It’s about runs today.
Run-around 1: picture of a god. Let’s hope Hinduism’s not right, because if it is I’m in trouble. After many “no pictures” warnings, I sneak a shot of a 1,200+-year-old temple’s inner sanctum. I want a quality picture, so I don’t bother turning the flash off. The shirtless, face-painted priests tending their god are not fond of this move. I’m quickly back in line and removing my camera’s battery and memory in my pocket. We’re the only white folks waiting, so the priests and guards assume it was one of us; we yell that we saw the flash but whoever did it wasn’t in our group. One angry altar boy actually goes through all of the 100+ pictures on Anahita’s digital camera; my heart beats intensely throughout. I can’t believe they buy my excuse that I don’t have a battery in my camera. Yep: I’m definitely getting reincarnated as a bug:)
Run 1: to and from the next temple to the car. Footwear’s disallowed, so I leave my sandals in the van instead of outside on the street. Bad idea, as I’m burning within a few steps. It’s hot here and then some, but at least the shirtless white guy hopping down the street provides some entertainment for the locals.
Run-around 2; us this time. “No non-Hindus allowed” might as well say “brown people only,” as all but Steve and I enter the 2nd temple without a problem. Our counter doesn’t work, with Dr. Gangulee’s complex pleas that we’re married to Anahita and Amna, they’re her daughters, and she’s a Brahmin (priest class) making us very white Hindus by marriage fails when the priest asks her if we’ve had the “threads ceremony.” From what I gather, we would only actually be Hindus if the story was true and someone had put white threads across our chests; we’d currently be wearing these to symbolize our conversion. It baffles me that one can’t simply belong to a religion by saying “I’m an x,” but I don’t exactly understand much else about religion either...
Run 2: me for a replacement Leatherman. Air France lost my generc one, so I’m having our driver help me hunt down the one Indian distributor of Leatherman branded pocket tools: Young India Films, 1F Lakshmi Bawan, 609 Mount Rd., Chennai. We drive around traffic-filled streets until he dyslexically gets me to 690 Mount Rd.; another 20 minutes until 609. I check 4 floors before finding a hole in the wall cluttered with sealed cardboard boxes, full of desks and decorated with ads for LCD projectors. I’m referred by a secretary to some manager and he proposes a price ~double what the U.S. MSRP is; eager to bill Air France, I don’t care and pull out a credit card. But that’d be too easy: they accept only cash or bank drafts. Which brings me to the run part: through the streets hunting down an ATM, making 2 security guards nervous enough to flag me down, lost on the way back. But it pays off: I leave with a shiny new Leatherman Wave complete with receipt. I’m feeling more than a bit funky in my newfound fatness, the heat, and the humidity, so let’s call it quits on jogging through the streets. Run-around 3: my huge buddha. I almost don’t buy it because jolly papier-mache man is so huge that he could have eaten several babies and will be a huge pain to transport, but it’s cheap, makes me laugh every time I see it, and supposedly I’ll actually make money at some point in my lifetime, so I bite the bullet and buy the buddha. But boxing becomes a bitch: buddha’s packed in such decaying containers that I’m almost worried he’ll stop smiling in transit. Whatever: even a broken 3-foot-tall buddha is worth the ~$30 I paid. He’s so big, so fat, and so happy, I almost feel like I have to try.
Amna and Dr. Gangulee nap instead of dinner, so Anahita, Steve, and I decide to pile into an autorickshaw for a 4th run-around. Basically an underpowered, 3-wheeled motorcycle with a canvas enclosure, we’re mostly convinced we’re probably going to die the majority of the time. Either a tenfold-heavier SUV will simply flatten us or the moron piloting will drive right off the road. I don’t know which act makes me madder: the driver staring at the address pretending he can read or him stopping every 5 minutes to pretend to ask someone for directions before repeatedly telling us “3 or 4 kilometers.” A more competent driver does the return drive in less than a 5th the time it took the idiot. He tries overbilling us when we finally arrive at the restaurant; we give him half what he’s asked for (100 rupees, ~$2.40), I yell at him for a bit, and we walk away.
Dinner’s dishes like spicy prawns Singapore style, triply a bad idea: spicy, seafood, and from a shady restaurant. It’s tasty enough that I’m barely concerned about t causing a different kind of runs.