Il cacciatore di draghi

"Le fiabe non insegnano ai bambini che i draghi esistono, loro lo sanno già che esistono. Le fiabe insegnano ai bambini che i draghi si possono sconfiggere." (citazione da citazione di un amico)

Just cut the end, please

by Valerio Gori

Hollywood films puzzle me. Not all of them. Some of them. Might say most of them. Especially the well-directed ones that end up with pathetic, inappropriate final scenes. The list is tremendously long: Blood Diamonds, A Beautiful Mind, etc. Without those very last minutes, these films would have been really nice. Yet, when they came out in theatres, they were just flawed. I always wondered how was it possible for the same person to direct the first 145 minuted of the Gladiator as well as the last 10.

K. is a random young man in Jaipur. Seems nice and quite lonely. Nothing unusual for a boy living and working in Mumbai, who moved here for a few-days-long business trip. At least, that is what he told us when we first met. Alessandro and I were coming from a long discussion on the difficulty to share simple, genuine experiences with locals. And there he came K., showing us we were wrong. And he did it with the simplest smile and the kindest invite: let’s go get a beer altogether.

As we got to the hotel where the bar was, K. helped us to the bar. For all that matters (and it does, as later explained), he was the worst guide ever. He apologised for all the times we had to turn back and get the stairs, but that was the first time he got into the hotel. In the end, K. had to ask several times for directions to get to the bar. We did not mind. It was funny for us to get lost in the labyrinth of nicely decorated rooms and corridors. The hotel was a high-class one and K’s behaviour (not to mention his outfit) were far from being compliant to that required to the hotel guests. Nor were ours, though. But we were Europeans; nobody cares if you wear dirty and cheap T-shirts when you carry euros in your pocket.

We enjoyed all that. Alessandro and I were in our habitat, as high-class hotels have the same touch everywhere in the World (or, at least, that is my experience). And that touch is much closer to the places we belonged to than to ordinary India. K talked a lot, explaining his story; without spending much time detailing it, K told us he came to Jaipur with his boss for a few days. Then he asked whether it would have been fine for us if he invited him over. So it was. And the boss’ cousin – who works in the same company, too – came as well. It was weird as anyone was apparently keen to inviting someone new to join. That’s India, I thought. They share, they are used to share. They grow up in big families where everything is in common. Thus, they must be eager to share our company with those that are close, too. It was weird, but nice.

A pleasant evening. Studded weird questions, I avoided to consider unpolite only because Indian new-culture is much more based on you-are-what-you-earn than ours. Before living, we were almost forced to accept that K. would have been our guide for the next day in Jaipur. We could not refuse.

Indians can be annoying even when they are nice. They are simply too nice for us. We wanted to be free. We wanted no guide. Moreover, we realised that we were feeling uneasy with all the questions we were asked on our salaries and economic status. Too bad we decided to use an excuse to get rid of K. and keep travelling our own way. The moment we did, we felt guilty of some sort of Western closeness of our minds. Still, it was over. We met K., shared a beer with him and his bosses and that was it. We left him behind our backs. He was a nice guy we shared some nice hours with. That’s it.

As we were going around Jaipur, we met K. three times. That was not a coincidence, as in Jaipur you always end up on the main road. And there he was. Always trying to get another appointment. With increasing excitement. In the end, he came to be annoying. We declined until last time, when he irrupted in a McDonald’s where we had dinner with some random Spanish nice folks and insisted on having a tea. If the reader has been in India, he knows there is no way to say no. So we went, but one condition: it must have been quick.

As we got to the very same hotel, K guided us, again. He appeared to be much more at ease in there than last time. Never asked for directions to get to the restaurant. I never doubted the ability of young Indian boys to learn quickly, yet I felt suspicious. I asked him why did we get to that same hotel, and he answered he always get there. “I know you, young little liar” was all that I could think…

K took a table for three, as three we were. I ordered my tea and waited for someone else to join our table. No one was expected, but as things went by, the plot was more and more clear to me. And right I was: two men came. One was an old boss (boss of last night bosses) and the bosses’ boss. It is quite complicated to understand hierarchies in a country where everyone claims to be a boss… Summarising, I can claim with a certain confidence that we met the whole company management team those days!
Neither Alessandro nor I liked the way thins were turning. Clearly, the gentlemen were aiming at something more than a nice chat. K got nervous and kept scratching his nails. And was silent. Completely silent. Alessandro made him good company, thinking it was best to leave the conversation to me. So it was. The bosses kept introducing business and money-related subjects to discuss while I kept on turning the conversation to foolish matters as the political configuration of the Indian States within the Federation. This annoyed them. It would have annoyed me, as well, I believe. But that I looked forward to.

No need to explain all the reasons that brought Alessandro and me to think – from different directions – that our guests cared for us for a specific purpose. Smuggling, we both suppose. Kidnapping was out of discussion, considering the context (yet too long to explain). Moreover, our guests’ organisation was into the diamonds business and it is much easier for a Western tourist to pass unnoticed through security checks. Still, it does not matter. Whatever they wanted, that was not what we wished for.

As I asked for the bill to get away, the waiter waited for one of the bosses to assent. That really annoyed me. I was questioning myself on who these people might have been. Still, not relevant. I was so disgusted and frustrated I just wanted to leave. So did we. I paid my bill and went away.

Getting back to my hotel room I realised I was neither angry nor too annoyed. I was sad. I sought for someone to consider me a person rather than a wallet surrounded by pale, Western skin. I thought I found the chance to get to know India better and I knew some of its worst. In the end, I realised there was nothing I wished more than erasing the last hours from my mind. K would have remained a nice guy willing to make friends. I would have discovered something real that India hardly shown us before. Something I liked much. A bridge over different cultures.
I would have written a much shorter post. A nicer one.
And there I was.
Begging my mind “just to cut the end, please“.

C’s story of India

by Valerio Gori

This time I write in English. Explaining the reason is not relevant. It would be the very same note in whatever other language, if the reader is sincerely interested in getting the heart of the matter. Nonetheless, as this is not my first language, please go over mistakes and misusage of words. I am no writer. Nor I would want to be.

For the last few days I had no chance to keep the blog up to date. Monsoon caused continuous and frequent blackouts and my possibility to connect to the Internet was then compromised. No big deal. Only a few remarkable events happened and I took note of them so that my memory does not have to hold the responsibility of storing them for too long. That is something of a certain relevance when genetics claim you as a potential Altzheimer affected person in the next decades.

Today we leave from Pushkar. We spent here way too much time to visit it, yet just enough to recover from our tireness. At the end it was too much of a touristic place, where nonetheless we found some India too jumping on a random farmers’ truck for a lift or waiting for the sun to shine after the monsoon into the dirtiest restaurant of the city. But this is not today’s topic.

Pushkar is connected to the rest of India through Ajmer, the closest city, located few kilometres SE. And here it starts the post: from Ajmer train station.

Being early in stations guarantees that trains are not missed, but raises the question on how to fight the boare. Travelling in two, it is quite easy to keep ourselves occupied as we wait for time to pass by. For example, we play cards. But we need to be sitted down to play. Fortunatly stations have waiting rooms. And in the waiting room of Ajmer station we found C.

C is an English man, on his thirties. He studied history. Asian history for what concerns us. A few years ago he started to travel. He went to Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand and all SEA. He enjoyed his staying in these places. Then, this summer, he came to India.
When I first saw C I knew something strange was on. He was the only white guy in the room and, as we got in, he freed the two seats close to him from his stuff. He was clearly holding too much load on himself to be confortable, but he seemed to feel some sort of homesickness. And we represented the closest thing to home he could get. He has been in India for a few weeks and only five days were left before heading back to Manchester. Five days… Five days were more than he could stand. One last thing he whished to see – the Golden Temple – than he would have spent the rest of the time in his hotel room. It seems weired to hear it this way, but it maked sense when he started to describe all reasons that brought him to act so weirdly. India is not a country that lets you enter within its culture, if some remains. Tourism and money corrupted it in such a way that you can never be more than a bag of money on two legs. No respect, no long-term orientation. There is no order in the way you are thricked and played for a fool. Can take pictures of ruins. Can take pictures of people. But cannot really get part of their life and, moreover, the possibility to reach the historical and cultural heritage of India is compromised. Nothing similar ever occurred to him. Nor in Cambodia, not in any other country.
Hearing these words I felt lucky of my few, genuine experiences here, but, at the same time, I was not able to dissent completely. And I felt sad. Sad for him. Sad for India. Not for me, though. I had my share of genuine India. It was enough. But I knew how he felt. He was just more sensitive than I am. And he suffered the fact that he was disrespected as a person. Because he was no person: he was money. And he was not referring to baggers, which might be justified by their lot. All types of indians seemed to act the same way, even government rail officers, apparently.
He was overwhelmed by all sort of people surrounding him, invading his privacy, touching, pushing, talking one over the other. Ruining its opportunity to see India. And he could do nothing more than leave. So he did. And with all the sadness and anger in his soul he told me “there is no worst place than India”.


by Valerio Gori

Mai stato un gran fan delle religioni. Né di quelle inneggianti al buonismo, né di quelle filosofico-pacifiste, né di quelle della “riscoperta”. Il fatto stesso che siano religioni mi fa storcere il naso. E non perché voglia generalizzare, ma proprio perché il loro fondamento – la fede – cozza con i miei principi.

Qui in India, nemmeno a dirlo, di religioni si è in sovrabbondanza. Ce ne sono più che divinità. E ci sono più divinità che indiani.

Mi trovo a Pushkar, luogo sacrissimo che ospita ben 52 templi monolocale-affaccio-sul-lago-ampio-ingresso-prezzo-trattabile-telefonare-ore-pasti. Mi ferma un brahmino chiedendomi di partecipare ad un rito indù. Me ne importa anche meno del rito che del brahmino. Ed il brahmino appena incontrato già mi innervosisce. Non occorre un sesto senso per capire chi vuole cosa, in India. Non occorrono neppure i classici cinque. Basta tirare a indovinare e la risposta sarà statisticamente corretta: soldi!
Non mi interessa. Ma se si è letto l’ultimo post, risulterà chiaro quanto poco conti se mi interessi o meno: è una battaglia persa in partenza. Gli indiani giocano di squadra, come le orche: ti spingono verso il centro del branco e poi ti ammazzano di chiacchiere. Parlassero almeno inglese, si potrebbe provare a ribattere, invece questa costruita ed attenta ignoranza crea tutta una serie di misunderstanding che fanno il loro gioco.

Il rito ha luogo. Banalotto, a dirla tutta. Sembra la preghierina di un bimbo ai piedi del letto. Suona più o meno così:

O divinità X, tu sia lodata.
Regala tanta felicità, salute e lungavita a papà, mamma, fratelli, sorelle, fidanzate, ecc. ed a me.

(Sommatoria di Xi per i=1,n i=divitità indiane)

Ok. Fatto. Poi mi chiede un’offerta.
In Euro o Dollari è meglio.
Ok. Rupie. Facciamo 3000, 4000, 5000?
Ok, ok. 1000? 500?

Dopo un’infinita serie di “stocazzo” (da qui, variabile stocaztica), il brahmino pronuncia le parole magiche. E ci sa fare. È davvero un brahmino serio! Da ricredersi! Si vede che è unto da Brahma! Tradotte dall’hindi all’inglese e poi dall’inglese all’italiano suonerebbero più o meno così:

Con un’offerta riceverai un braccialetto che indica che hai donato a Brahma ed in nessun altro tempio ti verrà chiesto di compiere altri riti/offerte.

Cioè… vi rendete conto?… in parole povere… Mi si chiede di COMPRARE la pace! Un uomo santo mi dice che dovrei PAGARE affinché non mi vengano rotti i maroni ogni due minuti! Con DENARO!…
Non ho parole…
Non so che dire…

…Accetta la VISA?