Bright Lights, Pink City (Part V)

Last year, a young family friend left for India for the first time. In talking with him prior to his departure, I was inspired to dig up the emails I sent to friends and family while studying Hindi in India back in the summer of 2004. Blogging had just started to catch on at the time and it didn’t occur to me to start one then, but I thought it might be entertaining to post these now. Excerpts are mostly unedited, except to remove boring pleasantries and preserve the privacy of those involved; also, links to relevant sites have been inserted for your enjoyment/edification/distraction.

(Continued from Part IV)

Date: July 19, 2004
Subject: “Videshi Aaron’s Indian Story Hour”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again to gather around the wireless for Videshi Aaron’s Indian Story Hour, sponsored by ‘Mango Nut Crunch’: (please note: the following is a verbatim transcription of an actual Indian cereal box; any similarity to actual food is purely coincidental)

Most Delicious and World Popular Mingle clustered with Raisins, Almonds, Mango and various other entergetic fruits and foods.

Mango Nut Crunch

It’s origin has been from Switzerland and other western countries, which proved magnificent results on mind, mood, physique, stamina, tummy, digestive system, tolerance, longitivity and general health. Hence the Mango Nut Crunch has much been appreciated and motivated the liking and love of maximum personalities of various spheres of live in the world.


Mango Nut Crunch avoids dowdy or slacking and keeps one alert, smart, attractive, young, impressive, dominating and longitivity. Being a most be-fitting low-fat-diet keeps a persons ever-ready to take up any task successfully any time of day or night and provide outstanding results.

Taste and Consumption

Mango Nut Crunch goes up as soon as it is started for its delicious taste, health-giving ingredients, life-long benefits and facilitates fast food.

Fibre Edible grains

Regular use of Mango Nut Crunch boosts appetite an orderly healthy routine, maintain smart physique, stamina and sexual urge.

Let me know how many boxes to put you all down for…

Unfortunately, Mango Nut Crunch is pretty much the most exciting thing that’s happened to me all week, though I did go with several friends on Friday night to a “Battle of the DJs” at Steam, the nightclub in the Rambagh Palace Hotel (formerly the Maharaja of Jaipur’s palace, now a five-star hotel — you can stay for a year for just $2 million!). Having been abandoned for the weekend by many of our compatriots in favor of the relative cosmopolitanaeity (is that a word? if not, it should be) of Delhi, we decided that we would show them a thing or two and go out and paint the town red — or at least give it some sort of pinkish tinge. Unfortunately the Brits beat us to it by about a hundred years, but koi bat nahin…

Anyway, there’s nothing quite like driving up to a palace in a rickshaw past people sprawled out sleeping on the sidewalk, and paying more money for a cover charge (400 rupees — about 8 bucks — for a couple) then they spend on food in a week to make you feel like a bourgeois neo-colonialist capitalist running dog. Luckily, the 400 rupees was reimbursable in drink once we got inside, which allowed us to dull our consciences nicely. A Corona cost about the same as it would in the States, but since I hadn’t had a real beer since I got here, I allowed myself the luxury and then moved on to the 75 rupee pints of Golden Peacock — at least they’re honest about what it tastes like.

The most remarkable thing about this club was that it was completely unremarkable. It was the kind of club you’d find in any provincial capitol (say, Albany?) where the city’s best and not-very-brightest go to drink, smoke, look cool, and pretend that they’re in a real city, while dancing spasmodically to such international dance hits as a remix of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” (no, that’s not a joke). It was fun though, and it was a nice reminder that Jaipur is not as completely conservative and tradition-bound as it sometimes seems.

Saturday the Institute took us on a little trip to a small town just outside of Jaipur named Sanganeer, which is apparently world-renowned for the production of screen-printed and block-printed cloth and a special kind of pottery. It sounds like an elementary school outing, but I’m actually really glad I went. We saw a dyeing operation run by a huge extended family, in which family members waded around with yards and yards of cloth in giant pools of dye. The cloth is then hung from huge scaffoldings to dry, and when you walk into this forest of billowing reds and blues and oranges and yellows, this deep silence descends upon you and all of the noise of the second-most populous nation in the world simply disappears… And we watched the laborious process of screen-printing these long pieces of cloth (a succession of metal screens with designs punched in them is placed over the cloth, then dye is swooshed over it with a different screen used for each color) and the even more laborious process of using carved blocks to create these amazingly intricate designs. I really had no idea how much work went into creating these things.

Well, that’s about it from this side of the pond. I hope you all are well, and you may now commence taking shots.

– A

(to be continued…)

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