There’s not a lot to do in Kollam really, though locals might dispute that. The noted sites are things like a clock tower and a shopping mall. There is also another shopping center with an internet cafe that has slow internet and old computers and where you might drop your tablet and crack the screen.
I seem to have slipped into a 2 meals per day routine. A late breakfast, then a late dinner. Having a mild case of Bangalore Belly, I decided to be a little more cautious about where I ate tonight. One decent looking place wasn’t vegetarian, an OK looking veg place had about 20 too many fluorescent lights for my liking.
I am wandering the back streets and in the distance there is some music, I follow it to a Ganesh celebration. I am very mindful about trying to observe customs so I remove my footwear and stand at the back. There is loud music and all sorts of rituals not unlike in the video from yesterday, except Ganesh is already in place.
I know that Ganesh is officially the God of removing blocked obstacles, but he also seems to be the God of garish decoration. Fluorescent colours, lots of tinsel, coloured lights, a strobe light – this is extreme decorating worthy of a reality show.
After a while a couple of boys badly trying to not be obvious, stand near me and check me out. I let them be not very subtle for a while then to their surprise I say hello and shake their hands. A couple more boys wander over, it is all boys, the girls sit demurely with their mothers, at the back of course 😛
I am invited to sit but I prefer standing, I can see more and with my dodgy back I am more comfortable. This is OK.
When I go to take a photo from the back, the intention being to get the whole room and the atmosphere, I am invited, no ushered, up the front. Right to the feet of Ganesh, it is lucky I don’t have epilepsy, that strobe. Then I am introduced to the President of the association the name of which I have no idea. I shake his hand and act honoured to meet him.
Someone suggests we pose for photos in front of Ganesh, how can I refuse, and why would I? It’s like a selfie with God and I understand how celebrities must feel fulfilling their duty. By now the few kids is a group, standing around just checking me out.
The priest and helpers have been wandering, blessing people and handing out small amounts of food that I imagine have been blessed also. One is like a rice pudding, the other like a sticky date pudding, they taste great. The group of kids is now a small crowd. There are a couple of bold curious girls. The music is deafening.
A guy who speaks excellent English explains that almost everyone is northern Indian. The south Indians finished Ganesh Chaturthi a week or so ago and this is the northerners getting together to celebrate according to their calendar.
By now they have asked where I am from and I give my standard answer “Australia, Ricky Ponting” which elicits much nodding of heads. There is also an odd question that is asked regularly, “what is your good name?”. Obviously they are asking my name but I can’t explain what is behind the “good name”. I have already adopted this way of asking others their name.
Guy explains that soon there will be food and I am invited to stay. Of course, following my mantra I say “yes” and I am handed over to what is now a mob of boys who seat me and ask non stop questions. But I can’t hear them as my ears are bleeding from the music.
Although I was out looking for food I had already been thinking about how to indicate I only wanted a small meal. Hah! Not here. A couple of curries, some pickle, a papadam, and chappatis. Yum. And it was an endless supply. I ended up having to throw myself over my plate to stop it being refilled.
I have learned to simplify answers to questions, it is just easier. My bad back is a swimmimg accident at the beach, it might sound Christi, but I am not even going near Ankylosing Spondilitis. I live at Brisbane, but if it is easier, it might become Sydney. My work is as a computer programmer, imagine trying to explain my life as an entertainer.
Guy happens to be a computer student and wonders if he could work for me in Australia. I don’t make any promises I can’t keep and we are going to try to connect on Facebook.
I offer my sincere and genuine gratitude for being made welcome and included, shake hands with each of the boys and head out into the night laughing at my good fortune.
I have only been here a week. What else is in store?
And such a week it has been, Ricky.
Interesting how you seem to attract the young boys…where are the girls?
Are you able to get a hold of filtered water?
The girls are there but very shy and rarely as forward as the boys. Yesterday while waiting for my ferry to leave, after I photo bombed them, I got talking to some boys and men from a youth group who were going on a sight seeing tour. All the girls were in a group watching and a couple ventured closer being curious. I mentioned it and one bloke said I should talk to them. As soon as it was obvious I was heading in their direction, the girls ran an dissolved back into the group. Fairly typical behaviour. I don’t want to sound like a typical TV commentator who only mentions looks, but the girls are almost always gorgeous, their saris and salwar kameez are bright and colourful. Conversely, the boys all wear your standard long pants and a generic shirt.
On ya Steve enjoying your posts, thanks for sharing your journey.