Wednesday, August 10, 2005

local girls, sort of

i met b & v and two of their indian female friends, just back in town after a year long stay in switzerland. some sort of student exchange. these girls (i can call them this becuase they were about 20) were quite nice and very westernized. normally i feel like i have to tread lightly around indian girls, who often seem shy and easily shocked by swearing and drinking and such. not so with these two. in fact they're coming over to my place for V's birthday party on friday and have even asked if they can spend the night. scandalous! i will be the talk of the building on saturday.

i get stared at a lot when i'm alone, but walking down the street with the provocatively (again, by indian standards) dressed indian girls drew more stares and even some catcalls. local men would try to "help" the girls (with what is unclear), assuming they were tourists. the girls seemed both amused and slightly annoyed by this.

while everyone was pleasant enough, i realized i'm really starting to miss people my age. everyone i hang out is 23 or less. well, V is 28 actually, but he seems 23. i miss adult conversation.

(here i should point out that among my most satisfying conversations on this entire trip were those i had with an 18 year old english woman i met in vietnam. i'm still freaked out by her.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

rickshaw fight

ok, so i've fallen a bit behind. not a whole lot of stuff to report anyway. even in india, new and exciting things don't happen every day. but there have been a few mildly interesting happenings:

a rickshaw driver corralled us coming out of a club at the usual 11pm ejection time and insisted he knew of a place that 1) was open until 2am, and that 2) he could get us in for free, instead of us paying the high cover. V and B seemed more enthusiastic about this than i did, and in particular, i never trust auto-rickshaw drivers. B made it clear that we should know that there's always a risk of the auto taking us to somewhere we'd be jumped by thugs, but this did not particularly concern me. i was more concerned about clearly negotiating the terms of our contract with the driver.

our agreement turned out like this:
he takes us to the place
1) if we don't like the place, he brings us back, we pay "whatever we want"
2) if we can't get in for free, he brings us back, we pay nothing.
3) if it closes before 2am, he brings us back, we pay nothing.
4) if all of the above works out he waits for us, we pay him the cover charge for one person, or 300 rupees. this is a damn good fare.

during our drive i reviewed the contract with our driver a few times. "yes, yes" was the constant refrain. along the way, he tried upselling us, offering hookers and drugs at ridiculous prices. i declined for all of us.

we arrived at a very posh hotel, and the driver walked us in and took us to the "secret free entrance" which was neither secret nor free. the charge was 300 each, and we could get in for 15 more minutes and be served no more drinks. obviously our driver was completely full of shit. "take us home", i said. even though our agreement said we should pay him nothing, i knew this would cause grief, so i decided i would pay him 70, which is slightly more than the usual fare for the journey we took. more than fair, yes?

no. i gave the driver the money and he looked disgusted and shoved the cash back in my face. he wanted 500. he said something along the lines that we didn't have to pay his "service charge", but we still owned him his fare. that it wasn't his fault the place was closed?! what an asshole. the security guy from my building came out and a full on argument ensued. the fight was mostly in kannada so i couldn't understand most of it, but B told me that the security guy was saying we should pay the driver, which i find kind of hard to believe would be true. why would he take the side of a rickshaw driver (notoriously corrupt) over the guy who lives in the building he works in? V as usual gave the racist explanations that indians will always help indians over the white man, something i've seen proven false time and again. anyway, B was making the stupid argument that we paid him 70 and that's a good rate for the distance travelled, rather than pointing out that the agreement called for paying him nothing. i told the guys it was time to stop dealing with this pinhead and go inside. we did and mere seconds later the guy was pounding on my door and ringing the bell. this went on for half an hour. i was annoyed that building "security" had let this guy in at all. V disabled my doorbell. eventually the driver got tired and went home. this kind of thing just happens with rickshaw drivers from time to time. it's best to use the meter when you can (nearly impossible late at night) and not bother with "special agreements", which are seemingly never binding if they don't work out in the drivers favor.