So this past weekend, I went on a visit to Kodaikanal, a hill station in Tamil Nadu south of Bangalore. 2100 metres elevation baby! (minus the snow I’m used to expecting at that elevation). The air was amazing. I went with the same three other students from France and Switzerland I visited Hampi the previous weekend with (I didn’t blog about this, sorry). They all spoke French better than they spoke English, so I got to bring out my dusty French from high school.
There were lots of amazing things in Kodaikanal, which I can sum up best with pictures later. However, I’ll just focus on one awesome moment. We had walked 7 km out of town over the course of the day to take in the mountain-top view from a very popular location, Pillar Rocks. We would have taken an autorickshaw, but this town lacked them (thankfully). We were too cheap to take a taxi, so we elected to walk. By the time we got to the site, it was around 5 pm, and we had left the settlement some time before 2 pm. We were worried about the approaching night, and walking along the sidewalk-less roads in the dark. It seemed like a cool idea to try to hitchhike back and do some cultural exchange.
Sidebar: In the last month, it seems everyone wants to take a picture with me. People will point at me in broken English and say “picture?”. In Kodaikanal, this happened about 3 times to me, and several times to the other students.
On the walk to Pillar Rocks, ascending rented cars full of rowdy young men would scream at us as they went by, pumping Bollywood music. This could best be translated into our culture by someone yelling “Spring Break! Whooooo!” So, we figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find someone willing to take 4 talkative westerners back. After asking a few vans that turned out to be full, we walked by a parked school bus. A kid who was about 16 years old popped his head out the window and said “Parlez-vous Français?” and the real adventure began. Turns out they were from a high school in Pondicherry, an old French colony, on a weekend trip. They also spoke awesome French and English and we managed to score a ride back with them into town.
Sidebar: In my first month in India, I’ve been a little exposed to the madness that is Bollywood. Compared to the aesthetics of Hollywood, Bollywood is so overly melodramatic that it can be frustrating to watch. However, the music videos that come out of the big Indian entertainment machine have the most enthusiastic irrational exuberance I have ever seen. The sustained athleticism of some of the dancers is amazing. I’m sure some sad music exists somewhere in India, but when it’s happy its really damn happy. I mean, just look at this following video, which features happy dance-punching:
So, either me or one of the others mentioned we were into Indian pop music, and they high school students were look “oh reeeallly”. Well, I think you’ve heard enough of me leading up to this, so here it is: An Indian High School Dance on a moving School Bus.
At first it was just the younger guys who talked to us initially on the back of the bus doing the dancing. The bus was pretty segregated, with the girls sitting quietly facing the front, and the boys standing in the back being rowdy. This made me sad, as it is representative of most of my experience with gender in India: talkative men and quiet and uninvolved women. However, one of the girls got up later and set the dance floor (i.e. the middle aisle of the bus) on fire. So, I was happier.
See you next time!