Live from Mysore #5 (contrast)

Getting a rickshaw—or really anything—in India seems to take a lot of rigmarole.

We wanted to take a rickshaw (motorized) to the Devaraja Market. So we walk to the corner where 3 are parked. We tell them where we are going and the 1st guy says, “50 rps.” I say, “No, use the meter” (the pay meter on his vehicle). He says “No, 40 rps.” “No, use the meter.” The guy in the last rickshaw walks up behind me and says “ok, meter.” If you’re not Indian they will try to take you for a ride financially. I guess it’s not much money, but it can add up.

We get near the market and get out. The meter says the ride is 17.50 rps. We pay him 20. We then walk 30 feet in the direction of the market and there is a dead body in the street. People are milling around it (now it is an “it”). Two cops are standing around. A homeless person died in the night. No foul play was my impression. We walk the long way around the body that is mostly under a blanket. I know death is not contagious but is seemed respectful not to join the gawkers looking at this dead person who was probably ignored for most of his life.

As we get near to the market people are approaching us to take us to their “friends’” shops. We go to a couple shops and end up buying a few things just so we could leave. I felt like I was being held hostage. Survival is an interesting salesman. I guess it’s not something a westerner could understand. Eventually, we have to put up the “NO” wall and it becomes our survival tool. It’s really exhausting.

When I returned from my last trip to India I thought it was strange that I had only learned to say “no” and “go away” not “please or “thank you” in the native tongue. Being here now it’s clear why.

Out of nowhere an old man with long white hair walks up to me. He reaches out. I stood still and was not afraid. With his finger he puts a red dot on my third eye (forehead). Then he places his hand on my head and says a prayer, then he walks away. I say thank you in English.

Then we are back into the street game of pushing hustlers away. This is not a cultural judgment. I’m not close enough to really understand it. A guy hustling on the streets of Mysore sees me as an American and that means I am rich. You may think “oh, not me”. But if you ate more than 2 times today and have a place to sleep indoors, you are rich.

We negotiate again with a driver or 2 for a ride home. I’ve already gotten better at it and the transaction is quick, painless and removed. It’s not personal. A good lesson for me. But I do feel a little shut off when I operate like that.

We end up back at the Mandala Café. A woman learning Indian sax is having lunch and she writes down a musical scale for me. It’s an Indian Raga. I go back to the room and write a short pice of music that fuses Robert Johnson blues with this Indian scale.

Later we eat at Aunty’s again. Her food is great. I ask her to teach me to say thank you.


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