ॐ Indi-genius ॐ Sunday, 1 February, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in India, Soceity & Cultures, Travel.
Tags: Beedi, Brass Bands, Desi, Dhaba, Gamchha, Humour, India, Jugaad, Love, Signage, style
India is a one large land to understand during one’s lifetime. I have been enriched with unforgettable experiences, sheer joy and most importantly quick wisdom. Those experiences had great influence on me. There are few things, uniquely special to India, irrespective of the state, language or culture and could not be found in rest of the world. I have picked the objects, instances from my personal travel experiences, the earliest possible memories and real-time observations. As this is a subject with tremendous research potential, I will only narrate only on a few.
Jugad [जुगाढ़]: the ubiquitous 3 wheeled vehicle of rural India
Description: This is the published name of this vehicle. It’s a marvel in homegrown automobile engineering. It consists of scooter handle, a plastic container as petrol tank, and water pump as the diesel engine. The rear part is a wooden platform and two motorcycle wheels on two sides. The built & suspension is customized to suit rural Indian roads and fuel economy. A typical Jugad runs on a liquid fuel called “mixture”, of Mitti-ka Tel or Ghaslet (Kerosene) in the ration of 80:20.
Use: business travel, transportation of goods & people, family outing, rescue vehicle
Availablity: Any mela in rural or suburban hinterland (case study- Bharat pur-Rajasthan, Faridabad- Haryana, Bantala- West Bengal)
Price: Rs 40,000 approx for a new one, resale depending on the age & usage.
Addional info: A jugad does not comply with Bhart Stage-III norms or any recommended specifications, hence does not need any registration. Have mixture? Lets go.
Gamchha[गामछा]- the basic apparel
Description: Translucent lightweight stitch-free multipurpose cotton apparel. Mainly used as bath accessories but mostly seen in the shoulders of hard-working men (i/c LPJadav) and hed of hard-working women. Normally the apparel comes in many colors but the most popular and classy ones are reddish.
Use: Easily customizable as headband, belt, bandana, miniskirt, pagdi, strainer, cleaning cloth, duster, rope, toe-chain, veil, bathrobe, brief, ice-bag object to book space in bus and general compartment of passanger train.
Availablity: Anywhere in India.
Price: Very cheap compared to Turkish towels. And Turkish towels can’t be customized.
Addional info: Wet gamchha is heavier & more transparent than a dry one.
Indian Signage- the pop culture
Description: Apparently they look like collection of useless letters, but profound philosophy, native culture and timeless tales are embedded in these texts. These are normally seen in body of trucks, toilets, shops, walls, trees and ancient monuments under ASI preservation. ” Buri Nazar wale teri muh kala” & ” Horn OK Please” are the most commonly seen texts in trucks. But there are more meaningful ” My INDIA is grate Dengar” and “Use deeper at night” available too. In Madurai you have to use the “Wesh Baisin” whereas in Jaisalmer you can buy “Child beer” for your kids. If you are a man and want to use the public loo in Fatehpur-Sikri parking lot, confidently enter the door marked “Jains” as the other door is for “Ladies”. However in Agra you have “Jents” toilets in abundance. I always wanted the real meaning of “No hand signal please” on rear of air-conditioned white Amby’s used by key Govt offcials. I also wonder what’s the net result of Rahul+Priya, Deepak+ Anjali? In Kolkata I saw a sign in a bus ‘Forla Dies’. I was keen to save Forla from dying, but refrained himself realizing it was the reservation note for ladies seats, just a space gone wrong.
Use: To guide people who can’t read, for others its great food for thought.
Availablity: all around you, just keep your eyes open.
Additional info: Never ask the meaning of words or phrases, which you don’t understand readily, keep traveling and you will learn the meaning.
Beedi (also knows as Bidi) [बिड़ि]- for smoking
Description: Small Tendu leaf rolls containing tobacco and tied with white or colored strings. Beedi is a product of cottage industries and normally made by womenfolk of rural India. A beedi is 5 times stronger than an average filter cigarette in terms of nicotine & tar content and takes 5 times less to smoke. There’s nothing, which can be compared with the ‘kick’ of a beedi, after a cup of tea. Large variants of beedi are available- blended, flavored, export quality, long, short etc. beedi’s are also classified by their string colors e.g. lal-dhaga, safed-dhaga, and time it takes to smoke e.g- College beedi- can be puffed in the gap between two classes, Tennis bedi- while the opponent is preparing to serve! Among the samples I have tasted, I have found the strongest in Rajasthan & Karnataka.
Use: To smoke, scratch interiors of ear, in item numbers
Availablity: Everywhere except discotheques and 5 star hotels.
Price: It was Re 1 a pack of 25 when I started smoking. Must be 10 times now. Anyway, I am not interested anymore (I’ve quit).
Additional info: Though Beedi is free from harmful chemicals as found in cigarettes, its equally harmful for health.
Dhaba [दाबा]- roadside eateries
Description: Originally meant for truck drivers stoppage & meal, dhabas formed in the vicinity of petrol pumps. As highways & petrol pumps are operative 24 x7, so are the dhabas. An ideal dhaba will have the hearth & kitchen in the front near entrance, with large containers arranged in series. There would be charpai for seating, eating & sleeping. A good dhaba will be neat & clean with a humourous manager, a chhotu with gamchha to serve you with helpings and loads of butter in everything. The stainless steel utensils are slightly distorted, like the plates will have concave/ convex bottoms. Chai-biskoot are the daytime snack, Rum-murgi for night, lassi goes anytime. Water always tastes sweeter in Dhabas than bottled.
Use: Refuel break for vehicle & the driver, to unwind, sleep, make friends.
Availablity: Near petrol pumps in all NHx (x= any number below 100), some simulated dhaba’s can be found in urban precinct.
Price: A full meal comes for anything between Rs 20 to Rs 200 depending on how much butter you put. Once I had aloo parathas for 35 bucks which I asked to fry in butter.
Additional info: Read the menu carefully before placing order and ask for the day’s special. Dhaba’s have a big hearth ♥, a spilled glass of tea is always replaced on the house, so is a chapatti with hair inside it.
Horn OK Please
I am sure there are many such objects & subjects, that are uniquely Indian by origin (like zero), by customization (Jugad) or simply by affection (Bollywood), that even a research of a lifetime won’t do justice to them. The good thing is, these are famous worldwide and branded as Indian, the bad thing is, it’s so close and so common to us; we overlook them and walk away.
Next time you are traveling in India, take a closer look around you- the paper packet, signboards, matchbox, rear of the bus, dress, food, colors, sounds, lights, language.
There are mysteries & surprises galore, unravel as much as you can in this small life.
Note: The first pic, Child Beer, Jains toilet, Cobbler and the last pic are taken by me.