Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dog Tired

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Every night in McLeod Ganj there is an all-night dog party. By day, the dogs sleep in the streets, waking for no man or vehicle. But around the time dusk falls, they begin to rise from the pavements, stretching legs and marking their territory. Once most people have retired for the night, the dogs gather together, howling and barking from mid-night to dawn. It's a canine symphony. Now we understand why they look so exhausted during daylight hours.

I've been looking just about as perky as the dog in the photo for the past few days. There is a lot of mildew in this town thanks to daily rains and leaky plumbing. My allegies attacked and won. I've been drugged to near unconsciousness with cough medicine and anti-histimines for the past four days so we haven't done much exploring. We have seen the inside of three hotel rooms though. Third time's the charm because we finally got one that is mildew free and I am on the road to recovery.

I have managed to read a few interesting books in the last few drugged-out days. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Himalaya by Michael Palin, and Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald were all good. Now I'm finally reading Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. It's been in the bottom of my backpack for over a year now, to be saved for a rainy day. Everyday is rainy here, so it's time to break it out.

This morning Chris and I got up early, while the sun was still shining, and wandered up the road to another village. Monday is a national holiday in India and so there are lots of Indians coming up to visit the area for the long weekend. This morning we saw hundreds of young Hindu men on their way to the swimming pool that is part of a temple in Bhagsu village. Almost all of them wanted to have photos taken with us. "Just one snap, please!" Just one snap with each of the hundreds of them. I think I have had more photos taken of me today than I have had taken in all the previous years of my life.

We'll never see these photos, but I like to imagine the stories that will be spun. What countries they might tell people we are from. What we do for a living. Our names. How we met in Bhagsu... They'll have to make up the stories because they didn't ask us many questions. There was one question I wanted to ask them, but I didn't. "Where are all the women?"

The men on holiday continue to pour into McLeod Ganj, faster than the rains. There is a traffic jam on the street where we are staying. The pavement is wide enough for one vehicle, going in one direction, but there are an uncountable number of jeeps, rickshaws, taxis, motorcycles, scooters, and trucks trying to go in both directions. All of them are full of men and most are decorated with orange Hindu flags with gold tinsle. Even the ever-sleepy dogs are being disturbed by all confusion.

We've escaped for a bit to walk down a road that is still being paved. As a result we've found where some of the Indian women are. Dressed in saris, they are carrying rockfilled baskets on their heads. Without the female roadgang, the road won't be finished. No holiday for them, even when the afternoon downpour begins.


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