Venu came running up the front steps with a handful of red powder and a wooden stem broken from a stick of incense. He went around to the side of the porch and ran some water from the spigot there into his hand and came right back, looking like he was bleeding from an artery, speaking at me in rapid-fire Telugu and pointing frenetically at my forehead with the stick.
This could only mean one thing: it’s time for a makeover !!
He dipped the stick into the thick red goop in his hand; then deftly pressed it to my forehead and removed it again in a single motion, leaving behind this perfectly vertical red mark.
The red stuff is a powder called kumkum, but Venu and his family call it “kumkuma” as they speak Telugu. These marks are, as I understand it, primarily a Hindu custom, and it originated long long ago with blood sacrifices. As messy animal sacrifices became less fashionable, the powdered kumkum eventually took its place; serving the same wide variety of purposes, but without making so much noise. The velvet adhesive dots of various colors and the jewelesque adhesive Bindis are also descended from the same origins. Anyway, these particular kumkum marks indicate to which of the many manifestations of the Hindu goddess you are devoted; in the case of this single vertical line, I think it indicates devotion to Shakti and/or Lakshmi. And though this is a primarily Hindu thing, forehead decoration in general here is for anyone to enjoy.
Bhaskar says geckos are considered bad luck in India. We have loads of them, so who knows what that means… but he also says if you are a man, and a gecko falls from a tree onto your right shoulder, it is good luck; for women, if the gecko lands on the left shoulder it is good luck. Anywhere else and it’s bad. Very, very bad.
This lady is making bamboo blinds. Using some sort of rocks-as-counterweights contraption, she somehow weaves the bits together. Don’t even get me started on her husband, who was making huge bamboo ladders with a machete and, um… bamboo. They were both working, and probably living, by the side of the road; and by “road,” I mean Bannerghatta Road, a freaking major artery full of traffic and craziness. Wow :)
Left, right and center views from the back seat of a tuk-tuk. Proving once again conclusively that Indian children are the most beautiful beings on the planet.
These shots were snapped from the back seat of a tuk-tuk coming home from work. We had pulled to a stop. I looked left, and saw this lovely family of three on a scooter, with the little girl sandwiched in between mama and papa. Smiles and flirtations from the little girl, beams of pride from the parents. Photos happened. Looking front and center, you can see what I saw: the driver’s back and a broken meter. Looking right, a tuk-tuk jammed full with schoolgirls talking on cellphones and looking at me with happy curiosity. Photos happened. I have never seen more beautiful smiles than here in India.