American Girls Can't Nod

American Girls Can't Nod

Sunday, December 7, 2003 Travelogue:  Excerpts from past impressions and experiences in India (see the first travelogue segment we posted)

Tamil Nadu, Southern India

Here in India – our destination for the next four months – the people have a habit of replying to questions with a sideways nod of the head.  A bobble from left to right, a tilting of the chin and ears from one side to the other in a seemingly seamless motion.  The funny thing for me, Maureen, and Jonit is that this motion means not only “yes” but also “maybe” – but definitely not “no.”  So when we run for an overcrowded bus, w/ all our packs plus the video camera and tripod, dodging the motorbikes and bicycles driving haphazardly on the wrong side of the road, grab a handle and lunge onto the bus, pushing our way through the mass of saris and non-deodorant-wearing men in short shirt sleeves, and breathlessly ask: “Is this the way to __ Train Station?!?” our hopes are dashed when the answer is “nod-nod-silent-maybe.”

Jonit and I arrived in Chennai (Madras) the capitol of Tamil Nadu 12 hours before Maureen.  On our trip into the city from the airport the two of us braved the train despite the rickshaw drivers warning:  “No, no, it’s too crowded.”  The platform was empty.  As the train drew near Jonit and I knew from reading our travel guides that a “Woman’s only” car existed and we ran for it.  Stepping onto the train we were overcome by the sight of COLOR.  All the beautiful saris!  Every color imaginable – pastel and fluorescent, more traditional silk in blues and greens w/ gold thread inlaid in the pattern, tons of GOLD jewelry, bangles, bangles, bangles, and all the different colored dots on the women’s foreheads.  Some women also had red powder in the parting of their hair (which I think means they’re married).  Most of the women wore half shirts under the saris thrown over one shoulder and even their skin looked comforting.  The smell of the fresh flowers in the women’s hair filled the car, and we never felt more secure.

We’ve already abandoned Chennai – too big and too messy – and are on our way south down the coast.  I hope you are all well and preparing for the Christmas season.  Write when you can.