Friday, 30 November 2012

A Fish Tale

Mt. Arunachala from the roof of our house. (Deepam 2012)
There are times when I find myself thinking of how much my life has changed from my days as a suburban soccer mom in Boulder, Colorado. Doing errands around town is not quite the same as simply running to a 'superstore'  like King Soopers or PetsMart to buy some cat food. It entails hopping on the back of David's moped for a sometimes hair-raising ride through the streets of Tiruvannamalai stopping at various little shops along the way to pick up the items on our shopping list.

Each shop is known for selling a specific type of item; there is the stationary store, the sari store, the bike store, the medical shop for drugs and medicine. I have not seen a 'one stop' shopping place since coming to India, which is a gratifying experience. Walmart has tried to elbow its way into India, but there has been an uproar in India from small scale merchants; hopefully, India will have the good sense to eschew the mega-retailer.

Last night there was a stop at the stationary store to buy computer paper and five new ball point pens.  Indian shops are basically a counter facing the street; you tell the merchant what you need and he scurries behind the counter, disappearing into various aisles piled to the ceiling with items unreachable by the customer. If he emerges with the correct item the first time, one considers that a success. It typically takes a few tries before the exact item is located, wrapped and paid for.

After stopping to get my glasses fixed, we maneuvered our way through the crowded streets to the tropical fish store where we filled two huge plastic bags with goldfish for two of our outdoor ponds. The fish were swimming lazily around a few tired looking tanks, and the owner used a small net to plop them into the clear plastic bags for the trip home. This is where it got interesting. We had several other bags full of fresh veggies, which we hung under the handlebars of the moped as usual. The two large bags of fish were my job to protect on the way home. I usually hold onto David's waist with one hand and grip the moped seat with the other hand. Now I had to use both arms to encircle the two big plastic bags as we darted in and out of traffic on our way home. It must have looked somewhat amusing to see the fish sloshing around on the back of the moped, but you see many interesting things piled onto Indian mopeds so we were lost in the crowd, I'm sure.

As we made our way down the bumpy dirt road towards our house with me gripping the two bags full of fish to my chest, I could see the fire on Mt. Arunachala burning in the distance and felt an instant sense of calm.  Life is much simpler here, not always easy, but so rich in ways that I could have never imagined.