07 January 2006

elephant = hathi

Different people experience India differently, and it's one of the more interesting things to vicariously experience it for the first time again through this great group of tourists I'm leading around. the touts that haunt every major tourist site are always a problem for people, as they are aggressive (in northern India primarily) and the more popular the spot, the more aggressive and numerous the touts. this group has taken to calling them the "hello people" because they say hello! hello! to get your attention. some have decided ignoring them entirely is the way to go, others have gone with firm "no"s and others have engaged with them, sometimes buying things, sometimes just trying to make the experience a bit more palatable. This of course backfires because the touts see a softy and go for that person, so you get more touts, but you do in the end get to converse with people who, yes, want to sell you something, but also have families and will chat about pretty much anything.

I've decided after years of following the first two options that the third option is my preferred route. yesterday I practiced a little Hindi with a small girl selling "hathi patas" or elephant images (one of which, yes, I bought). Her name was Usha and she lied and said her didi (sister) made the item, when in fact they are mass produced in Rajasthan by workers there, I'm sure. But she was sweet and was suitably fascinated by my Hindi, all of which worked to give her the sale.

as I've blogged before--negative energy just puts more negative energy back in the world, and it reinforces and heightens whatever negative things you've got going on in your life aside from annoying touts. it's made me more of a target, perhaps, but it's also made my time in India a casual, comfortable one instead of one where I'm constantly fighting for my space and my right to be "unbothered" by touts.

one of the travelers with us, who unfortunately had to leave today because of a death in her family, was saying that she felt especially bad ignoring and brushing aside the touts outside of Ajanta--after seeing these amazing Buddhist excavated spaces with paintings all over them depicting narratives of meritorious and righteous actions, she just couldn't reconcile that with the actions she herself (and all of us) were participating in outside of the ancient realm. I think it's important to make that connection, one which I almost never do, but when you're in the site itself and surrounded by these wonders, it's hard not to be affected by the messages the images are teaching.

It's great to be with such empathetic and inquisitive people, interested in what I'm interested in, and fascinated by the things I know (and the things I don't know...)

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