I managed to get myself to the archives without too much hassle this morning. The first rickshaw I flagged down offered a reasonable price (ie, only Rs. 20 above the meter fare), so I took it and felt grateful after yesterday's transportation fiasco.
I'm not sure what I did wrong the first day at the NAI security booth. Other Americans walk right by me, sign the entrance book, and get security passes handed to them with no comment. I, on the other hand, have to wait while the security guard calls someone to ask if the person who has the letter from the U. S. Embassy is still allowed inside the building. So far, I am eventually allowed inside, so I'll just call that good enough for now. I'm not really using the archives at this point. Another historian recommended starting with the library collection, just to get used to the place, so that is what I am doing. I have a stack of half a dozen books that weren't available to me in the U.S., and although it feels like a slight waste of time (why read secondary sources when you are sitting just feet away from primary sources?), it's all I can really handle right now. I know how to check out a book, so that is what I am going to do for the next few days.
So, although the dust irritates my throat, and there is one huge--and hugely persistent--fly that annoys me, I can call that part of my day a success because at least my computer wasn't plugged into the wall during the power loss/surge on, and the battery held out in my headphones so I could listen to music while I scoured the bibliographies of the books in front of me.
Amazingly, the first rickshaw I flagged down after I left the archives agreed to take me to Green Park (sometimes they refuse to drive south of the tourist area) and offered me exactly the meter price to take me there. I was so stunned I almost forgot to get inside the rickshaw. So, that was also one success today.
I discovered that there is a Costa Coffee in the Main Market of Green Park. This makes me happy for several reasons:
- Since they are ubiquitous in London, they look familiar and welcoming. The coffee shop closest to my house in Southgate was a Costa, so I spent many evenings there drinking hot chocolate and reading while watching the traffic pass by on the high street.
- It reminds me home, because Catherine and I stopped in at a Costa so I could introduce her to Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow the night we went to Covent Garden for Christmas shopping.
- It is quiet. Although my favorite coffee drink, the Cold Sparkle, can be found at CCD, neither CCD nor Barista are good for studying. The tables at CCD are horrible, and they are always playing Shania Twain (I kid you not, this is my third visit to India, and all three times--Shania Twain on repeat). Big tables at Costa, and a quiet atmosphere.
- The menu is limited, so I have to order a cappuccino. Drinking a cappuccino out of a mug with sugar stuck to the rim always reminds me of my friend, Dana, because I had to take up drinking coffee when we started meeting to discuss books and things. The coffee shops on the UIUC campus don't carry Diet Coke, and they also don't know how to make decent Italian sodas or iced mochas, so I had to switch to hot coffee.
After doing my Urdu homework at the coffee shop, I walked for an hour in the park next to our house. It is a very small park, but it is closely watched by our watchman, so I can feel secure walking there even after dark. Catherine gave me a Zune for Christmas, so I can download podcasts and listen to them while I am zipping around in little circles. The pollution is so horrible you can hardly see across the park,* but I did see Jupiter while I was walking. I listened to the December episodes of News from Lake Wobegon, and started crying twice, once during "Gesu Bambino" and once during "Silent Night." That doesn't feel like much of a victory, but I've been wanting to cry for days and have been forcing myself not to do so. Music is a good excuse to let go.
Finally, I also watched "Deewangi Deewangi" from Om Shanti Om twice while I was sitting in Costa. I almost didn't buy this DVD because judging from Beth's two reviews, I figured I wouldn't like it. I have no love for movies that are about the movie industry (ask Catherine how many times she's heard me complain about The Player). And, sure enough, I liked the second half of the movie better than the first--I'm probably the only person in the world who will say that. Don't get me wrong, I like some inside movie jokes. I am always up for a good Gabbar Singh reference, for instance.** But that's about where I draw the line--one inside joke, fine. Forty two hundred, well, that's not a movie I want to see.
However, I really like "Deewangi Deewangi," probably because of all the beautiful women. I have to say, I know she gets help from her stylist and whatever, but Rani Mukherji must be the most beautiful woman in the world. Kajol comes in a close second, or maybe Priyanka Chopra comes in second. All quite beautiful. There are many loveable things about this picturization, but the thing I liked the most about it, and the movie in general is that THERE ARE NO WHITE PEOPLE DANCING BADLY IN THE BACKGROUND. Thank you, Farah. If I want to see white people dancing badly, I can just look in the mirror while I'm cleaning house. Also, the other thing that I liked about this is that it just shows that SAK isn't that...hm...bright. Don't you think he would know by now that dancing next to SRK is a bad idea? It just makes him look all loose and sloppy. OTOH, although the disco pain song demonstrates that SRK is not scrawny, he sure looks like he is when compared to SAK, Salmaan and Mr. Munna Bhai, MBBS.
Also, from Beth's description, I expected Rekha to look truly frightful, but she just looked normal to me. A bit of dramatic makeup, but actually more light-hearted than she is often depicted.
Okay, that's enough. I think I should stop writing and go to bed before something goes wrong and makes this into a bad day instead of a good one. I haven't decided how I'm going to spend the day tomorrow, but hopefully somewhere with clean air and few people. If only.
*I exaggerate not on the pollution. It was better for a day or two, but now has worsened. It is so bad that when I was standing on Jan Path, half way between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate, I could just make out India Gate, and only see a shadow of Rashtrapati Bhavan. They are about 1/4 mile apart.
**Thinking about this, the Gabbar Singh scence was the best part of Amu. Also, the Gabbar Singh joke was the only funny thing about Dostana.