Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sterotyping 1: The Geek

India, land of great diversity and variety, entices an equally eclectic mixture of visitors. Many who have never travelled beyond the clean, the well organised and the Western cannot fully appreciate the numerous tribes descending upon the Hindu lands year after year, in search of the historical, the religious, the cheap, the illicit.

Partly through chai-quaffing sessions at the local tea stall, partly though conversations in free-fall, I feel both obliged and privileged to educate you in the ways of the subcontinental voyager. It's only fair that I commence with the group of which I am an exemplary member: The Geek.
The Geek is invariably male, and prior to catching his flight from home he has spent months poring over maps, surfing the net, researching books, and has an itinerary that resembles a detailed mini-encyclopaedia. Pragmatic by nature, practical in deed, his backpack contains some or all of the following items; water purifier, mosquito net, compact but impressive medical kit, a small version of the Smithsonian library. He has 1:25000 scale drawings of each region to be covered (marked in yellow highlighter), and about twelve novels.

He will probably possess a sturdy padlock, a portable clothes line, an inflatable travel pillow, a plastic document holder with photocopies of insurance cover and passport, and maybe a downloaded copy of the Indian railways timetable. He has a pocket calculator, a power transformer and a dictaphone.

He would rather carry a hard-cover copy of his favourite novel than a bar of soap. This is the principal reason for his absence of personal hygiene. He wants to stay clean, but finds that shampoo and toothpaste add unnecessary weight to his luggage. His towel has been replaced by a 1500 page tome of 'The Spiritual Sites of India'. In other words, he smells.

When deciding on a room, he takes anything with a chair and desk, forgetting that behind that closed door is a space that can barely be described as a bathroom. He manages to track down an out-of-print book in out-of-the-way hamlets, but can't figure out where to purchase razor blades.

His interaction with other travellers generally requires improving, as he has a nasty habit of entering quickly into conversations with total strangers who are actually just hanging about to score dope. He never manages to get sex while travelling, though this is no change from life at home. A social outcast in his native land, he suffers mild ostracism from others in India because he doesn't appear to have washed for some time. But he is enjoying himself.

To spot, look for the portable library in filthy multi-pocket shorts. Always wears sandals caked in mud. Stares at anything for hours. Will keep talking to you even when you've walked some distance away from him.

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