Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This is going to be a very un-Buddhist post, since typing it is doubtlessly going to result in the circuits of my computer frying a couple dozen of the ants who have quite understandably mistaken it for the untouched jar of jam sitting right next to it in my backpack. At any rate, I am not troubled by this anymore as we are not in Bhutan anymore. And how. For instance, there are white people here. Lots and lots of white people. More white people, in fact, than we have seen combined over the entire past year, sometimes sitting in a single restaurant.

Now, of course, all the usual questions one has when one sees a white person are going through our minds: Where are they going? Are they married? Do they take chilies? But all of these questions have taken on a deep and unprecedented weight and ominence (is that a word? A white person would know, but I dare not ask) in India. I am, in short, deeply unsettled by the presence of all the honkies here.

This is in part due to the fact that they are almost all The Wrong Kind of White Person. Having had the opportunity to study and analyze the entire chilip population of Bhutan, I have concluded that all white people lie upon a scale, and can be sorted into three basic gradients. At one end of the scale, you have The Wrong Kind of White People, who do little more than watch movies upon their Apple Macintosh computers and eat extremely expensive imported Nutella. While their behavior is irrational and confused, it is at least understandable in Bhutan because they have clearly only ended up there by mistake and will be leaving as soon as they realize that there is more to the culture and traditional than shopping for handicrafts. At the opposite end of the spectrum are The White People Who Are Trying Too Hard. A silly breed, they awkwardly wear ghos for the purpose of blending into the environment as obviously as possible and sometimes decide that their names are Tashi when in fact their names are Ron. In the middle of these two extremes are The Right Kind of White People, a genus I am pleased to say consists entirely of me, Jon, Jon, Eric, and lost Canadian teachers wandering far from their home villages in the East. The Right Kind of White People can be easily identified by the fact that they all are twins and have beards, something the Bhutanese are not capable of, except for Ugyen Wangchuk, the first and most awesome king of Bhutan.

So while The Wrong Kind of White People can be pleasantly ignored for the most part while living in Bhutan because they spend 90% of their waking hours either in their plush apartments or eating at the three gentrified restaurants listed in the Lonely Planet guide to Bhutan, here they cannot, because they are everywhere, doing weird white people things like being old and frumpy, paying five US dollars (or more!) for a meal, looking bored and confused, and not slathering everything with rice. I am not sure exactly what is so unsettling about this, other than that they are clearly not supposed to be here. There are more than enough Indian tourists to go around. I am absolutely certain that something sinister is just going to happen; I just cannot figure out what it is, because I can no longer fathom a mind that has not ever wondered, “Is it?” We have crawled deeply into the rabbit hole, and I need to book a ticket out of Bangkok very, very shortly.

So, at any rate, disaster. Adi missed his plane flight to Cochi, leaving us without the opportunity to see how Indian people react to a 6’ 4” Indian man, the chance to find out exactly how much we are being ripped off on things, and a very dear friend. Feyer and I tried to make the best out of a bad situation, however, by going to the beach. I doubt that this strategy has ever failed anyone once put into action, but we faced some very serious obstacles to its implementation today. Namely, the fact that the people on Vypin island have not had any drinking water for the past two days and have started striking and putting up barricades all over the roads.

I had been quite nicely surprised by the apparent success of the Keralan communist government till now. There are far fewer beggars around here than in the other parts of India, and there seems to be little if any strife generated by the heavy presence of three major religions of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. And the omnipresent poster of a man raising his hand up in a vain attempt to stop a man swinging down a communist hammer upon a burning city turns out upon closer inspection to simply be a poster of a boy making a weird hand gesture in front of the communist hammer man superimposed over a background of a city tinted red with the cheerful spirit of communism. But yeah, water is kind of important. It didn’t seem like we could do anything to aid the protest that the barricades of burned-out fires, piles of sticks and women sitting chanting under tarps couldn’t do on their own, however, so we cobbled together a strategy of walking between barricades and taking rickshaws as far as we could, and ended up 25 kilometers later at the gorgeous and pleasant Cherai Beach, where the water is only four feet deep as far out into the ocean as you want, Indian couples bust out nude children and digital cameras, and fully-habited nuns frolic in the waves.


  1. Oh goodness.
    Apparently I was both 'The Wrong Kind of White People' (Macbook-owning Nutella fan) and 'The White People Who Are Trying Too Hard' (I love my garish toegos and a rinpoche re-named me).
    It's for the best that we never met, I'm sure you'd have despised me.

    Enjoying your dispatches from India nonetheless.

  2. Oops, too long living in a country without sarcasm - hard to tell when tongue-in-cheek doesn't translate, no?

  3. Ah, I was just ribbing you and your attitude! No insult taken! But really, the locals make it way too easy to try too hard with all the excessive compliments: "You can take chillies? What a strong girl! You rode a public bus? So brave! You can wear kira? You are so talented!" The reverse culture shock hits when you no longer get heaps of praise for accomplishing ordinary things.