Look At The Stars


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, November 02, 2004 was originally posted on November 03, 2004.

DAY 381:  From what I gather, astrology has a bit of legitimacy in the public eye in India.  In fact, the day before I saw on the front page of the legitimate Hindustan Times, whose cover story was the US election — it’s the cover story in most countries since the American president affect the entire planet — one blurb in the corner that had two prominent astrologists tell what the stars said about the election:  that Bush and the Republicans would win a second term, but that second term would be tough.  At the time, it was not in the hands of the stars but in the hands of American voters, at home and abroad.  (The news reported that the American embassy in Delhi had a record voter turnout of 5,000, two and a half times more than usual.)

A FAMILIAR BEARDED FACE SMILED AT ME when I walked out of the city alcove where the Evergreen Hotel was hidden in.  It was Baldel, the cycle rickshaw guy that took me to the eastern edge of the city the day before.  “I need to go to the Man Singh Hospital,” I told him.

“Why you want to go there?”

“I have a problem with my leg.”

At the request of concerned Blogreaders (including my mom), I went to have the hole in my leg checked out for a possible infection.  I went to the government-run Man Singh Hospital, a big dingy place packed with hundreds of sick people, most I assumed from the lower castes of society.  I made my way passed Indiana with far severe problems, some just skin and bones laid out on gurneys hooked up to IVs and throwing up on the floor, and the kids with burns on their skin.  I sort of felt a little dumb going there, a Westerner with a little flesh wound. 

The admissions guy told me to go to Room 10 and I walked again through the ailing masses.  Dimly lit and dusty, the hospital was a really depressing place, the kind of place in a horror movie or something.  Surprisingly, the administration was somewhat efficient and after waiting on a line in Room 10, I finally met with a doctor.  He told me everything looked fine and that if it didn’t hurt it probably wasn’t infected.  (True, it hurt a lot more when I had the lump of infected pus under my skin.)  He prescribed me some drugs but took it back when I told him I had them already.  He said to just finish off what I had and get another wound dressing in the back room. 

The back room was another nightmare, a very questionably sanitary place with rusty instruments, thankfully soaking in alcohol.  A nurse redressed my wound with iodine and a long bandage on a dirty gurney and I was on my way.  Across the street were a bunch of medical supply stores (the Medical Supply District) but none of them had really big Band-Aids and I’d have to continue to settle with wrapping my leg in a long mummy-like one.

AFTER ANOTHER CYCLE RICKSHAW RIDE, I made a short visit to the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, the pink sandstone place built in 1799 as a windy retreat for Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.  I wandered its back courtyard, its terraces and its verandas, its windows and its hallways, all designed to capture wind like a wind tunnel and keep the maharaja naturally air-conditioned on a hot day.

And speaking of the maharaja, it was time to follow up on meeting the current one, and so I called the Principal Private Secretary’s office again.  I was directed to speak to a John, who told me to come in for a meeting with him.  I went through the same guest-on-business procedure with the City Palace guards and got in free again and was escorted to the office. 

John told me the maharaja was in fact in town, and I thought that perhaps Id get to meet him that afternoon, but he was in dispose.  I think the maharaja was busy swimming in the nude or something.  John and I discussed my intents to meet him and I told him it was just for a story idea.  Back and forth we spoke, and I thought it was kind of cool to be having a conversation about a man that we’d only refer to as “his highness.”  John told me to call him that evening to confirm a meeting with Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh the following morning.  I thanked him and gave him my card to look up my credentials.

AS I STARTED TO EXPLAIN before digressing about my holy leg and his highness, astrology is a big deal in India.  This branch of study is not just a pop science of modern day, but has been around for centuries as shown in the Jantar Mantar, or “instrument of calculation,” the largest stone observatory in the world, just outside the City Palace.  It was built by order of Maharaja Jai Singh, namesake of Jaipur, from 1728-34 with the collected scientific knowledge of astrology books around the global scientific community.

On the ticket line I saw a guy wearing a Kathmandu t-shirt.  “Where you in Nepal?” I asked.


He was Charles, a lone traveler from London and together we wandered the grounds with its stone structures that made it look like a surreal astrological playground.

“Basically it’s a series of stairwells that go to nowhere so that you can get a view of the other stairwells that go to nowhere,” I pointed out.

“I think this is one of those places where you need to get a guide,” he said.  “Otherwise we don’t know what we’re looking at.”

“Yeah, my guide suggests one.  Wanna split a guide?”

“Yeah, I’ll split a guide with you.”

Our government-issued guide spoke fast and mumbled in a thick Indian accent but that wasn’t the reason I couldn’t really grasp his in-depth, well-informed lecture tour — it was because most of it deal with a lot of math, not one of my stronger points since I went to art school.  He showed us that the surreal “sculptures” (picture above) were actually accurate astrological research devices that kept track of the stars and the sun’s position at different times of the year.  Some instruments showed the zones of the twelve zodiac signs where shadows were cast in accordance to the sun and the angle of the earth.  The “stairs that went nowhere” were actually giant sundials that told the time of day, down to the minute, and the bigger the sundial, the more precise as seen in the big yellow 30-meter tall one with a big curved clock arch.  I suppose when you are the maharaja and have the power and resources to build such a thing, why settle for a wristwatch or a regular old sundial?

THE STARS WERE CLOSE TO ACCURATE when I split from Charles (who went to explore the Tiger Fort north of the city) and head east to get a next-day train ticket at the (much shorter) Foreign Tourist line at the train station.  I stopped by at the local Sheraton on the way back into town to ask the Bell Captain the latest news from the US election — like I said, it’s nationwide news in many countries — and he told me what the stars had predicted:  Bush and the Republicans were ahead.  (Charles had told me that that news was a disaster from a world financial standpoint — all terrorism issues aside — because Bush in control would worsen the economy in southeast Asia, not very good news to his job as a banker in the UK.)

FROM THE SIGHTS OF THE STARS in the sky, that evening I went to see the stars closer to earth:  Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, John Abraham, Esha and Rimii, Indian stars of the latest Hindi blockbuster out of Bollywood, Dhoom, directed by Sanjay Godhvi in modern action-comedy style, complete with fast-to-slow edits like in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.  At the suggestion of the Israeli girls I met the day before, I went to see the movie at the world-famous Raj Mandir cinema, one of India’s (and the world’s) great classically-designed theaters, for what Let’s Go called “an experience in itself.”  With the advance assigned seat ticket I bought earlier I joined the hundreds of Indians (and a few foreigners) in the Raj Mandir’s beautiful lobby for the theater doors to open.  Nevermind that I was dateless; from what I saw, seating was arranged in boy-girl order by row and I sat in the back row of other men.

The crowd was of varied ages, most leaning towards teeny-boppers, and they were just as rowdy and enthusiastic as an American theater crowd on Memorial Day weekend with whistling, heckles, cheers and yelps, even during the pre-movie trailers and commercials — many of which were for the same product, Fair & Lovely’s Fairness Cream, for women to lighten their skin tone.  Apparently in India, the more light-skinned a woman is, the more “attractive” and socially-acceptable she is deemed.

Anyway, the movie started to a cheering mass with a flashy and sleek title sequence, followed by a fast-paced scene of a perfectly executed armored truck robbery by four faceless guys in helmets on high performance motorcycles.  Forget the image of the “traditional” Bollywood film where men and women dance gaily in a palace or out in the countryside.  Dhoom was a fast-paced modern movie of cops and robbers with fight scenes and high-speed motorcycle chases — which always managed to find time to slow down for an obligatory song-and-dance number.

Try thinking Biker Boys meets The Fast and The Furious meets Ocean’s Eleven (when the bad guys decide to rob a Goa casino) meets Bollywood.  I don’t want to give away the story here — seriously, if you have the means, go out and see it or download the bit torrent (not that I officially endorse movie piracy) — but it’s a blockbuster for anyone to enjoy which pleases both genders with eye candy.  John Abraham who plays the lead bad guy is often shirtless and looks like an international Calvin Klein model, and the two actresses, Esha and Ramii, were just tantalizingly sexy and voluptuous.  Contrary to what you may think, guys will especially be fond of the musical numbers because the director (God bless him) managed to make sure the curvaceous and leggy actresses always end up in skin-tight clothes that by one way or another, get totally soaked in water, whether it be from ocean waves, a rainstorm or a garden hose.  (Ah, God bless the garden hose.)

SEEING THE STAR OF JAIPUR was yet to be determined so I called John at the maharaja’s office to find out about my possible meeting.  He knew it was me when his phone rang and told me that I’d get to meet his highness the following morning in a short 15-minute window between 10:30 and 10:45, making me one happy pseudo-journalist.  And speaking of pseudo-journalism, I got word that night on the internet at the astrologists of the Hindustan Times were right; Bush and the Republicans did seize a second term in the White House.  I could only hope that the second term would provide more hot chicks sprayed with garden hoses, but more likely it would be a term of figurative stairs that led up to nowhere.

Next entry: Meet The Maharaja

Previous entry: Monkeys, Elephants and Pangkot Palace

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Look At The Stars”

  • Well I’m off to Bikaner now, former Roadblock in the first Amazing Race.  I met with the maharaja this morning… Story to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  08:08 AM

  • Second!

    hello again from a second time comment poster!

    finally all up to date reading the blog.

    one question, have you ran into the four voluptuous israeli girls again?!?

    hope the leg is ok.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  11:53 AM

  • i endorse movie piracy….

    can you get the dvd bootleg and send it off??  i’ll pay for postage…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  12:51 PM

  • I nominate when using the word “volumptuous” a picture be automatically made available for visual references ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  01:14 PM

  • Hi Eric!
    I’m now back in Beijing @ the Stadium Hostel, we met two months ago…My Girlfriend from Germany is visiting me in Shanghai and we desided to go to Beijing for a sightseeing trip. However, I was walking along the street, looking for a Beijing duck (with a smile on my face) & thinking of our search for the duck. Was a great time with you -
    I’m living now in Shanghai, writing my articles for the Newspaper in Germany & studying chemistry. The city is full of Fucking pirates! I have a great time there.
    Hope your trip will go on till u see all u want. Wish u a good time. Rock on!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  03:02 PM

  • I agree.  As a literary device, you should only mention hot chicks when you have a photograph to accompany the text.  Wet, skin tight outfits are definitely a plus.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  03:06 PM

  • LOL Markyt and Sim.

    I don’t really have anything to add today… Except that its not fair that Erik is watching Bollywood movies featuring wet volumptuous women in warm sundialy India and I’m in cold, grey, sundial would be useless due to lack of sun, Toronto.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  05:00 PM

  • TONI:  Hey man, what’s up?  Pirates in Shanghai?  Excellent!  Glad you’re doing well; I haven’t been able to write because you never gave me your full email address…  Anyway, rock on!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:15 AM

  • MARKYT:  Not sure if the DVD would work on the N. American NTSC system…  I haven’t seen it on the streets anyway….  But you’re in New York/New Jersey, I’m sure Dhoom is already there SOMEWHERE.  (Ask Kumar.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:18 AM

  • Voluptuous, voluptuous, voluptuous.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:20 AM

  • Yeah I’ll just hit up Newark Ave in JC… I’m sure Patel Video go it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  03:58 AM

  • You can get Dhoom off suprnova.org - for those of you who don’t find downloading movies off the net morally wrong wink  (It has English subtitles too….)

    Posted by Liz  on  11/04  at  10:18 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Meet The Maharaja

Previous entry:
Monkeys, Elephants and Pangkot Palace


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