enjoyed the lit fest, did you enjoy the Kashmir debate?

Did you and the driver sing a song in the sarso fields? Lovely pictures btw.

kshitij said...

Too mushy! your posts are becoming!