I’ve got a camera.
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. But it’s certainly a thing. And it has helped me to document the everyday banalities of ‘Indianism’, some of which are included in this picture quiz.
The answers to all the questions below are either in the pictures or the questions themselves, and lateral thinking is required. But it's all meant to be fun – a slightly different way to report on some of the things I've seen and done.
You can disagree with the answers if you want, but it won’t get you anywhere. I'll simply stick my tongue out at you and think nothing more of it. I promise…
What are these cows doing?
SOUTH ASIA BLOGS
Back in 2007, aged 25, I was in a sort of cul-de-sac. I'd graduated from university with a top degree, but I didn't want to commit to the wrong career. So I went to India to 'find myself' instead.
As I travelled I uploaded a series of random blogs to my new MySpace page (remember that?) From the mystical Kumbh Mela festival to Delhi's Toilet Museum, these include a mixture of humour and insight, fact and emotion. I'd like to think there's something for everyone here. I hope you find something you enjoy...
This was an ‘easy’ one. The cows are laying down, relaxing on a beach in the sunshine. They're quite obviously sunbathing. The bird on the cow’s back is also sunbathing. But the guy in the background clearly hasn’t got the memo. Who does he think he is, walking around like that?
If you don't believe me, I swear there are a lot less cows on the beach as soon as the sun had goes in. And as I said in the introduction, my answers are the right ones. No arguing!
In Kannur I shared my room with a number of insect friends, including a hoard of ants and this cockroach. What happened to the cockroach?
The ants got the cockroach.
They may be small, but my God are they an army. If you leave any food unwrapped, you can be sure that the little blighters will set up an assembly line to take it back to their lair (probably somewhere in the vicinity of your pillow, toilet or clothes).
I'm not sure if the picture does justice to the size of the cockroach. It's at least two inches long! When I first saw a similar beast scuttling across my room it gave me the shivers. I chased it into the bathroom, where it escaped through a gap between tiles. Perturbed by my new room-mate, I flooded it out. It ran across the room to another crevice. Not to be outdone, but not wanting to be so cruel again, I caught it under a bucket and escorted it outside. I found it, squashed, outside my room later that day.
But you do have to show a little respect to animals in this vegetarian country, where most people believe that animals have souls. Apparently, Indians believe that if you eat an animal its characteristics are absorbed into your being. I'm not sure if that’s a bad thing, but it was explained to me by a very convincing hippy.
Where do you put your shoes?
You'd be wrong to say ‘next to the second sign’. If that was the case, there’d be shoes there. But there aren't any shoes anywhere near either sign. So the correct answer is ‘somewhere else’.
This happened to be down the steps in front of the Taj Mahal, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is that someone wanted a tip for looking after my shoes. I mean, it's not like I wanted to take them off. The signs made me do it.
This is the meter of an auto-rickshaw, which is a kind of poor man's taxi - an open-sided, three-wheeled, scooter-like vehicle. They're little things that usually fit two passengers, although whole families have been known to squeeze inside.
How would you establish the price from this?
The answer is that you negotiate a price before getting in.
In some cities the rickshaw drivers will put the meter on, and in others they won’t. It doesn’t matter how much you complain. I think they have some sort of trade union which makes them act collectively. That's my theory anyway, and I’m sticking to it!
I've been getting local buses in towns where the rickshaw drivers don't use their meters, although that's not always easy, because the signs on the busses aren't in the English alphabet. You have to ask the locals, and they don't always understand you. So you end up getting on the wrong bus, going to the wrong place, returning to where you came from, and trying again.
The rickshaws aren't so bad.
Here I am, holding a big ball of poo! Excrement is becoming a bit of a recurring theme with these blogs, and I must admit I'm starting to worry about myself. The hair on the palms of my hands can't be a good sign either. At least I think its hair, you never can be sure.
Anyway, what kind of beast created this monster?
The poo came from an elephant. What else could have created something so big? It was fresh too - it crumbled in my hands soon after the picture was taken. (Are you worrying about me yet?)
We passed a couple of locals who were on their way to scare the elephants away, because the elephants were posing a threat to their village. But, whilst elephants can be dangerous, the locals wouldn't have killed them. Our trekking guide, an illegal hunter who never wore shoes as a child, did once kill a tiger though. They pose a threat to the cows, and in India NO-ONE MESSES WITH THE COWS! NO-ONE I TELL YOU!
This is an ice cream-van (honest), and unlike the English equivalent it doesn't pollute your ears with horrible ‘music’. The horns of every single other vehicle on the roads of South Asia do that well enough without the help from this seller of frozen treats.
What did I get from this van?
An ice cream van is good for two things. Firstly, it sells ice cream. But it would have been too simple for the answer to be ice-cream. I mean, come on! The second thing about an ice-cream van, is that it’s a 'van'; it gets you from a-to-b.
I could say that I hitched a lift from the driver of this vehicle, but it would be truer to say he stopped and offered me one. Indians are friendly like that. This was certainly the most bizarre form of transport I've taken on this trip.
We used this plate for a lunch of rice, which was accompanied by orange juice. What was it recycled from?
Hard question this, but I did mention at the beginning of the quiz that some answers were in the questions. The truth is that I didn't actually have any orange juice, I just said that to give you a clue. The plate, you see, was made from a carton of orange juice:
I have drunk plenty of juice here in India. The most popular juice is ‘lime juice’. It's made with one lime (although if you call it a lime the seller will call it a lemon, and if you call it a lemon, the seller will call it a lime) plus water, sugar and salt. Salt I tell you! They're mad the Indians, absolutely insane. It's no wonder I've started picking up elephant's poo - insanity is contagious after all. Or is that just crazy talk?
This was probably the only example of recycling I've seen in India. Most places don’t even have bins – people just throw their rubbish on the floor. There is, however, a big advertising campaign to encourage folk to 'Say no to plastic'. In England we're told to ‘Say no to drugs’, but I guess drugs aren’t such a problem here. I guess it's ok to shoot up in India. Just watch out or those damn water bottles, plastic spoons and library cards. Deadly those items, absolutely lethal!
What are these bananas doing?
Another easy one this. The bananas are at a bus stop, so they're quite obviously waiting for a bus.
Lots of random cargo can share your bus with you in India. Although, unlike Africa, with its chickens and puking babies, that cargo tends not to be alive.
What's waiting behind this wall?
Does this not look like a bit like a prison? It’s not. It’s actually a cinema! There’s a dark, narrow corridor behind that wall, in which people are queuing. So the answer is people. If you saw the hand peeking out you might have guessed that…
In a rare act of extravagance, I decided to pay 22p extra to avoid that queue. I have no regrets.
Festivals of one kind or another are ten a penny in India. This picture was from an ‘Elephant Festival’. Basically, it was a festival with elephants. And music, dancing and martial arts.
What is on the backside of this float?
The answer was in the question for this one too. Only one thing can be on the backside of a float at an elephant festival - the backside of an elephant of course:
Much to the amusement of the other participants at this festival, I joined in with the dancing. I can't dance to save my life, and usually make a fool of myself when I try. Fortunately, Indians seem to have the same infliction. They each took it in turn to dance ridiculously with me, which was quite sweet of them really. The only trouble was that the Indian women were watching on from rooftops, and the only people dancing with me were male.
When I wasn’t having a boogie, I helped pull the float by its ropes. So it's not like the absence of females stopped me from pulling anything, although I can't hide the fact my ‘lady’ did have a big arse!
She didn’t poo though, which was probably for the best…