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The Indian Wedding for Dummies - 8.All that to say that...



Searching for the lost turtle...

When Indians ask for a leave, they always give you an explanation; this is pretty funny... They have to attend the naming ceremony of a newborn, take their wife to get an MRI of her arm etc. That’s how, one fine day (it was a Wednesday I remember), one of my direct reports asked me if he could take a day off to... go see turtles hatching! Turtles!! Not only did I give him a day off and my blessings, I also tagged along!

We left Mumbai early (very early), towards the village of Velas on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Very quickly a foul odor – which had already disturbed us a few weeks earlier – spread in the car. Incredibly brave, my favorite Indian opened the bonnet and discovered the corpse of a cat. As it was early (very early), he took the bull by the horns (or rather the cat by the legs) and removed it himself – ignoring my advice of delegating the task to any guy against twenty rupees...

Later on we found a place to clean the car but the pressure washer hardly helped, death smell is tenacious. So I spent a good amount of the journey playing with incense stick, to the tune of One Republic:

Seven hours later, we arrived in Velas, a village blessed with no network coverage (in brief, a village like I like them!). Our local guide had set sail for Mumbai without informing anyone and our small group found refuge in a random house, where we tried to call him (with a landline). An hour later we finally touched base with our host cum lunch provider.

After a micro-siesta we were off to the beach to meet the turtles!

A beautiful beach, without a human soul nor a... turtle! We learned then that the turtles come to lay their eggs at night only and the NGO involved in their preservation doesn’t let people walk on the beach at night to avoid disturbing them – annoying but fair... Anyway, we were also told that the previous night, only one turtle (according to fin prints) had visited the premises. Plus at night it was so pitch dark that the chances to spot that brave turtle were close to nothing! Still we woke up at 5 AM the next morning to go track down turtle prints – who knows?? Well we do now… Luck was not with us!!

As for eggs hatching, well, let’s say it wasn’t the right period...

Nevertheless, we saw a turtle! A river turtle (or tortoise) caught by a fisherman...

But we didn’t come home empty-handed since we got the information that it is on the beaches of Orissa (on the other side of the country) that turtles come by the thousands to nest...

And we could witness the work that an NGO can make  by empowering local communities in the preservation of endangered species: stop hunting turtles, protect the eggs from predators, and take on the path of turtle tourism, becoming a "turtle village" with a "turtle festival" (website). Quite smart! There is just a bit of work so that tourists can actually see turtles. Or so that white-bellied Eagles spend a little more time in their nest and tourists can see them also! 

Anyway, we spent a great weekend in the countryside! In a very quiet village with old-style houses, their floors covered with cow dung to prevent vermin, with cats in every house (which is pretty rare in India) to give warning of ophidian intrusions, with skinny chickens everywhere. We slept at a home-stay: very simple (very thin mattresses on the floor, Indian toilet in the garden (or more exactly in the palm grove behind the house) but clean!

The road from Mumbai is beautiful, especially when you leave the highway (well, the highway... the word is big) and the road gets empty...

And then we managed to defeat the dead cat smell by taking in a hitchhiking India: he was a Pandit (priest) who had come to perform a puja for a baby whose stars were not a birth (especially Venus) and who smelled of wood fire!

Velas, Maharashtra - Feb 2014


Stories of rape and watermelon

A French friend and I, both leaving in India for a long time in India, had an interesting conversation with an Indian guy, in his thirties, nice, owner of a resort in Goa. A bit agressive (to say the least).

Dialogue about the rapes in India (topic that the media have been extensively covering in the past few years – now I personally don’t know whether the number of cases has been tremendously increasing or we have just been hearing much more about it or if the fact that there is more publicity around it empowered more women to come forward as victims:

-         Him: You don’t understand anything to the Indian culture, how justice functions in the villages. The media have turn into business companies and rape makes sell.

-          Her: ...

-          Him: For example, if a village woman gets raped, the village authorities (the Panchayat) make the culprit to marry his victim, so that she is not marginalized and is protected (by her husband)!

-          Her: There you see, it may be just my point of view as a Westerner, but as a woman I find it atrocious that not only you are raped but you have to spend the rest of your life with your attacker. And the fact that this is the only way I don’t get all the drunkards of the village to fuck me hardly sounds like a consolation... It is kind of sad that a woman has no status, no life, as a person and has to be married to be someone...


Dialogue about cutting a watermelon:

-          Him (who is fasting today and can only have milk (and not packaged milk) and fruits): Fuck, I can't cut this watermelon!

-          Me (as a well-mannered host): Wait, I’ll do it for you!

-          He: Ok! But could you wash your hands before? Nothing impure should touch my food today and maybe your hands have touched your mouth or something like that and that would pollute my food.

-          Me: Ok! Well you know what, you can cut it yourself your watermelon!

Those balls! I know that there are special rules in India, especially when it comes to food. The Brahmins should only eat food cooked by a Brahmin. Hindus fast on some days – most of them choose a day in the week, depending on their “favorite” God. It kind of makes sense as from what I have heard, it is medically good to fast one day a week. It also makes sense when people can not afford food every day; it then gets justified by the religion and then people forget why they do what they do.

That my hands may be impure, I can live with that. Apparently, after starting food, you (and it is true for everybody) are not supposed to touch anything (pan, bowl, bottle) that the others may touch. No, no contamination and it is all for the best...

But here the point was that MY hands got declared impure on one day, the day HE decides to fast. I found that exceptional! He could have asked whether I had my periods while he was at it (in Hinudism, more impure than that you die...)…

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