Welcome to my first attempt at a blog! I figured now is as good a time as any, having moved halfway around the world to Hubli. While I didn't know anyone on day one, I've since met many wonderful people, both those who have come from out of the country as I have as well as those who are native to India and have been teaching me a lot.

The plan is to update the blog somewhat regularly so that none of the posts get too lengthy (which is the case with the first several, as they were originally mass emails). We'll see how well I do at keeping up. Miss you guys!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So many details that this post doesn't NEED pictures (not to mention that I don't HAVE any - don't think it would have been particularly appropriate)

And ohhhhh, the busride home.  Apparently I don't have any better luck with busses than I do with trains…

First, actually, we DID try the train - no luck.  We had been on the waiting list and unfortunately hadn't inched up at all.  That meant we'd gone out of our way and proceeded to take a bus to another bus station to catch one back to Hubli.  While we waited there for a couple hours, we encountered a rather rowdy family next to us, staring (what's new?) and spitting.  On me (that's new).  Yes, the grandmother was doing something very interesting with her soda, and the rest of the family was either getting a kick out of it or persuading her to quit.

Once on the bus, Kraemer and I deliberately sat near the front to avoid them, even though it meant sitting apart for a while.  The family chatted/yelled cheerfully to one another, breaking into song at random intervals.  Again, not that new.  At a stop about halfway through, the two older boys in the family (early twenties?) chatted us up, asking all the usual questions.

Not too long after everyone boarded again, a loud commotion broke out at the front of the bus - new.  The taller of the two boys had another young man by his throat, shouting Kannada words I couldn't understand.  But we got the drift: this man was NOT his favorite person and had clearly done something to upset the guy.  That said, the guy didn't fight back and hardly looked like he'd hurt a fly.  I think at one point the father slapped his son around a good bit, but that could have come later.  You'll see.  The conductor broke them apart and we resumed our relatively quiet bus ride. 

Not for long.  I was jolted from my favorite bus pastime - keeping tabs on all the wild, weaving oncoming traffic - with our favorite family as the starring characters.  The Muslim woman behind me, who appeared to be traveling only with her baby of less than a year, started WAILING.  And I mean, she probably woke up people in Pakistan.

Apparently, the woman had lost her earrings.  At least, that's the impression we got at first, and Kraemer couldn't wait for her to pipe down, thinking the jewelry couldn't have been that valuable.  Not so in India.  Many people here wear their wealth, and this must have been hers.

The brothers got up to search, using their cell phones and my headlamp to peek around the luggage on top and people's legs and feet.  People tried to be as helpful as possible, slightly raising their bums and peering around their seats.  Still no luck, and the woman continued to sob.  She'd completely disregarded her little girl at this point and was tearing through her purse.

Shortly thereafter, we pulled over at a police station - we were less than an hour away from home, and it must have been 11pm by now.  A police officer started a search of his own, which turned up one of the big, gold flower earrings, stuck into the crevice of a seat.  Now it was clear these were stolen and not just lost.  The woman hadn't been wearing the earrings; she'd only been transporting them, and they'd been tucked carefully in her purse in a little plastic baggy. 

The officer called some of the men from the back and started patting them down right in front of us, requiring to strip off their shirts and pull up their pants.  They didn't have much on underneath, but I pointed out to Kraemer that they'd failed to search the rolled-up cuffs of the shorter brother. 

With that, a plain-clothed investigator cleared the men off the back of the bus and really went to town. He quickly found a huge wad of money at the very back where all the women had been sitting, which started a huge uprising, with the women in tears as they were all ushered off as well.

The next thing we know, the boys are being walked gruffly toward the building.  Through the open windows, we can see them being thrown up against the wall and interrogated - or at least shouted at.  We later learn that they found the other earring on them - in his rolled up cuff.

Oh, and the boy they were threatening earlier?  They were upset because he'd gone to the back of the bus to lay down in some empty seats, which were, in their mind, simply too close to the women in their family.  Thought the guy was trying to be sneaky.

Not your everyday return trip!

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