Friday, July 29, 2005

Hangin' with the posse

I've been befriended (read: adopted) by four Punjabi lads. Indians think it's tragic that anyone would travel alone for such a long time. I either have no friends or no life. Travelling solo doesn't arouse suspicion, but to them it just appears sad and lonesome. Gagan, Rajan, Nimesh and the other one have taken me under their wing.

They have shown me the sights. They have treated me to delicious meals in dhabas all over town. Dal makani and channa masala could quite well be the most delicious and fattening food eaten on the entire trip. I am happy and sated.

Sikhs are known to be a hospitable people. It is their custom to welcome the pilgrim, the traveller, the filthy backpacker. If you let them, they would keep you company every moment of the day and night. The guys knock constantly on my hotel door - for sightseeing, to join them at dinner, yet another photo opportunity.

These particular Punjabis may be the most avid skirt-chasers in in the world. As the native English speaker, I was the bait (or is it the hook?) Each time we approached a foreign woman I was prodded and encouraged to enter into conversation. You can imagine how successful was our approach.

I tried to explain the shortcomings of the technique. No woman aged approximately twenty-two and standing next to her boyfriend is going to exchange frivolities with me and my posse, four of whom were ogling as if she originated from another world. Nor is drooling is seen as polite body language in the West.

Despite (obvious) repeated failures, their spirits did not dampen. I tried to explain that Western girls and boys no longer talk with each other. Someone invented something called SMS and now people have reduced themselves to communicating as if they really did live on opposite sides of the planet. They smiled eagerly at me and produced mobile phones for inspection. I groaned.
I'll give them this much - they don't discourage easily. Tenacious and unfaltering. Women might choose another adjective. The only female who did look at us simultaneously attempted to turn us to stone. The boys kept smiling. Any attention was a step in the right direction.

Punjabis are also incredibly fashion conscious. The boys were always dressed as if for a model shoot. I generally looked like the man who might move props about the set and then clean the room after everyone else had left for the day. A change of clothes occured every few hours. Photos were taken. Another change of garments. More photos. They wore sunglasses at night, and had the shiniest hair I've ever seen.

I had a wondeful time with them. And, much as they might hunt in packs and be the bane of any solo Western female traveller, they made me feel very welcome and were true friends to me. They were honest and refreshingly sincere. They didn't smoke, didn't drink, and were still virgins at 24. Do we still have these kind of people in the West?

My favourite people to date on the trip. I'll be leaving the country with a smile on my face.

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