Friday, May 20, 2005

40. Potty Training

Fig 40-1: Guidelines for Being Gentlemanly

Other than having similar origins in printing terminology, both stereotype and cliché are potentially dangerous offshoots of trying to immerse yourself in a new culture, as sometimes it’s easier to make simplified generalizations to explain cultural differences, rather than trying to understand where those differences come from—and let’s face it: racial stereotypes are so cliché these days.

Stepping into the Western Style bathroom on any Indian Railways train, then, it’s refreshing to see that some stereotypes extend beyond borders. What kind of stereotypes would those be, you ask? Well I’m talking—of course—about gender stereotypes.

Fig 40-2: Rules For Best Practice

While I’m not one who likes to encourage the accepted clichés about toilet seat positioning, you have to admit that it’s a damning piece of evidence in the ongoing debate when world’s single largest employer—1,583,614 people, in addition to transporting 4.2 billion people annually—finds it necessary to stencil gender-specific instructions for toilet use (see Fig. 40-1) on the bathroom wall.

For those of you looking for any further instruction on toilet-use conduct, simply refer to Fig. 40-2. These guidelines, as far as I can tell, are applicable to both sexes.

Fig 40-3: Compliance Isn't Without It's Rewards

Saturday, May 07, 2005

39. Rest and Relaxation

Fig. 39-1: Overview of the Uncontrolled Research Environment

You know that calm, relaxed, and contented look that people have after spending extended amounts of time on the beach? After a recent five day stretch of hands-on research conducted between Om Beach, Half Moon Bay, and Paradise Beach on the shores of the Arabian Sea just outside of Gokarna, I’m beginning to think that these hallmarks of well-tanned people are simply a combination of sunstroke, complete physical inactivity, and a near-complete lack of mental stimulation.

As the saying goes: "Those who can, do."

Fig. 39-2: A tan Louis-Philippe suspiciously looks away from a book for fear that stimulating information might harsh his vibe. He instead concentrates on a bottle of water, which promises to provoke no thought.

Fig. 39-3,4,5: Louis flips me off for using the above caption
(click bottom photos for detail)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

38. On How We Are Brats:


Fig. 38-1,2,3: Bhairon Villas Guesthouse
(click bottom photos for detail)


Fig. 38-4,5,6: Hotel Meghsar Castle
(click bottom photos for detail)


Fig. 38-7: We Heart Television

When trying to explain to the manager of the first guesthouse why we were leaving his somewhat expensive (though thoroughly television-less) property (See Figs. 38-1,2,3), the only justification that I could offer was that we were really tired, and we just wanted to be entertained.

We had chosen the original guesthouse—formerly the residence of the Maharajah of Bikaner and his four wives—due to it’s central location, the promise of ease and comfort, and the assurance of both air conditioning and cable television, after a long couple of days spent on camels in the desert. The truth is that all we really wanted was a television, and that’s exactly what we got by relocating to the second, more run-of-the-mill guesthouse, on a noisy street north of town (See Figs. 36-4,5,6).

In the end, all we had to do was forfeit the more conventional beauty of the first location, for a situation where the beauty was a little more subtle—by which, I mean, the availability of HBO.

Sometimes sacrifices simply have to be made for comfort, though that doesn’t mean that I felt any bit less ridiculous when trying to find the words to explain this to the manager of the first place.

37. Seeing the Desert for the Sand

Fig. 37-1: Visualize a Parkscape (Either Ignore the Goat or Pretend that it's a Dog)

Repeat a familiar word for a few minutes and it will lose definition, stare at anything totally familiar to you for long enough and it will eventually lose its context, but oddly, if you stare at the most unfamiliar of terrain, it will eventually become familiar.

Sitting out the hottest hours of the afternoon beneath a shady tree in the desert while on a camel trek (about 40 miles to the east of Pakistan), the landscape began to look like a sprawling parkscape that you might find in a major western city, with hills that lead towards the horizon, and trees and shrubs spaced at appropriate intervals—the only thing that you have to neglect is that it is unbearably hot and the grass has been replaced by sand, though that ceases to be apparent after an hour or two.

Fig. 37-2: Your Pretending Produced an Actual Dog. Your Parents Were Right—You Clearly Have a Good Imagination.