Riding and Reading; The Safe Way to Commute

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Five days a week I, like most other people, go to work. There are potentially dozens of ways for me to get to work: car, bike, segway, helicopter, skate board, or hitch hiking; the options are potentially endless. I have chosen to go the traditional route and commute via the bus. On my way to work I take a TriMet bus (#44, #54, or #56) from stop #925 to stop #7803; on my way home I take a bus from stop #7586 to stop #955. The ride to work takes 13.5 minutes. The ride home takes either 15 or 21 minutes depending on which bus I catch. During this time I read. During most other times I like to babble. This blog combines all three: books, buses and babble.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Olfactory nightmare

Book: The White Tiger
Bus # 44; 3:30 p.m.
Pages read: 5-12

Reading on the bus is not just an activity, but an experience. Today, the ride home was an olfactory nightmare. Usually, my bus route is pretty safe smellwise, but every once and a while it reminds me that humans are animals. Really disgusting animals. This was one of those days. So, I spent the ride home trying to read while holding my breath and wondering what ta hell caused such an awful smell.

The book's first mystery is solved. The swear word turned out to be a swear phrase: "What a fucking joke." Balram disclosed this just a paragraph following where I stopped reading this morning (I bet you can guess that I never read the last page of a book before the end).

I like Balram.

He starts his autobiographical letter to the Premier by explaining that people in his country start a story by saying a prayer. To this he adds,

"I guess, Your Excellency, that I too should start off by kissing some god's arse.
Which god's arse, though? There are so many choices.
See, the Muslims have one god.
The Christians have three gods.
And we Hindus have 36,000,000 gods.
Making a grand total of 36,000,004 divine arses for me to choose from." pg. 6

Using the word "arse" scores major points with me.

Balram then acknowledges that some people believe that none of these gods exist. Here is his brilliant response to that: "It's true that all these gods seem to do awfully little work -- much like our politicians -- and yet keep wining reelection to their golden thrones in heaven, year after year." pg 6.


Balram is a very unique character. Here is a guy who has had possibly one of the crappiest childhoods ever, but speaks of it in a very matter of fact way without any resentment or blame. Apparently, he believes that his crappy life is representative of the norm. For example, Balram off-handedly relates that his parents never bothered to give him a name. Now most kids would be a little pissed off about this, but not Balram. Balram explains this parental oversight as perfectly understandable, afterall his mother spent all her time lying in bed and spewing blood (truly horrifying image) and his father was too busy pulling a rickshaw to name him. Now, why dad couldn't think of some name off the top of his head during the 20 hours a day he spent running through the streets is beyond me. He wasn't too damn busy to think up the moniker, "boy." Couldn't dad have just tacked on a few more syllables and called it done? Ponyboy comes to mind. Something tells me that Balram wouldn't have been too picky.

Balram finally gets his name when a teacher, after spitting a "jet of red paan" onto the classroom floor, takes 5 seconds to give him one. First off, what ta hell is paan? Secondly, maybe there is some teacher in Texas or Alabama that is spitting chewing tobacco drool on the classroom floor, but generally people in countries I like don't do such a thing, and thirdly, why couldn't Balram choose his own name at this point--I think he earned the right.

I concluded my ride with Adiga providing another loathsome image of India (as if the red paan all over the floor wasn't gross enough). Balram cautions the Premier about swimming in India: ". . .I urge you not to dip in the Ganga, unless you want your mouth full of feces, straw, soggy part of human bodies, buffalo carrion, and seven different kinds of industrial acids." pg 12 See?? This is exactly why I believe that India is not a desirable place. The rivers are filled with soggy human body parts...this is not good. Period.

I find myself wondering about Adiga's relationship with India. Does he hate it? I can't help thinking that even though he has yet to include anything pleasant about India or its citizens, that he has some affinity towards it. I also like that the author has an amazing ability to conjure up face-scrunchingly disgusting images without needing to bog the reader down with lengthy descriptions. And despite these disgusting visuals (or maybe because of), this book is quite full of wit and quotables. And I think I am going to enjoy it. Actually, I already am.

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