Pottering in India

source // youtube

source // youtube

Tuesday, 23 November, 2010

Pondicherry, India

I’m 2001, India looked on in awe as the country witnessed a little boy that was living in a cupboard under the stairs become famous for having legitimate magical powers. I’m not talking about a clairvoyant that can tell you something incredibly vague about your future, this lad was talking to snakes. Well, at least I assume that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released over here anyway.

Nine years on, we are now at film number seven and the world remains nutty for the little snake charmer with the scar – this being an obsessive fan list which includes Ruby. Thus, it was mandatory that we would be taking a trip to the cinema this week – which, in itself, was a pretty surreal experience.

Firstly, the layout was more reminiscent of a theatre, at least, from a British person’s perspective – we were situated in the balcony seats. While the arrival of the customers was extremely sporadic – at the start of the film we virtually had the entire place to ourselves, thirty minutes in and the room was full. In fact, there were people having to sit on the steps.

Now, I’m aware that nobody turns up to a party on time – being stuck alone with Eager Eric as he talks about the increase in petrol prices, is not fun for anybody. That said, surely that rule cannot be applied to a film. What if Harry Potter revealed that he’s been secretly fighting his fetish for blokes without noses for six movies? The late arrivals would be absolutely flabbergasted when they saw the young wizard and Voldemort making daisy chains in the park together.

Those that did see the film from the beginning appeared to be in the wrong venue – they were whistling, screaming and cheering each time a new character entered the screen. It was mental. If you closed your eyes, you’d think that Potter just smashed a free-kick into the top corner to send Gryffindor to Wembley.

It also puzzled me to see that both the character dialogue and subtitles were in English – I guess that must be to accommodate for Neville Longbottom’s Leeds accent. Although, it’s not particularly strong. You should hear my mate Lewis talk, the lad still says things such as, ‘do I ‘eckers, like!’ which I guess would simply translate to ‘I don’t’ on the screen.

The picture froze at around the halfway mark, and started looping the same one second clip over and over again – naturally, this confused us. At first, I thought that the cinema had purchased a scratched up, black market copy of the film. However, we soon realised that the pause was for an interval. I’m not entirely sure why a break was required though, considering many members of the audience only arrived five minutes earlier.

The audience didn’t exactly stick to the unwritten rules you expect cinema attendees to follow either. In the seat behind us, on the knee of, well, I hope her parent, was a baby – that’s right, someone thought a sold out cinema production of a three hour long film was an appropriate place to bring a baby. They probably also take their pet hamster to cat cafes and their grandma to strip clubs.

As you’d expect, the baby cried on several occasions, which was obviously annoying. She also started dropping popcorn onto our heads. It would appear that you now need an umbrella for cinema protection! In a frustrated state, I considered turning around and calling her a little cow – however, I decided that this could be taken as a compliment here, so refrained from doing so.

Still, as weird as the activity was, I really enjoyed the experience. It was a great film, which helps – but, I also liked living through the unique and bizarre occurrences that unfolded within the audience. However, if you are reading this and you do have a baby, listen up – a trip to the cinema would be a mental idea, both for you and everybody around you.

After Delhi, we flew out to the south of India – spending a few days in Bangalore and Pondicherry. Everybody we spoke to in Delhi informed us that Bangalore was a much more sophisticated part of the country, where the high end businessmen work.


The indications of this were there pretty quickly. As early as the taxi ride taking us from the airport to the hotel, in fact. The vehicle came with seat belts, a safety measure we were no longer familiar with. I was about to suggest that the seat belt is a luxury, but thought better of it. It would be like telling a child that Brussels sprouts are a treat, when they are clearly not – but they are good for you, much like a seat belt.

Although, it must be said, the postal service in Bangalore really tests those previous claims of sophistication. In order to get to the bus stop, we had to surpass a miniature assault course, as a whole heap of postal packages were sporadically dropped across the pathway.

I curiously asked a bloke standing next to us to fill in the gaps; he shrugged and nonchalantly explained that this was just how they deliver their first class post in India. I can only assume that the second class post is used as a leg rest for TV time.

Close to an hour later, a bus heading across the country pulled up to the kerb. A lad jumped off the roof, like a superhero, and started picking up the boxes before piling them up on his head – he was taking three at a time. Not only that, but he followed this by climbing up a ladder with them balanced on his noggin. He would then strap them down and repeat the act until there were no longer any packages on the floor.

So, to sum up Bangalore; it has seat belts and a questionable postal service. I hear that the city used to travel mail by pigeon before it became so sophisticated.

We are now winding down at a beach town in the south called Pondicherry – it’s probably hard to believe that a period of downtime would be required three weeks into the holiday, but it is. We’re rookie travellers, so we learn as we go – India can often thrive on our naivety, and at times, it can be tiring. Thus, for now I just want coconut juice and a beach.

Pondicherry is also quite the breath of fresh air, both metaphorically and literally. In many parts of the country, animals roam the streets and crap wherever they want, creating a far from pleasant smell – as sacred as a cow may be, they do not have God scented poos.

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