Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Advent of Fang, And Other Tales

It had to happen.

"My tooth is getting REALLY wiggly, and I can push it out almost horizontal with my tongue!", said Miles. We have been getting running updates as to his dental status for the last week. Once in a while, I would threaten to remove it with pliers and his mouth would snap shut instantly, not sure if I was joking or not. Finally, after the horizontal tooth proclamation, I could stand it no more. I asked Miles to open his mouth to let me see it, and perhaps have a wiggle for myself. Avid readers at this point will note the definite distinction between a tooth wiggle and a head wiggle. I grabbed the little tooth, and gave it a little wiggle. Miles seemed kind of surprised when I didn't let go, and his eyes bugged out a little as I solidified my grip. A deft little "thwip", and the little tooth was out in my hand. "Mom!!!" It's out!!!" he yelled, and at that particular moment, the power went out, leaving me holding a bloody little tooth in complete darkness. Fortunately, we have little headlamps for just such an emergency, and I took this great shot of Miles using only the light from a teeny LED headlight. Of course, Miles already has one adult upper tooth in the front, so we now refer to him as "Fang".

Afterwards, there was much discussion about the tooth fairy, GPS, Google Maps, and exchange rates. It was determined that the Tooth Fairy had no jurisdiction here, and that India was in fact presided over by the Tooth Guru. The 20 rupees Miles found under his pillow the following morning was testament to the mighty Tooth Guru's benevolence. Kids are pretty adaptable.

We did another journey to Fort Cochin for a production meeting with Mrs Leelu Roy, who runs a homestay cum cooking school there. On the walk from the ferry to her house, Laurel and I came across a decrepit old transport truck that was in danger of being reclaimed by some pretty aggressive vegetation. We love these colorful hand painted works of mobile art. Each is unique, and they look great even in decay.

We also noticed some new poster signage and graffiti that had been put up since we were last in Fort Cochin. In the wake of the latest round of Israeli/Palestinian conflict, some fresh consciousness-raising materials had been posted. What fascinates me is the perspective, and how it differs from the slant we get in North American media. It's pure Chomsky, and makes for fascinating study. We saw posters proclaiming Israel to be the "Number 1 Terrorist Country In The World", and also "Israel : Terror 24/7". On a wall just outside the ferry terminal, there were a few new collage pieces, consisting of a painted red circle encompassing some bloodied children's clothing tacked to the wall. It's pretty gripping stuff, and hard to ignore. Obviously, local sympathies in this democratically elected Communist state lie very much with the plight of the Palestinian people. A very different point of view from "Hamas Terrorists Attack Israeli Settlement", and other such headlines that have appeared in the NY Times, and the papers of other Western nations more closely aligned with Israel. It does make me wonder. What is the difference between a "terrorist" and a "freedom fighter"? I suppose it depends on who is reporting the news, and who is buying the advertising that supports the broadcast. Ultimately, it boils down to who is buying the message.

As chance would have it, we met an Israeli traveller at lunch. A very nice chap, who didn't seem to harbour any ill will towards anyone. He did, however, have a very cruel streak when it came to crustaceans. He was most excited about having scooped some very fresh live prawns from the local fishers only minutes before, and now he was dead set on taking advantage of the restaurant's "you catch, we cook" policy. We chatted for a while about food and travel. Then the waiter appeared proudly displaying our new friend's prawns. Bereft of life, they wiggled no more. They did look damned tasty, though. So much so that I lunged toward his table with my camera in hand. "You don't mind if I take a picture of your lunch, do you?", I asked. I didn't bother to wait for a reply, as I pushed his paratha out of the shot and snapped this quick picture before he could offer a word of protest. Thankfully, there was no international incident, and we paid our bill, said our goodbyes, and quickly left. Sometimes you just have to push manners aside in order to get the shot. I left thinking of headlines in tomorrow's paper. "Israeli Terrorist Kills And Eats 12 In Restaurant Melee".

The use of English, as I've said here before, can be very puzzling. We had a very funny thing happen to us yesterday at lunch. We walked into a pretty standard Pure Veg restaurant just off MG Road, and proceeded to order 5 plates of masala dosa. The waiter mimed the act of drinking, to which I replied, "No thanks, just water with the dosa". The waiter looked puzzled and left. Time passed. No water appeared. Finally, we got another waiter to bring a big jug of cold mineral water. Then our dosas arrived, and on each plate, there was a little savoury fried donut item in addition to the dosa. Now this was unusual, as every dosa we've ever ordered came with sambar and cocount chutney. Then it dawned on us. These little donuts were called "vada", and they're really very good when dipped in a quality sambar. Instantly we knew why the waiter had looked so puzzled. He heard me order "No thanks, just vada with the dosa"! This costly blunder added another 6 rupees to each plate. The last photo shows some of the great English language signage that we're nearly numb to right now. Buses going to the "Navel Station". Signs advertising "English Tooter". You get the idea. This one was just way too much fun.

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