Sue feeding pigeons in the park - what wet tongues they have!

The Twelve Icky Fluids: Nov. 27th
In America, bodily functions are best done in private. If you have to pick your nose (Gee, you are really a disgusting person), then best do it when no one is looking. This cultural bias makes all us "Mer-i-cans" feel waves of revulsion about snot, spitting, shitting, and other various bodily aspects. The funny thing is that Indians feel the same revulsion; well almost. For example, Hindu thinking is that boogers are best when not in your body. They view our complacency at sneezing into a handkerchief and then putting it back in our pocket with the same level of disgust that we might have if you shoved used toilet paper into your pocket (actually toilet paper itself is a pretty disgusting concept in India's eyes).

I have seen a "well-bred" Indian pick his nose, at dinner; not just a subtle wipe with an index finger, but with a full-bore, two to three knuckle dig, right up into the higher reaches of his cranial cavity. I’ve also I seen a person hold one nostril and expel a stream of liquid-snot at high velocity right into the street. My only positive note about that experience was that I was in the car, and the window was closed. Today I learned that this personal disgust was simply a cultural bias on my part. . Once again I am a victim of culture shock. Remember the Brahmins twelve bad secretions of the body — Sue’s "12 icky fluids" — well it turns out that these aren’t just bad fluids, they are POLLUTING fluids. As such, they are meant to be expelled with the utmost haste, and velocity. Consequently if you feel saliva welling up in your mouth, spit it out. Quickly! If it lands on someone else — hey, it’s outside his or her body not inside where it could do you real damage. Since you know or can guess what some of the other 12 icky fluids are, you can guess why Indians are quite willing to shit in the street, or piss against walls.

Of course, semen is one of the 12 icky fluids. Judging by India’s population, I would guess that this bit of philosophy is practiced quite religiously.

Powerbooks and PrimeMinisters: Nov. 28th
Today I found out India’s head honcho, Prime-Minister Rao, uses an Apple Macintosh Powerbook! All-right! So Rao is more computer-literate than George Bush. Way to go Rao.

I would love to see a "What’s on my Powerbook" ad with Rao holding his powerbook — Filemaker Pro database of bribes, ClarisWorks scenarios for successful war with Pakistan, Correct MapInfo database showing Jammu and Kashmir as part of India, Now Contact database for whom to co-opt for next general election.

Getting Sick. Again: Dec. 3rd
Well it’s been the old get sick routine. This time it’s my fault. On my Pepsid prevention instructions are the rules 1) Don't be overweight, 2) Don't lie down after eating, 3) Don't go to sleep immediately after eating, 4) Avoid excess alcohol and 5) Avoid smoking. Guilty of the first four. In India, the business practice (as well as the social practice) is to start partying about 7 p.m. People drink some whiskey (awful stuff when it’s native, which it usually is). I stick to Kalyani Black Label beer, which is a typical adulterated beer, where the only addition is, I believe, water. About 10 or 11 p.m. dinner is served. Upon completion of dinner everyone gets up and leaves. Consequently, it is to the host’s benefit to serve dinner as late as possible. This social routine causes havoc on my ulcer; and this is the second time in 5 months where I’ve been laid low.

India is typical in its attitude towards water. I have been reading "Diffusion of Innovations" by Everett Rodgers. Many of his case studies are about trying to introduce water purification to third world countries. The largest problem in the third world is not literacy, or access to electrical power, but clean, pure water. Third world’ers often lack the simple facilities to boil and store water. They also dislike boiled water because it lacks the "taste" that water from a ditch may have. What is worse, many religions such as those of the Moslem and Hindu people regard water purification as a religious ritual rather than as a health ritual. So water that has been blessed by a priest is ok, but water that is boiled may not be. As a consequence, in India, spiritual purity such as cleaning out your mouth (regardless of the quality of the water you use in cleaning your mouth) is more important than hygienic purity. In Hinduism, if you get sick, it is because you have been a bad soul, not because you took bad water. Apparently, I’ve been a really, really bad soul.

When we go to hotel restaurants, there are always a couple of tables around us where two "old India hands" get together and swap stories. Inevitably, they get to talking about "And I got so sick that...". If you don’t have a truly gross and prolonged sick story, you don’t get to qualify as an experienced traveler in India.