Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dogs that eat Cows and Festivals that turn People into Baked Goods.

Here in Northern India we have been exploring various hill towns, with sweeping views of glorious mountain ranges, steep green valleys and endless stretches of plains. Quite the variety. Our first stop was Dalhousie, a town at 2115 metres, favoured by the British Raj for its cool climate, relaxing atmosphere and rambuncious monkey clans.. ok maybe not so much the monkeys, but we thought they were quite entertaining. Dharmashala, or more specifically McLeod Gange, is the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. When it wasn't raining, which wasn't often, being the second rainiest place in India, McLeod Gange, too provided us with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and plains. Plus, they had some great deals on silk scarves... Then, after an excruciating 12 hour bus ride up, over, down and around the mountains, we arrived at our current, and favourite hill station, Nagger. Nagger is a tiny one road town nestled on a perch deep in the Kullu Valley, where soaring green mountains provide the perfect balcony scenery, and apple orchards offering the perfect balcony snack.

Its monsoon up here in Northern India, but there has been little evidence of that for us. There are clouds in the morning, maybe it rains at night, but most of the days are filled with cool summer breezes and blue skies. We have been in Nagger for five days now, and have o idea how. There is really nothing to do here, after you have walked up the town's one, steep, winding road and have had tea at the local roadside tea shack. The forest here is stocked with thick, towering pines. In the morning a atmospheric mist hangs low in the trees until the sun finds its way through the cracks and chases it away. It is wonderful for walks. Luckily for us, the town has a healthy population of friendly, surprisingly nice looking street dogs available for borrow, who like to take us for walks down the various paths. Two or three pups, every morning, wait for us to finish our breakfast at the tea shack (and I use the word shack liberally) and they follow us down the path, swerving between our legs, running ahead and then waiting for us to catch up.

The last time we took random dogs for a walk was in Greece and the dogs ended up attacking someones chickens, resulting in us running for our lives from an angry stick-wielding Greek. We couldn't help but have flashes of terror when the one german sheperard-ish dog that we named 'Funny' suddenly lunged, seemingly for fun, at a passing cow. Right at the cow's neck! The cow, inconveniently walking along the edge of a gutter did some fancy dance with it's uncoordinated hooves, lost its footing and stumbled through the mud and gunk a bit before finding it legs. We watched the whole thing in slow motion. How was this happening? Why was this happening? What kind of dog attacks a cow? Isn't there enough garbage around to eat? Duh, Funny, cows are sacred here! You can't take nibbles from their necks! The dog was startled by the cow, five times his size, teetering above him and jumped away. Funny ran to hide behind us, scared of the cow that he had just, unsuccessfully attempted to eat. Sigh. Oh, Funny. He looked up at us with his shiny black doggie eyes and panted, tongue fully hanging out to the left, in that innocent, smiley dog way. 'What, me?' We shook our heads.The cow's keeper, a lady with a menacing looking stick turned our way and raised her eyebrows. Oh Jeez. Here we go again. 'Um, sorry?' we ventured. She scowled, turned on her heels, gave the cow a smack with the stick, and on they went... in search of greener pastures. Funny just smiled, tried to lick our toes and circled around us, as if saying, 'ok, ok the shows over, get a move on, already!' haha

Our tea shack ladies, our popscicle man and a couple taxi drivers had all mentioned that there was a festival going on in the next town, a couple kilometres down a small forest road. 'You should go,' they all said. We figured that they were probably right. Either we are very lucky to come across so many festivals, or Asia just has a whole bunch more celebrations than we do in Canada. We are thinking its the later. We had seen many people walking down the road towards the festival, all dressed in their best, bedazzled suits. Everyone looked so nice, colourful and festive. Hey, I could do that too, I thought excitedly! For the occasion, I would wear my beautiful white embroidered suit that Raj bought me back in Punjab! How great! I would totally blend in! (hahah, right.) I changed quickly and we were on our way down the road. We could see the big yellow tent and hear the festive Indian music long before we acutally arrived in town. The road was muddy from the nights rain. No one seemed to mind. There were shiny streamers hanging and plenty of stalls frying up sticky Indian desserts. Under the big tent was man belting out long, upbeat Indian tunes and three women dancing enthusiastically, albeit completely un-choreographed, to the beat.We wandered through the crowd, past the stalls, took in the dancing and admired the decorations. It was a nice festival and everyone seemed to be having a good time. A little while later we decided it was time for us to start our walk back to town. We were strategically tip-toeing across the mud when loud drumming and cheering erupted from a mountain path above us. Sounded like a party. Sure enough, there was a sizeable party in the form of a parade winding down the path to the main road. They were drumming and dancing and singing. Bringing up the rear were three ornately decorated thrones supported on thick sticks and being carried by groups of men. No one sat in the thrones, but they looked relatively heavy nonetheless. In front of the parade there were some teenagers that looked to be throwing dirt at each other. Kids, always messing around. 'Don't go that way', I told Jonathan,'It looks like they are throwing dirt and I don't want to get my white suit all dirty.' It as a nice, new, white suit.... anyone could see that. They wouldn't throw dirt at me! Right? Jon agreed that I was probably, maybe safe, but we tried to cross over to the other side of the road anwyas, just to be sure. Have I mentioned that I was wearing my new, white suit? As it goes, we didn't pass unnoticed. A group of young men gave us mischievous looks, smiled, and reached into the little sacs that they were carrying, grabbing handfuls of the substance and tossing it at us. Darn! White shirt! White shirt! I paniced. Except it wasn't dirt. It was a powdery, flour type something. It smelt ok, like you could eat it, if you mixed it with water or something (and maybe some sugar). Not that the powder being edible made it any more ok tohave all over my beloved suit. We made it to the other side of the road with only minimal powder damage. I saw a large, shaky, randomly place concrete slab, the purpose of which was unclear. But it was elevated out of the mud, big enough for the two of us to stand on, and would give us a great front row view of the passing parade. As the drumming drew closer the crowds moved from the festival grounds to balconies and porches above the street to watch. No one came down the the street though. 'Wow! We have a greatI view down here! We are so lucky!' I thought. Not once did it cross my mind that maybe there was a reason that everyone was keeping their distance. All of the sudden, the parade, all men, was upon us. They were jumping and singing, and very enthusiastic. Particularily about covering everyone and everything in powder from their secret little pouches. Everyone, of course, included us. Especialy us. Woosh! As if on que, powder was flying everywhere. You couldn't even see across the street through the thick, powder-filled air! 'Wooooohoooo' they called. 'Yeah!' Turns out, I didn't blend in quite as well as I thought, wearing my Indian clothes. It also turns out that I am not mature enough yet, to own white clothes. Maybe when I'm older... but probably not. They had these num-chuck looking things, rather phallic looking, if you ask me. Between powder baths, the numchucks would come out. They were held with both hands, above the head and clunk the two pieces of wood together that were on each end of the rope. Very, very, phallic looking. The head numchuck guy saw us standing there, covered in white, elevated oh-so inconspicuously on our concrete platform and brought the numchucks to us. He wasn't leaving until we were dancing around with the numchucks flailing above our heads. That was for sure. What the heck? Jonathan's red beard was white, our bags were white, my camera was white, every smidgeon of our skin was freshly powdered, I could have rung my precious new shirt of enough flour to bake a cake.. might as well wave some penis' above our heads too. Why not? Everyone else was doing it..... Jonathen tentatively rasied the numchucks above his head. Another powder shower. The crowd cheered. Phew. We were a hit. After an appropriate amount of num-chuck waving and cheering, we were allowed to move on our merry way. The parade had other places to be, anyways. Maybe, just maybe, this explains we were the only ones taking advantage of the 'great front row' view? Man, its fun to be a dumb foreigner. 'Don't add water to your hair,' my Gramma warned when I talked to her that night. ' You might turn all that flour into dough!' hahaha! Isn't she the cutest? One big, happy festival for the village, one step closer to being a baked good for us. The day was a success.

ps. The Happiest Day of the Year is soon approaching... HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH!!!


Anonymous said...

quarHi J and K,
I have travelled a bit, but couldn't hold a " candle" to
your travels and you are just a little over half way ! Your discriptions are great.We are looking forward to your Mum and Dad coming to Ireland at the week-end. Pity you won't be with them, but it won't be too long until we go to the Airport to meet you. Glad you survived your visit to North India.
Best wishes.

sarah adie towle said...

:) Thanks Mooney's!

the picture of Jon with the very, very phallic numchuck thing is fantastic.