Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hatcher Achieves A Higher Consciousness

I know, I know, I know, I promised to come back from my world travels as small minded as I was when I left, but I must confess that I lied at the time. The truth is, in the words of the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, that “the mind, stretched by an idea, never returns to its original dimensions,” and so it is with the Hatcher. Something very similar was once said by Swarimuran Karishnamarti long ago, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that, because you, unlike me, have never been to INDIA. And so now the plain facts are these – from this point forward we still share certain things in common, but now I stand out clearly from the bulk of you because I’ve been to INDIA, and there are certain pieces of local knowledge that provide one a sense of the deep mysteries of that civilization, which cannot be internalized except through direct experience. Telling you about them would be like trying to share an inside joke, but I’ll try anyway.

Maybe a few of you have been there, and together we can share that unspoken bond that allows us to express our social superiority over those who haven’t by treating them as the benighted small-minded vermin that they are; or, short of showing utter contempt for them, we can at least forthrightly wear are boredom with the normal platitudinous conversational fare of our xenophobic American counterparts (I can no longer call them brothers). It may take awhile for me to get to either of these points, as I have always looked forward to playing the ignorant blowhard, constantly trying to put my experiences on display for others to marvel over, but I will do so with the ultimate aspiration of complete boredom and borderline contempt. So I have that to look forward to, anyway, which is nice.

Yes, I’ll play the blowhard well whenever there is the smallest inkling of a potential conversational segue to any and all topics Indian. As an example, I’ll say things like “Sure, in America, Kingfisher Premium tastes good, But in India …” and I’ll go on to explain how the brewing process is different and far superior. I’ll laugh uproariously, overly pleased with myself, when the subject of football comes up, and I'll explain that in India, ha ha ha, when they say football, ha ha ha, they are actually talking about soccer.

I’ll grab such opportunities as fast as a homeless Indian child grabs a dropped rupi. And I’ll hang onto that opportunity with the dedication of family from Kashmir weaving a silk rug by hand, one strand at a time, for years on end. But then again, these analogies are lost on you, are they not? I might as well be explaining a Hindu prayer to a Sikh. Oh, there I go again – you see what I mean, the Hatcher and his involuntary subscribers are no longer on the same cosmic plane.

Of course the drawback for you is that my new worldly status prevents me from making certain off-color observations about India (of which I have three) – the new Hatcher is filled with a new sensitivity, a strong feeling of the underlying oneness of humanity, a warm glow that comes from a common understanding shared between men of goodwill across all the far flung races and religions of the world. I can no longer make boorish jokes. Sure, the old Hatcher might have shared with you some surprising facts, such as that there are no (zero, zip, nada, nunca) 7-11s in all of New Delhi – a sweltering hot city of 13 million people, each deprived of the joys of a Coca-Cola slurpee. Third World indeed! Makes you wonder why their ex-pat brethren haven’t exposed them to the bliss of a cool slurpee on a hot day, not to mention 99 cent footlong hot dogs.

The old Hatcher would also have delighted in sharing the even more surprising observation that there were no Hare Krishnas in the Delhi airport. Of course an equally plausible hypothesis is that everyone in the airport was a Hare Krishna, and that Krishnas as a people only chant and sing when they are cornered and outnumbered in California airports. Finally, the old Hatcher would have surely made up some story of a one night bender that ends with me waking up 100 rupees lighter with a dot tattooed in the center of my forehead. But that was the old Hatcher.

The new Hatcher instead feels an obligation to make you “alive” to certain facts regarding India, as my colleague Dinesh would curiously phrase it; so far as I could tell the “alive to” colloquium was unique to Dinesh within India, as others I spoke to were content to leave me dead to certain facts. But in India, there are in excess of 30 languages other than Hindi (the national language) and English, so the alive to expression may be a carryover from a particular dialect. Over the course of the next several blogs, I’ll enlighten you on Delhi traffic, the Hatcher’s one man attempt to dismantle a 5000 year old caste system (one taxi driver at a time), the most effective ways to negotiate and save 10 more rupees (about $0.25) when buying cheap crap, and my take on the age old debate of whether it is nature or nurture that makes Indians superior cricket players. I’ll also be sharing some photos with you, the quality of which should convey to you a key commercial lesson: never buy a disposable camera from a street vendor outside the Moslem ruins of New Delhi.


Blogger John Wolfram said...

Oh yeah? Well I've been to Fargo North Dakota! How many of you people ever been to Fargo North Dakota? You want an unspoken bond on a different cosmic plane? Go to Fargo and send me a postcard that says "I'm on the fold" and we'll share that social superiority from here out.

(For all you not in the know, that's a quote about Fargo from a famous author who obviously shares in the social superiority of me and the Hatcher.)

PS Seeing the movie doesn't count.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Just to show I can bond with my brother across the political aisle, I too am proud to say I have been to Fargo. Several times, in fact. If you ever visit, I highly recommend "Dakota Kid" sunflower seeds, the local delicacy, sold in every 7-11. (Note: unavailable in New Delhi.)

In addition, I have even flown into the Fargo airport. When the person picking me up told me she would meet me at the gate, I had no idea that she really meant "the" gate.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

I would rend my garments in shame at my inability to travel the world and stretch my brain, but I take comfort in the fact that you blatantly plaigarize from Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis ("So I have that to look forward to, anyway, which is nice.")

I bet you never even MET the Lama, let alone caddied for him.

There. Now I feel like your social equal again.

7:51 AM  

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