Normally I express myself mostly in pictures on this weblog, but after 2 months in India so many things have happened that I feel it's time to express myself a bit more prosaically. I will do so in bulletin form to keep it short and make sure it doesn't get too boring.
Here goes. Interesting things to say about my first two months back in India:
- I have had my first experience with buying bootleg booze on the black market which resulted in getting threatened to pay up 200 rupees to some drug addict who promised to do horrible things to us if we didn't pay. It was basically one stop short of a regular mugging. The reason for this was that we celebrated Susanna's birthday + my coming back the day after my arrival. Unfortunately this happened to be a dry day (due to some holiday I don't remember) meaning we couldn't buy any legal beer for the night's party. In our desperate chase for these things we ended up in a very dingy slum area where we bought 5 cases of beer at 3 times the normal price. Some local, clearly intoxicated guy helped us carry a few of the cases, but when we presented him with 20 rupees as a tip he got mad and threatened to kill us if we didn't pay him 200 rupees, which is about 3-4 days wages in an area like that. Susanna refused and started arguing with him, but I decided (wisely I think) to just give up the money and get the hell out of there.
- This is not the only drama we have experienced. Approximately 5 days ago we saw a guy being hit by an auto rickshaw in the middle of a very busy Delhi intersection. The rickshaw ran straight into him with a speed of approx. 35 km/h and he flew several meters to the side. Only a quick evasive maneuver by our rickshaw driver prevented the guy from being hit by us. Since he was lying down at this point this would have meant certain death. I don't know what happened to the guy, but I saw people stopping to help him and since we saw nothing about the incident in the newspapers I assume he survived, although he must have broken several bones.
- My main mission while being here is to finish my thesis. While I am making progress and finding good sources I must admit that there are many distractions here. Thus I have not started writing yet, but I hope to be able to start writing shortly after Christmas.
- Talking of Christmas: I will be spending Christmas in the Indian Northeast this year. I will be leaving on Friday and don't know if I'll be able to post much on my blog until I return on the 27th. I will do my best though.
- While going away for Christmas will keep me from working intensively on my thesis I have another thing also taking up some of my productive time. I have hired a personal Hindi teacher who will help me with my conversational Hindi skills. I already feel that it has greatly accelerated the speed by which I am picking up this beautiful language.
- I can measure my Hindi skills by attempting to communicate with our nice maid Sarah who comes to cook for us every day in the afternoon. Since I am home alone at this time I am often forced to utilise my limited Hindi skills to make conversation. Much to my satisfaction I find that I am constantly able to express more and more (although I make plenty of grammatical mistakes) and also able to understand more and more when we go around town. I still cannot understand an ordinary Hindi conversation but I am beginning to pick up more and more words and terms. I usually get the gist of a conversation now.
- The social situation is quite good. We have many friends here, many of them Danes or other Europeans but also some of the natives here. In fact tonight we are going for some Danish "Julehygge" (untranslatable term relating to Christmas celebrations) at the house of the Danish interns at the Embassy. Basically they are now doing what I did exactly one year ago.
- It is the season for high profile criminal convictions in India these days. Famous and popular Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was recently sentenced to several years in prison for illegal arms possesion. Although he was aquitted of more serious terrorism charges it will still be quite a shock going from the glitzy and glamorous Bombay lifestyle to the more spartan lifestyle in an Indian prison. Even more shocking a sitting Union cabinet minister Shibu Soren has been convicted of murder of a former aid, and has received a lifetime sentence for this. This is the first time ever an Indian cabinet minister has been convicted of murder. This has sent shock waves through the Indian political establishment fearing more convictions for all sorts of things. The days where politicians got easily off the hook seem to be over, much to the delight of large parts of Indian society.