November 05, 2010

The Brahmin and the pump

In Mawlynnong, there's a Bengali family in the room next to ours in the bamboo guest house. At dusk, we hear him singing, so my wife goes over with a farmaish: Tagore's "Ami chini go chini". He agrees to sing it, but only if the rest of us come over too. So when I make my way there and introduce myself, the first thing he says is "Don't worry, I'm also Brahmin!"

I'm baffled by this.

Only after this initial foray does he tell me his name. And after that, he sings not just "Ami chini", but plenty of old Bangla and Hindi songs as well. I play along as best I can on my harmonica, and he offers me a swig from his VAT69 bottle -- I decline because scotch is my least favourite drink in the world -- and it's a lot of fun, but I'm still baffled. Even today.

Next day, we drive into Cherrapunjee, or Sohra as it's known. We stop to find a couple of medicines we need. A small pharmacy is open in the market, slender graying woman behind the counter. When I tell her what I'm looking for, she shakes her head slowly, almost sadly. She doesn't have it. But she asks where we're visiting from, then points across the road to another pharmacy, and simultaneously hands me a visiting card.

Only later do I find that it's not for the pharmacy. It's for a restaurant that serves "Indian and Chineese dishes". By way of providing an address, the card says "Near Petrol Pump (There is only one Petrol Pump in Cherrapunjee)".

That's a relief, the words in those parens. I was afraid I might have to, while possibly searching for this particular restaurant on some possible future visit, race frantically from petrol pump to petrol pump until I found it. No fear of that.

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