Journal Entry 4: Beauty and the Gym

The walk to school today was fair. I came across a man in Hindewy clothing with a painted cow. I took a photo the duo. I gave the man some rupees. Its great to use the currency from Hyrule (Legend of Zelda). When I find one on the ground I hear the fantastical music from the game and I lift it over my head in awe. Nerd attack!

Class was good today. I have been assigned to three unruly tenth graders who are studying for a vocational school entrance exam. The teachers gave me very verbose descriptions of the boys. The boys sound like they are going to wipe the floor with me. I think they are gonna make me grow from a softy-pants English is Fun Teacher to a Hey kid, do you wanna make something outta your life City Year Volunteer. I think a firm caring attitude would suit me better, then my current goofy self.

I will also be a part of the fundraising mission. The school gets its funding from the annual 2% of profits the multi-national corporations (MNC) have to donate as part of their corporate responsibility obligations. I will get to visit the head offices and appeal for funds on behalf of the school. This is experience I really want. I want to here how Indians interview and negotiate. Although I am teaching children in the daytime. My private motive is to learn about Indian business practices.

I had a bit of a poo-poo panic attack when I had to use the loo but someone was in it. I held it in with my hands and used the placebo effect of shade to trick myself into thinking, “ I’d don’t need a toilet, I need shade”. It worked. The bathrooms at school are out houses. The teacher’s bathroom is markedly better than the kids. It’s a western flush toilet with a hose & nozzle for spraying your bum clean.

During the final period of the day I played games with some of the girls. There are few balls for the kids to play with. The girls play a finesse heavy rock juggling game. I got to talk to more of the kids. I noticed that some of the kids will be beautiful or handsome. Even though they live in abject poverty they are healthy and beautiful. When they are older they will be very popular… Oh no, this must be a factor in India’s high fertility rate.

The money media couples beauty and wealth together. People all over the world are subjected to the media’s propaganda that the wealthy are beautiful. This probably makes the poor by contrast believe that the “poverty genes” caste on them from birth dooms them to be unbeautiful. With low self-esteem their beauty won’t shine through. In this way the powerful corrupt the poor more easily.

My best compliment to the school is the environment that it creates. The children are held in stern and nurturing love. Even if outside of the walls they are the invisible poorest of the poor. Inside the walls they are young scholars with faces to be greeted, opinions to express, and a life to share. In this loving light the sapling of their character and confidence grows. Their beauty blooms even if their bodies were undernourished or their homes acidic. I will post photos of their diversity, beauty, and explosive smiles.

After classes, I went to a browsing center. It is similar to an Internet café. In my suburb a browsing center is a cramped room with old computers set up on a table with plastic lawn chairs. The Internet is 2001 speed. The price is an unbeatable 33c (US cents) an hour.

After remembering how it feels for a webpage to load, I went with Sasha and her parents to see a tailor. The tailor was closed so they went back. I am intrigued by the knowledge I could learn from Sasha’s father. He is very welcoming to teach me things about customs, politics, and his life experience. I think I will make some effort to interview him. I have precious time to learn about South Asia. I hate reading, so I’d rather pick the brain of a knowledgeable person.

I found a second gym, which was half the price of the first and had a generator of its own to keep my treadmill on during the daily power outage. I signed up the instant the sales woman commanded, “ sign up now”. I could easily work out in my mansion, and I will continue to do so, but I need a third space. There is a psychological theory that says modern man needs a third space away from work or home in order to be a healthy social creature.

The gyms in India are expensive by Indian standards. With this expense comes the exclusivity of an all-English environment and cliental. I’m most likely to make friends with wealthier Indians because they have a similar life experience. The budget bending decision was for my body and soul.

One of the characteristic contrasts of India came when I toured the gym. The gym was full of young Indian IT or business types in western brandname sports gear pumping along to US Top 40. Standing in the middle of the gym was a woman with dirty feet and a dirty sari. She had a dry coal complexion and a bewildered look on her face. It was like a Jumanji character had dropped out of nowhere. She just displayed the hard contrast of the two Indias.

I want to paraphrase Aravind Adiga’s metaphor of two juxtaposing Indias from his best selling book The White Tiger. The Light / modernity came to India via the ocean. Colonial and Post-colonial modernity were most substantial in the cities that surrounded the coastline. The interior of India was, until the relatively recent re-emergence of Indian modernity, left in the dark. The darkness was characterized by poor education and deep traditionalism. Even though Bangalore is deep in the interior, it marvelously shines with light. The wonderful climate, a plateau 1,000 ft. above sea level, gives the place temperate weather. This made Bengaluru well-suited for foreign investment and technicians. The area’s IT industry boomed when US firms outsourced their Y2K debugging to Bangalore. That massive success put Bangalore on the IT map. Bangalore is the center of the wealthy IT industry.

There are still shadows of darkness in Bangalore. The people in the shadows are the slum dwellers and the street sleepers (poorer than the slum dwellers, as slum dwellers have to pay for their homes). The school I work at is a mirror that reflects light into the shadows and helps those kids grow where the sun doesn’t shine. The light is spreading all over India. I wonder if when I visit India again if there will still be shadows?

Speaking of darkness. I came home by auto-rickshaw. A three wheeled motorcycle with a back carriage. The driver took the scenic route, which took us past a railroad track where vagrant young men were playing with their motorbikes and smartphones. They were defecating and slumming around. At one point the auto stopped. I thought, “ he brought me to his friends to mug me”. However, the engine stopped again and we left the area. We came into an area with houses without electricity. Then he let me out in the darkness. “Oh fuck” again. Actually I was standing next to my building I just didn’t recognize the area because I had come home during the regularly unscheduled power outage. I entered my house in darkness. I am lucky that I hanged a flashlight from the door handle. I had done that accidently, but now I realized that it’s a great place to put a flashlight.

I opened my window and let the light of the passing cars help me skin my pineapple. The power came back on and I wrote this. Now to work out and read for tomorrow.

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