A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 094

An Indian bummer

With rue my heart was laden, last week, as I bade farewell to the Interesting Quarter of Farmington, and moved my meager belongings from an apartment to a house a little way out of town. So triste an occasion caused me to reflect on yet another Reason for Coming to Farmington in the first place.

The traumatic tale that follows, like the others concerning the Glasgow foot-fetishist, the Parisian Nazi gang and the Muscovite K.G.B., reveals the persecution of a hapless Scotsman compelled to flee for his life and crouch among the trees of New Hampshire.

(Editor's Note: This story is subtitled "Scrooge Goes East.")

A few years ago, I was a respectable traveler on route from Katmandu in Nepal to Tashkent in Central Asia and, being in the neighborhood, I decided to spend a few quiet hours exploring the sights of New Delhi. After registering at the Diplomat Hotel, I hailed a motorized rickshaw which took me uptown to Connaught Circus, and from there I set out on foot to take the pulse of India's capital.

The Circus is a huge traffic rotary, almost a mile in diameter, and within it lies Nehru Park. Being a hot sunny day in early November, it seemed a pleasant place to commence a tour of the city, and I ambled towards a restaurant building near the center of this grassy oasis. Resisting the promised delights of goat curry, I ordered a buffalo burger and Coke and ascended to the roof patio to enjoy the view and gentle breeze. Whoooosh! An enormous vulture swept from the sky, talons outstretched, and almost seized the food from my plate. (Much cursing and flapping of the sunhat from myself, and inane grinning from a waiter.)

Quite unsettled, I stumbled out of the restaurant and steered towards the distant hubbub of traffic, but on the way across the fields, I was overcome by drowsiness, and settled down under a tree for a wee snooze in the noontime heat. A few minutes later, I was rudely startled by someone meddling with my head, and sat up to discover that I was having a haircut. "Four rupees, please," said the uninvited barber, who was kneeling on the grass beside me with an upheld palm. More cursing, flapping and fleeing for the safety of Connaught Circus, chased by a determined entrepreneur in white puttees.

I dodged along the thronging street, casting nervous looks to the rear, and only slowed down when sure that I had eluded my pursuer. Pausing on the sidewalk to catch my breath and watch the oriental world go by, I became suddenly aware that my feet were being tampered with, and glanced down to find that a loin-clothed boot-black was busily applying dark brown shoe polish to my light tan suede shoes. His eyes met mine and he smiled politely and said, "Four rupees."

Another scene. Bawling, yelling and a demand for a restoration of the original color. Counter-demand for eight rupees. A great losing of temper and no rupees. Cursing, flapping and a glimpse out of the corner of the eye of more boot-blacks closing fast, precipitating a wild dash through six lanes of motorized rickshaws, stray cows, buffalo carts and politicians' Rolls Royces. Casting a desperate look over my shoulder, I was horrified to see that the barber had joined forces with the shoeshine posse.

As I sped along Chander Gupta Marg, I realized that my tourist camera was making me a mark for every street hustler in Dehli. But hold it, I thought, there's a photograph worth taking, and no mistake. I slowly approached a small crowd who were absorbed by the antics of a snake charmer sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, playing a bamboo flute. A cobra gradually rose in an undulating motion from out of a wicker basket, and I crept ever nearer, looking through the camera viewfinder.

"Ten rupees! Photographs, ten rupees!" screeched the snake charmer observing my presence and simultaneously smashing the cobra back into the basket with the lid. As he rose to his feet, I took to my heels yet again, and was fortunate to flag down a motorized rickshaw and escape the vicinity before the arrival of the barber and boot-blacks. India was becoming tiresome.

One of the great attractions of Delhi is the Red Fort in the old city, built in the 17th century by a Mughal Emperor, name of Shajahan, and it was to there that I directed the driver of my getaway vehicle. Once inside the fort, which is an enormous edifice one-mile square, I visited the palaces and mosques dotted around the grounds, marveled at the architecture and art, and then set off to walk along the top of the southern wall. Behind it was a small meandering river, and on the other side of this, in the fields, was a vast assortment of jugglers, fire-eaters, tricksters and just plain beggars, all haranguing tourists on the wall above, to throw down rupees.

The procedure I decided to employ was that of feigning complete disinterest in the activities below, and of being rapt in thought. As I was doing this rather successfully, my eyes were drawn to a magician and his accomplice. The latter fellow stood stock still while the other manipulated four sheets hung on bamboo poles around him. Then, when the sidekick was completely obscured by the white cloth, the magician poked other canes through those areas where one might have guessed the body to be. Hmm. Then he dropped all the sheets to the ground and the accomplice had completely disappeared. Of course, there was obviously a trap-door and I looked down to where the man had been standing for signs of such. No trace! Hmm. Pretty good trick.

The magician reversed the procedure and his helper reemerged from the folds of the material, and I mosied off at a leisurely pace along the wall. But to my horror the men were sidestepping a parallel course, while gesticulating and yelling up at the wall in an angry fashion. Deciphering the word "rupees," I realized their attentions were directed entirely at me. I walked more briskly, but they kept abreast and seemed to be beckoning to other persons inside the fort. Badly shaken, I broke into an undignified stampede for the main gate, all the while anticipating a kukri in the ribs. Then, beating it back to my hotel, I locked the door and booked a flight out on the first available plane.

I tried to assess how intricate the underground information network among the streetwise would be in a city like Dehli. Excellent, I concluded, and me due to go back to Glasgow with an Indian immigrant population in excess of 10,000. No safety there! And so, a short time later, with a sense of infinite relief, I snuck into the anonymity and comparative calm (Fantasy Night notwithstanding) of Farmington, New Hampshire.

Woman's Club news

Farmington was royally entertained by a Saturday morning Halloween procession of a dozen or more ladies in impenetrable costumes on their way to live it up at a breakfast laid on by the Reverend Hendrick and Prisco Diprizio. Following this social event, it is rumored that several of the womenfolk had to be restrained from rolling Beulah Thayer's pumpkins down Main Hill. Tsk! Tsk!

Later on this month, the club will be entertained by a dancing troupe, whose forte is line formations that have, it is claimed, no erotic overtones.

Light entertainment II

The entire student body is soon to be in for a treat as reward for a successful magazine drive at Main Street School. They are off to a laser show at the Museum of Science and Technology. Then it will be back to fundraising with a jewelry sale, followed by a dance at which entry will be by two cans of food. The accumulated groceries will subsequently be passed along to Natalie Jones at C.A.P. to distribute as Thanksgiving baskets to needy families. Great idea, kids.

Finally, gold prospector Randy Bois has donated 100 pounds of rock to the school. These will not be used to fill the potholes in the yard, but rather, as mineral specimens, they will eventually become part of a geology display.

Garbology news

The headlines this week read "Amateur turns Professional!" Mr. Roger Belanger will now be paid once every couple of weeks for his first love...keeping the downtown area free of trash. Fellow garbologist, Mr. George Haskell, welcomed the news and took the opportunity to invite others to help wage a war against paper and beer cans. He recalls an article in National Geographic, some years back, that spotlighted Tokyo businessmen picking litter from the streets as they went on their way. Come on Rufus! How about it, Stuart!

Haircutting II

Talking of businessmen - due to a brand new shop-front, Rufus the Barber is expected to go up-market, become Maison Rundlett and capture the growing exotic dancer market.

Mudding news

Last week, Eddy Brennanís truck got stuck in Foley's Wadi. With water coming in the windows and the engine still running and blowing bubbles "just like a boat," three other vehicles hauled him clear to the celebratory accompaniment of popping Budweiser corks. If people were forced to do this ...

Nov. 10, 1987

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