Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Third World Equalizer and Old Naked Men

I just got back from working at a trade show exhibit booth in Bangalore India. I had one day to walk around the city by myself and see the spectacles which, in India, occur about every three seconds.

I was walking to the museum when I noticed an entourage of 30 men coming toward me. As they approached, I noticed that six of the oldest men -- 70 years plus, with white cropped hair -- were completely naked, just strolling through the mid-day traffic, uncircumcised penises a-bouncin', with the honking auto-rickshaws, crazy traffic, dust and heat swirling around them -- the pedestrians hardly gave them a second glance.

I found out later that the men were Jain monks, who, when taking the oath to be a Jain monk, give up all their material possessions, including clothes, which they don't wear for the rest of their lives.

This is such a typical India thing to witness -- a completely weird sensory overload and WTF moment. This brings me to a point I've been making about India lately: if you took all of the common things distinctive of poorer countries and represented each single one with an equalizer level, most Third World countries would have all the levels set generally in the middle range, like below. For example, take these EQ levels:

Now, represent each one of the levels with an item in this list of common things/occurrences common in the developing world:

- Amazing artwork
- Arranged marriages
- Astonishing, ancient architecture
- Backwards treatment of women
- Beautiful beaches
- Beer served with ice
- Burning trash
- Cars/trucks without mufflers
- Chaotic, sprawling, traffic-snarling construction projects
- Child beggars
- Coconuts
- Construction workers not wearing helmets
- Corrugated metal shacks
- Currency notes with too many zeros
- Diarrhea
- Dirty European/American/Australian backpackers, wearing some sort of local garb, who look down their noses at "tourists" (meaning non-full-time-tourists)
- Dust
- Engrish
- Exotic incredible plants
- Extreme division between rich and poor
- Fanta Orange Soda
- Flooding
- Gasoline sold in old Johnnie Walker bottles
- Guards toting automatic assault rifles
- Haggling
- Heavy rain that lasts 30 minutes
- Hellish, dangerous traffic
- Hilarious local TV shows
- Hotels that don't provide soap/towels/toilet paper
- Hotels with bed bugs
- Hotels with insufficient water pressure or temperature
- Hotels with roaches
- Hundreds of handicrafts shops, all selling generally the same stuff
- Incredible food with incredible sauces/spices
- Intense heat/sunshine/humidity
- Karaoke
- Lack of backseat (or sometimes frontseat) seatbelts
- Mangled-up mangy stray dogs
- Meat served with head on
- Motorbikes
- Motorcycle riders without helmets
- No local men who wear short pants
- Not being able to get change from small bills (ie, trying to pay for something with the equivalent of ten dollars (500-rupee bill), but the vendor cannot give you change for it)
- Open sewers
- Other weird, unexplainable random phenomenon, like the old naked Jain monks, or head-slapping haircut
- Overabundance of honking horns
- Overloaded freight trucks
- Packs of children playing in the street, unsupervised
- People loading large commercial goods onto passenger trains
- People pissing outdoors, openly, day or night
- People shitting outdoors, openly, day or night
- Person with fucked-up deformity or injury, begging
- Plastic bag trash, lying everywhere
- Prostitution
- Rickshaws
- Sales of single cigarettes
- Slums
- Smoking indoors
- Somewhat successful communist party
- Spectacular religious monuments
- Sprawling awesome open markets
- Squat toilets
- Stray chickens, or other livestock, in city and country
- Street food
- Strikingly beautiful women who're really poor
- Strong smell of urine
- Too many people riding on a two-wheeled vehicle
- Touts (hustler middlemen who take a cut of some service, like taxi or hotel fare)
- Two-wheeled vehicles transporting way too much cargo
- Unfinished buildings with rebar sticking out the top of the roof, but people are still living/working in the building
- Un-iced raw meat sitting in the mid-day sun, for sale
- Weird rot-gut local liquor
- Weird/unidentified smells on the street
- Wild religions with weird rules

For every poor country other than India, the levels on the Third World Equalizer would be somewhere in the middle range; for India, with only a few exceptions to the above list, just push all the equalizer levels to the very top.
Okay...what's with people in these oppressively hot third world countries who wear long pants when any sane second or first world country citizen would throw on the shorts at the first mention of heat and humidity? I wear shorts around the house in NJ 365 days a year without a second thought. Obviously they are accustomed to that weather, but I think I'd be more inclined to become a Jain monk, although the circumcision has long since taken place, and the less length, the less bounce.
Sounds overwhelming. The backpacker snobs bother me the most.

Does INdia top the asian countries insofar as strange food in markets. Like live eels, jellyfish and other caged animals?

I think men in hot countries think it looks too casual to wear shorts. India is, after all, a fairly conservative/traditional country. Also, when you're eating outdoors and wear shorts, the mosquitoes eat your legs up.

All Rounder,

Re: foods. Definitely not. 50% of Indians are vegetarians. Even those that do eat meat, don't eat much of it. The cow is sacred so they don't eat that and there's not much pork either (McDonald's in India only serves chicken patties). There are also all sorts of animal rights laws that rival even England in strictness -- for example, it's even illegal to charm cobras. This is fairly unique in Asia. For the weird foods, Vietnam and China are about the most insane I've seen or heard of. Some of the stuff they do to animals can be downright offensive and morally wrong though.
Unlike you, Lonnie, I've not been so fortunate as to visit so many faraway places, but you do a great job in your descriptions to allow us to relate to your experiences. Don't take so long to post again, please? BTW, everybody's dogs eat other dogs' shit, but I still laugh awfully hard when I hear someone else mention it.
Camp Ground,an area dedicated to visitors with tents and / or caravans.

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Looking for a hotel with the services you want and what you want for your kids is so easy now.

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