Wednesday, October 1
There has been another Hindu stampede, the morning paper says. This time there was a rumor of a bomb when thousands of people were cued up at this temple outside Jodhpur, the town in Rajasthan my coworker invited me to visit with her. I declined because I didn’t want to do another overnight train journey, and that was how she was planning on getting there.
It’s festival time in India and temples everywhere are attracting huge crowds. After the rumor at the temple in Jodhpur, men started running and caused a panic. About a hundred and sixty people died.
The paper has tallies of all the people that have died in temple stampedes versus bombings this year. The stampede deaths outnumber the bombing fatalities. The paper says it happens because there’s not good crowd control at these temples. No one is there to regulate the line. And then after it happens, there’s no good emergency response. People just cart the victims off by themselves, carrying them by their arms and legs, rubbing their abdomens to try to revive them. At least these are the scenes I see on the news.
At work, I slog through chapter eight. It’s taking so long and making so little sense to me. I feel like I’m in eighth grade math again with the teacher who can’t explain any of the concepts I so desperately need help in understanding.
We take a walk at lunchtime and run into a family of monkeys. I’d like to stay and gaze at them but everyone scrambles. It’s not good to hang out with monkeys. They can scrape you or bite you and nobody wants a monkey scratch. Talk about infection.
A lot of holidays are coming up, Jonaki tells me. There’s Durga Puja and Dusshera, then Diwali. The city will be lit up. People will be exploding firecrackers. October is the most festive time in India.
I leave work a little early because I need to get some final souvenirs for people and I’m not really keen with all the recent bomb attacks on visiting the markets now on the weekend. Shabnum says it’s a good idea to go on a weeknight. I figure Wednesday will do. Palminder drives me to Janpath. He is cheery when I tell him I’ll be back at the car in just about an hour and a half.
I run into the Cottage Industries government emporium where I saw the reasonably-priced elephant carvings when I was shopping with Shabnum. I buy up a whole bunch, figuring they’ll make a nice gift for anyone deserving of an India souvenir. I find a couple of OM keychains while I’m at it. At the register while I am waiting for the gifts to be packed, a British woman asks what I’m going to do with all the elephants. I tell her they’re souvenirs. She says I was buying so many she figured I was selling them or something. Exports are a huge business here, just not my business.
I finish with plenty of time and so walk across the street to the little stall shops. There’s a whole strip of Tibetan stores I didn’t stop at when I was here with Shabnum. I get a few bracelets and almost buy a Buddha statue. Then I think to myself, “What do I want with another Buddha statue?” I’m so non-attached, I think, I don’t want anything else from these shops. I don’t need anything else from India. I’m done with shopping. I couldn’t buy one more thing. Then I cross the street to where the clothes shops are.
With the backpack that Amar gave me, I figure I have room in my luggage for a few more things. I find a blouse with silver threads and elephants for a hundred rupees and a skirt full of sequence for two hundred rupees. I get a shirt with a big blue Krishna on it and another sleeveless blouse with flowers on it. The man drives a hard bargain on the last blouse, only coming down about forty rupees in price. It’s the holiday season now, he tells me. Everyone will be shopping. He doesn’t need to make deals to sell things. I’m glad I did most of my shopping earlier. Things were cheaper during the monsoon. The blouse costs me two hundred and fifty rupees, but I like it a lot, and that’s still only about five dollars.
This is a good practice of non-attachment to my money, I think. I had to do something with all those rupees that were sitting in my wallet. It would be a shame to just have to change them back into American money.
At home, I cart my new souvenirs upstairs and assess my luggage space. I may have enough room without even using the backpack from Amar. I think I’ll be fine. Though I haven’t really tried packing yet. I’ll save that fun for later. If I packed now, I’d just have to dig through everything to find what I needed.
I walk to Sagar for dinner where I’ve been going almost every day. On the way I’m stopped by a flash of light and a big bang in one of the building’s courtyards. It happens almost as I’m crossing right in front of it. For a moment I think I’ve survived a bomb attack. I wait for people to yell and scream. Then I realize it was just some firecrackers. In a city of bomb attacks, there has to be a better way of celebrating that that, I think. I don’t want to hear explosions. I’m kind of glad I’m leaving before Diwali. I think it would be rather unnerving.
On the way home, the little black dog finds me. He trots behind me all the way to the guesthouse then follows me upstairs. There’s no guard to stop him, and I certainly don’t. I let him into my room and give him a cereal bar. He munches it up and stands there, scratching. This was a bad idea, I think. I need to let him back outside before he dirties up the place. But how to get him out? The guard wasn’t at the gate when we came in, maybe he’s still not there.
We walk down the first flight of stairs and the dog sees Mira on the phone. He runs right up to her, wagging his tail, looking for food. She gasps. I grab him by the collar and drag him down to the courtyard. His ears flop and he follows me outside. This was a bad idea, I repeat to myself. I open the gate and usher him out as the guard, standing outside, gives me a puzzled look. I don’t pause for explanation but instead turn and run back up to my room. Street dogs don’t make good house guests. If I could only be as non-attached to their brown puppy eyes as I am to my rupees, I’d be in better shape.