Editors note: The following is a travel log submitted by Jim Phelps, owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St., Rockford. Phelps is traveling through India and Nepal, and will be sending updates about his different experiences along the way. This is the first entry in his travel log. Read all subsequent entries in this ongoing series under Online Exclusives at www.rockrivertimes.com.
By Jim Phelps
Monday, April 3, 2006
Its the constant nick that Indians raise to a new art form in India.
Last night, I flew in on a 777 over places I always wanted to seejust not from 36,500 feet up. Or at nightMoscowAral See- KabulThe Line of Control (a war zone at 14,000 feet in the Kashmir, fought over by the Pakistanis and Indians).
And today we get the constant nick of the commercial knife. Never too much money for the tourist or businessman to part with. Now, the air agent tells me he wants 300 extra rupees for his work. Yeah, right.
My restaurant is the crossroads of the world. Five stories located above the main bazaar in Paharganj, Delhi, I hear Russian, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Hebrew, German and Japanese. The waiters are Thai; the cuisine is southern Indian. What the hell! I feel weirdly out of place. Even the Coke tastes lemony. It would go better with rum or tequila, or both.
Tonights specials include:
No. 1 Lamb Laffa
No. 2 Thunka (Grey Salad)
No. 3 Special Lassi
A Lassi is a minty yogurt and ice drink. A special lassi contains the roots of the marijuana plant. Called Bhang, its been known to put you into delirium.
I have to fly tomorrow, to Katmandu, Nepal. I dont need any extra help getting there.
Over the restaurant stereo, on this beautifully muggy Delhi night, is playing welcome to Hotel California.
Yeah, Hotel California. Wrong generation. Now it is Californication. American culture, like a virus on the world stage. Riots in Delhi were held three weeks ago over our presidents visit. Americans are still not trustedfeared, loathed and ridiculed on the world stage. I half expect some marketing wank to come up with a catch phrase along this line: America: love it, live it, or nuke it, just buy our Coca-Cola.
The Brits used to call everyone right of the English Channel WOGS. We have our own terms. You all know them. None of them particularly endears us to the rest of the world. I guess we think we could nuke them. But, the WOGS, you see, are catching up with technology. They have nukes, too, you see, and soon the means to deliver them. Just a thought. I hear change begins at home. Try applying it on the home front in the War on Terror. Just a thought.
The flight has me wigged out. Time keeps changing. I half expect it will land at Kabul International Airport. Or maybe Kandahar. At least I wont get blown up by IEDs on the way by bus through northern India. Yep, the local constabulary in Uttar Pradesh and Nepal have full-on Maoist rebellion on their hands. Oh, IEDsoutside of Iraq, India had 147 IED explosions in 2005. I met someone who said one wounded him.
I hear the Maoists have resorted to taking hostages. Last week, they tried to take a party of four Polish trekkers in Nepal. No one is saying it openly, not even the police, but it sounds like the Nepalese Maoists didnt fare too well in the fight with the Polish Backpackers. So, the lesson is thisdont mess with Poles!
Time for a shameless commercial plug of my own. Krissy P. (who makes some tie-dye for us), Im wearing one of your shirts. I got a picture of me standing in front of a poster that pretty much sums up my day.
No one is Happy
When Quality its Missing
You are No One
Good Quality can make you
Whatever that meansWelcome to Incredible India. Enjoy your stay. Watch what you say.
Jim Phelps is owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St.
From the April 19-25, 2006, issue