Sunday, April 05, 2009

When even the cows are staring.

The first year I lived in Jaipur, there was this stray dog that lived along Big Shopper Road in Rajapark. He was a special stray dog, in that every time I walked by, he totally lost his mind, racing after me, barking and snarling. The locals thought that was hilarious, and the other Americans didn't believe me when I told them about it, until one day a friend saw it happen. I don't know what that dog had against me, but he meant it.

Fast forward just about three years, and look for me in Bikaner. I will be easy to spot, not just because I'm the only white person on the streets, but because all the dogs and cows are staring at me. I am used to avoiding the human gaze*, but not so accustomed to bringing all of animal kind to a dead halt every time I walk by. It's as if the cows had never seen a foreigner before. This can't really be true, because I'm staying in a hotel listed in The Rough Guide to India, so surely other backpackers have walked these streets. Still, I seem to startle everyone every time I go outside, which is--let's face it--not all that often.

I did go out Junagarh Fort yesterday (my photos here), and I walked two blocks to buy some Bisleri this morning. The hotel owner gives me a lift to the archives every morning, and I go out after dark and walk in the park. That is enough outside time for me. It is already getting warm (98 degrees this afternoon, but dramatically cooling off with an evening thunderstorm), and that combined with the attentive fauna makes me want to stay inside. When I feel like being productive, I work on my Hindi vocabulary. When I feel like relaxing, I play the tin whistle or drum (thanks to Catherine, who brought me a set of Susato whistles and a pair of drumsticks when she visited me in Delhi).

So, that's the exciting life of a foreign researcher in Bikaner. Next weekend maybe I will go out to Lallgarh Palace, or maybe to the Camel Breeding Station. Tune in for more exciting news in a few days.

*I think we were at Purana Qila when Claire looked up and said, "Wow, I totally forget that everyone is staring at me. It's only when I deliberately look around that I notice that everyone is looking directly at me." You learn how to walk with your chin up but your gaze pointed off to the right or left so you don't have to actually acknowledge the fact that everyone is staring into your face.

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