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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Back pains - a common problem

Back pain is one of the commonest orthopedic problems, and the often used terms such as lumbago, sciatica and slipped disc get bandied about at the dinner table. However, an acute bad back is not the sort of condition that you want to chat about over desserts. The condition can be crippling and not “cute” in any way.
The real reason you get a bad back is because our forefathers decided we looked better walking on our hind legs instead of all four. Just like a horse, the bones of our spines lock together nicely when we are on all fours, and weight can be carried easily on our backs. However, when we stand up and try and lift, it all goes pear-shaped from there. The spine was not designed to carry loads, or pick up loads, in the vertical position.
So let’s look at this “slipped disc” problem. First thing - discs do not “slip”. They do not shoot out of the spaces between the vertebrae (the tower of cotton reels that makes up your spine) and produce pain that way. The disc actually stays exactly where it is, but the center of the disc (called the nucleus) pops out through the edge of the disc and hits the nerve root. When this happens you have a very painful condition, as anyone who has had a disc prolapse (our fancy name for the “popping out” bit) will tell you. Think of the pain when the dentist starts drilling close to the tiny nerve in your teeth. Well, this is a large nerve! When the nucleus of the disc hits the sciatic nerve, this produces the condition known as Sciatica - an acute searing pain which can run from the buttocks, down the legs, even all the way through to the toes.
Unfortunately, just to make diagnosis a little difficult (if it were all so easy why would we go to Medical School for six years!) you can get sciatica from other reasons as well as prolapsing discs. It may just be soft tissue swelling from strain of the ligaments between the discs, or it could even be a form of arthritis. Another complicating fact is that a strain may only produce enough tissue swelling in around 12 hours after the heavy lifting, so you go to bed OK and wake the next morning incapacitated.
To accurately work out just what is happening requires bringing in those specialist doctors who can carry out extremely intricate forms of X-Rays called CT Scans, Spiral CT’s or MRI that will sort out whether it is a disc prolapse, arthritis or a soft tissue problem. The equipment to do these procedures costs millions of baht, and the expertise to use them takes years of practice and experience. This is one reason why some of these investigations can be expensive.
After the definitive diagnosis of your back condition has been made, then appropriate treatment can be instituted. The forms of treatment can be just simply rest and some analgesics (pain killers), physiotherapy, operative intervention (and we can even slip in artificial discs these days) or anti-inflammatories and traction.
Now perhaps you can see why it is important to find the real cause for your aching back. The treatment for some causes can be totally the wrong form of therapy for some of the other causes. Can you now see the danger of ‘self diagnosis’ here? Beware!
So what do you do when you get a bad back? Rest and paracetamol is a safe way to begin. If it settles quickly, then just be a little careful with lifting and twisting for a couple of weeks and get on with your life as normal. If, however, you are still in trouble after a couple of days rest, then it is time to see your doctor and get that definitive diagnosis. You have been warned!

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
The other day my wife came by a rather interesting bottle of Cuvee Speciale. As we will be in your neck of the woods in a week or so, please allow me to drop off a bottle for your approval. I would be interested in your thoughts of this particular vintage.
Your Gordon Islander
Dear Gordon Islander,
How nice to hear from you again! One of my correspondents who has always been faithful and has kept Hillary supplied with suitable libations. Are you still resident in the Channel Isles? And is this another holiday for the two of you? There’s still many fun places to go to in Thailand, and the prices are certainly a lot less than in the UK, or even the Channel Islands, my spies tell me.
Be careful when you come about dropping off the bottle. Placing it gently is better, but make sure it is marked for Ms. Hillary! I can assure you that after receipt of the bottle of Cuvee Speciale, I shall savor it for a while, well several minutes at least, and after chilling the bottle to the correct temperature, and making sure there is nobody else around, I shall open and savor again. This is what I really call ‘great expectations’! After that I will drink it all, get tiddly and laugh a lot! Thank you in advance.

Dear Hilary (sic),
I have just recovered from the shattering blows of your rejection of my marriage proposal. But I’ll survive. But I love your replies, couched in your usual splendid English, with its humour and (practically) non-malicious bite, and deliciously intelligent advice to the hearts and pockets of men. Close the first and padlock the second! I shall continue to read your splendid column whilst breath remains in my body.
I was in agreement with your answer entirely, save for a few things you cannot know. I am not a military nut by any means - I’ve just been in the military, and found the experience of learning hand-to-hand combat very useful the other day when a German insulted an English lady I was with. His nose suffered a humiliating defeat in combat with my elbow. I hate violence, like most military men, but sometimes it’s necessary.
And how come you don’t know what cutting the mustard means? Pretty standard slang English surely? Doing what comes naturally is of course the meaning, but I suppose you were pulling my leg.
I don’t drink because I always drink too much when I do, and so I stopped. You can’t drink and think. I don’t drink but the lady I am honored to be with may, if she wishes. I’m no chauvinist pig! I’ll stick to Pepsi and she can quaff the bubbly by the jeraboam (sic) - I do not tell ladies what to do. (It’s usually the other way round.)
I of course had a back-up to fortify me against the refusal I so feared from you. Next month I’m marrying her. She’s a lovely lady, 49 years old and nags me terribly. But she is a lovable lady, pragmatic, wonderfully humorous and takes neither nonsense nor prisoners. I live in fear of, and love for, her.
She’s right to nag - it’s not that men are half-bad and half-good, it’s that they are 100 percent bad and 100 percent good! She is desperately trying to bring the latter to the fore and destroy the former. She will of course succeed. I will succumb.
One last promise, dear Hilary (sic). Your use of the word ‘Petal’, I believe, but am not sure, identifies you as a Geordie. I know my Andy Capp! However you may be American - there are words like ‘kinda’ which are suspicious.
One of the things I do here is find people who are missing and whom anxious, suffering relatives are searching for. I’m not too bad at it. I’m going to find you and bring you a bottle of bubbly! You deserve it!
Love
Edwin
Dear Edwin,
Thank you for the lovely long letter, but I had to shorten it, as there wouldn’t have been room in the paper for the Classifieds and the Sporting section. So forgive me.
Now, down to serious business, if you are going to promise very large bottles of champagne, it’s ‘jeroboam’, not a ‘jeraboam’, my Petal. And just so you understand, my Edwin ‘people-finder’, the term ‘Petal’ is also used in New Zealand, so don’t hone in on just Newcastle and the USA in your Hillary people finding.
But I must take you to task, here you were, promising me your undying love and 10 km walks in uniform and all, and you were hiding another potential Mrs. Edwin in the wings. I hope you will be more faithful to her than you were to me. However, I knew you weren’t ‘roi percent’ with your original proposal, as anyone who really loved me would know how to spell my name. It’s Hillary, not Hilary. Are you paying attention, Edwin?
Mind you, I am really getting all of a twitter here. Pulling your leg while cutting your mustard, while doing what comes naturally? I really don’t understand, but it sounds dangerous. Very dangerous, Edwin.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Golden Dream Pigeon exposed

In my time I have bought and sold many cameras, including Nikon, Hasselblad, Voigtlander, Cambo and Minolta. There was also one I threw away, called a Golden Dream Pigeon. I threw it away, not because it didn’t work, but because it took lousy photographs. It had also cost 90 baht, including the film, so I was not losing much!
What I learned from my Golden Dream Pigeon was simply the old adage - you get what you pay for! Unfortunately, all of us fall into the trap of the tight fist. Why spend big baht when a much cheaper article will surely do the same job just as well. I rationalized Golden Dream Pigeon’s purchase in this way but I did not think that it could be quite as dreadful as it actually was!
As justification you tell yourself that all you are paying for is the “name” plus very expensive packaging with the high ticket items. Unfortunately, in photography, you pay for more than the “name”. You are paying for that other ingredient called Photographic Quality.
The interesting feature about photography is that the measure of excellence is always the end result. In other words, the photo says it all. A clear, sharp and well exposed shot shows the lab did a good job in printing, the film was top quality, the camera set at the correct exposure, the lens let the light rays through without distortion and the image was focussed correctly.
So let’s look at some of these basic factors. First, let’s deal with the camera. What is often not realized is that the principle function of the camera body is really just to record the image and be able to alter the shutter speed and aperture required for correct exposure. It’s still just like a Box Brownie - but smaller with built-in goodies.
The cost of the camera body today depends on the degree of sophistication in its built-in features. Electronic multi-pattern metering, motor driven film advance, auto rewinding, DX coding to set the film speed automatically, different exposure modes, smart cards and memory stick replaceable electronic gadgetry, LED viewfinder displays, dedicated flash electronic circuitry and ergonomics in design all add to the cost. None of the above were available in the Golden Dream Pigeon, by the way.
Next item is the lens. The equipment necessary for the super sharp snap is the super sharp lens. The sad fact is that no matter how good or expensive your camera body, whether you use film or are digital, you will only get lousy pictures if you use a lousy lens. A good lens is just as important as a good camera body.
If excellence is your pursuit, look at good quality “fast” (f 2.8 or better) fixed focal length lenses from the same manufacturer as your good quality camera body. Sure, you can get a “bargain” at some camera shops (and Duty Free outlets) who will sell you a Nagasaki 28 - 3000 zoom for your new Nikon or Canon or whatever. Certainly it will be cheaper outfit than a Nikon lens on a Nikon camera - but in saving a few baht you just lost out on excellence.
Now let’s look at some very simple fixes for some common problems. Blurry photographs can be fixed by selecting shutter speeds of 1/125th second or faster. Hold the camera with two hands. None of this one handed technique, waving one-two-three fingers with the other hand as a count-down.
There are six simple steps on the road to improvement:
1. Take more shots. Some may fail, but one will be good.
2. Move in closer. Many shots fail by being too distant.
3. Keep it simple. Photos are far more effective with one subject and no background clutter.
4. Specialize. Take pictures of one subject, say boats or trees, until it is mastered.
5. Read books on the subject. Kodak “How to ...” books are instructive and easy to follow.
6. Edit your own work by constantly sorting through your photos and discarding the failed shots. Be ruthless! And remember just “why” the shot failed.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Portfolio Construction - Part 10

One issue that we expect to see more and more of is that of ‘flight to quality’. As we have seen in our review of the property market, there has been too much complacency about risk during the benign conditions created by the liquidity surfeit of the last few years. This applies equally at a personal level. The greatest criticism that you could perhaps throw at MBMG during the last few years is that we’ve possibly missed out on some speculative opportunities because of our insistence that you can’t just bet the farm on whatever happens to be the latest trend irrespective of whether or not there are other good reasons to do so.
Our view has always been that international investors enjoy many attractive financial advantages. However, it is important that these are combined with the finest professional service to ensure that money can grow securely under expert supervision. We therefore insist on using high quality product providers, such as Friends Provident International (FPI) and Generali International who are amongst the world’s leading and longest established international investment companies.
We generally prefer regulated reliable jurisdictions, such as the Isle of Man, where the Island’s financial supervision legislation ensures the protection of policyholders’ interests, the quality of management and professional expertise. The Isle of Man is universally recognised as a premier location for international business. It has an enviable reputation for political and economic stability, security and protection. The Island is awarded the highest Sovereign Credit Rating “AAA” from Standard and Poor’s (1) and “AAA” from Moody’s (1). Additionally, the Isle of Man has the International Investment magazine’s “Best International Financial Services Centre” (2) for the sixth year in a row. It has also been recognised by the Financial Times publication, The Banker, when it was named European Winner of its Financial Centres of the Future 2005 in November (3). These have proven the strength of the Island in pursuing its political, economic, legal and social strategies.
Tynwald, the oldest Parliament in the world in continuous existence, signifies the Island’s political stability. The Isle of Man is an internally self-governing dependent territory of the British Crown.
The Isle of Man has enjoyed 21 years of unbroken economic growth at around 5% per annum (4). The GDP of Isle of Man is 113% of the UK (5) and it has virtually full employment and low inflation. Furthermore, the Island introduced a new unified, general zero rate of corporate income tax in 2006. This beneficial tax regime provides a highly-competitive edge in the international markets. The pro-business government positively supports and encourages the development of the Island’s financial services sector.
To ensure the protection of the policyholders’ interests, a statutory offshore policyholder protection scheme is operated on the Island. The Life Assurance (Compensation of Policyholders) Regulations 1991 protects investors with Isle of Man-based insurance companies to levels at least equal to that available in other financial jurisdictions worldwide. The scheme protects the investors in the event of an Isle of Man-based insurance company being unable to satisfy its claims. The scheme pays up to 90% of the liability of the insurer.
Fast facts - Capital Douglas, Population 76,315, Size 52 kilometres long and 22 kilometres wide. Location The centre of the Irish Sea - 50 km from Ireland and 50 km from the UK. Parliament Tynwald, National Day 5 July, Languages English and Manx Gaelic. (Source: Isle of Man Government website <www.gov.im>)
Whatever the situation, it’s always best exploited by doing things the right way!
A couple of very interesting pieces by the always thought-provoking Tim Price of UBP recently focused on the nature of portfolio construction, based on studies by Barclays, ABN and the London Business School and using data from 1900 to the present day. These both concluded that the use if derivatives to reduce risk comes with an unacceptably high cost if used indiscriminately and that like any other investment methodology, these are tools that are only valuable if used actively and appropriately. A strict ‘safety first’ policy constructed entirely around a blanket use of derivatives, in other words, destroys return at least as much as it controls risk.
We’re big believers in using derivatives but as one more option in the portfolio allocator’s toolkit rather than as a one-horse strategy in itself. The most prudent, not to say ultimately successful, policy is our core belief to pursue a balanced portfolio of multiple assets. As Tim Price says, “When it comes to proof positive of the successful multi-disciplinary approach to asset allocation, one need look no further than the Yale university endowment under the stewardship of David Swensen. In his 21 years of managing the endowment, it has generated 16.3% compound annual growth. Citing this two-decade investment record, Yale acknowledges the support of strong capital market returns but also the contribution of “disciplined and diversified asset allocation policies.
“The portfolio’s ‘Absolute Return’ components comprise hedge funds - the second largest asset class component after real assets. The deviation from recent historical preferences is striking: in 1986, 75% of the endowment was allocated to US stocks, bonds and cash. US equity now accounts for just 11.6%, and fixed income - in entirety - for just 3.8%. Private equity and ‘real assets’ (energy, timber and real estate) combined account for nearly half the portfolio. Diehard sceptics of the value generated by supposedly ‘alternative’ investment management techniques - particularly those sceptical at the apparent fee burden of hedge funds and private equity funds - can assess Yale’s net portfolio returns ... the evidence on the part of a diverse multi-asset portfolio to offer both downside protection and decent risk-adjusted returns, a la Yale, looks increasingly compelling.”
To be continued…
(1) Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s are independent ratings agencies, who assess the financial strength of financial centres.
(2) International Investment Magazine is the UK’s leading offshore publication, published by Incisive Media. (www.isleofman finance.com)
(3) Financial Times, The Banker. (www.isleofman finance.com)
(4) Source: Isle of Man Government website. (www. gov.im/iomfinance/limits)
(5) Source: Isle of Man Government website. (www. gov.im/iomfinance/limits)
 

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]


Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

Thai names are not easy for us farangs, but please note that of Thanawat Katanyoo, who is, according to a program note at Payap, just 30 years old.
After graduating from Prince Royal’s College and studying at CMU he found his natural home in the music department of Payap University and has just completed five years there studying guitar and composition.
His recital was unusual in that the first half was for solo guitar. His choice of composers was unsurprising, Guiliani, Bach, Villa-Lobos and the incomparable Leo Brouwer, who was especially suited to his elegant, slightly austere style. Under normal circumstances this would have been the start of an excellent evening.
However, the best was yet to come. The rest of the evening comprised five of his own compositions (none for guitar), beginning with a wonderful fanfare for seven trumpets, Talk to the Wind. True, brass fanfares are legion from early music to contemporary composers such as Philip Glass and, most famously, Aaron Copland. I am not trying to elevate this young composer into such heady company but this was a short, spirited work full of invention and unusual rhythms.
It was followed by an elegant, abstract piece for solo piano, a dance like virtuoso duo for clarinet and flute and a chamber trio called The Fight of the Butterfly. Here he matched a high flute (as the eponymous creature) against a tuba (net) wielded by a little girl (piano).
The finale was a chamber quartet for trumpets, saxophone and piano with a somewhat ironic title, Cobra’s Swamp Forest, the nickname for Bangkok’s new airport. This was a wonderful finale, played to the same high standard that had characterized the evening.
If I were this young man, I would send scores or recordings of the fanfare and quartet to Harkan Hardenberger, the fine Swedish trumpet player, who is the greatest advocate of new music for his instrument in the world today. You can but try!
There are a series of concerts currently running at Payap, Mae Kao Campus and elsewhere. Details by telephone on 053 248037. The next is the 18th of Sept, a piano recital in the main auditorium. There will be an Honor Recital by a group of students on Saturday 22nd and a guitar recital at the AUA auditorium the following Saturday, 29th. Admission is free.
For details of another intriguing sounding event, Jazz and Movie Vol.1, to be given at the Payap multimedia room contact 053 248 466. This is being staged by Thorsten Wollmann who was composition teacher for Thanawat. He and a group of friends will be concentrating on jazz and music for cinema, including new works. The date: September 21.The time: 7.30.
And a mention for visiting Europeans, violinist Alessandro Cappello and pianist Anna Ibanez who can be heard from 7 pm on September 25th at the CMU art museum. Here there is a charge of 300 baht, with half price concessions for students, but the venue is the most comfortable and we are in international waters.
Writing of CMU reminds me that the Film Space project on Saturday nights (free admission 7p.m.) has been running a series of action movies and there are two more on 22 and 29 September.
The first is Fearless, starring Jet Li and the second the exhilerating Thai classic Ong Bak with Tony Jaa.
In marked contrast to those movies there is – also at CMU – an exhibition of flora paintings by Jaroon Bansuan- 115 in all, one for each of each year of the anniversary of Silpa Bhirasri, who is known as the Father of Thai Modern Art. It runs until September 27th.
Amidst a week of movies and music in Chiang Mai I’ve found time for a couple of splendid culinary events. There was a well organized dinner last weekend as part of the progress to the January 10 Hillside 4 party in aid of this year’s charity. Further money to the swelling coffers was raised by raffles and auctions. Well over 60 people attended and as usual at this smart eatery the food was excellent and the staff charming and efficient.
The same may be said of the Italian restaurant Archabeleno, where I had a most enjoyable meal as a guest of pianist Bennett Lerner. The guest of honor was Donald Richie, over here on one of his regular visits from his home in Japan. Film historian, writer of definitive books on great directors such as Ozu , lecturer, painter and composer and also the director of a dazzling group of short, experimental, movies. His new travel book is out soon and his current project is a collection of essays on great films from the silent era up to Tropical Malady, a superb Thai movie. He is also unpretentious and charming. All in all a good week in Chiang Mai.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Bangkok Love Story: Friends (Puen): The story of a hit man in Bangkok who falls in love with the young man who takes him in and nurses him back to health following a hit gone wrong. After letting this film of gay love gather dust for 18 months, Sahamongkol Films has now overcome its jitters, and decided to release it. Good word of mouth.
The Brave One: Jodie Foster plays a victim of a violent attack seeking revenge on those responsible. Reports are it is a smart, well-acted, engaging thriller, and that in exploring what fear has done to one woman, Jodie Foster gives one of the best performances of her career. The Brave One is a revenge flick, they say, but an uncommon one. Although it is bloody and at times brutal, it doesn’t revel in the violence. This is about the psychology of revenge, and whether a person who takes a stance as a vigilante has crossed over an ambiguous moral line. With Terrence Howard. Rated R in the US for strong violence, language and some nudity.
Bedside Detective (Sai-lub): Thai Romance – Dreadful. Only for those Thais who would sit enthralled at the interaction between department store mannequins. I feel so sorry for the dog in the movie; he is quite good, and he is saddled with such awful co-stars. Extraordinarily popular. Director: Komkrit Treewimol.
The House (Baan phii): Thai Horror – Three women murdered in the same haunted house. The movie is absolute rubbish. Regrettably it is currently the most popular film in Thailand, and a monstrous financial success. Director: Monthon Arayangkoon (The Victim).
Chaiya: Thai Drama – Gritty and violent telling of the lives of three childhood friends who come to Bangkok to become part of the Muay Thai scene in 1977, the good and most especially the bad. The plotline is often confusing and difficult to follow, but it is relentlessly action-packed, and the three friends do involve one’s interest. Good visual recreation of the period, particularly the evil underbelly of boxing life. Director: Kongkait Komesiri (Art of the Devil 2). Airport Plaza only.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: US Comedy – Starring Adam Sandler. Two firefighters pretend to be gay. It is quite funny, and though it is offensive to just about every human group that exists, including gays, it is most offensively anti-women. Tries to end up on a good note by preaching tolerance. Generally negative reviews. Airport Plaza only.
Khon Hew Hua: Thai Comedy/Romance – This is an all-round, multi-purpose Thai film, with a little bit of low Thai slapstick and bodily-function humor, a little bit of horror and gore, and a lot of sweet and sour family love. Very much a personal film of Ping Lumprapleung, who wrote it, directed it, and stars in it.
Scheduled for Thursday,
September 20

1408: US Horror/Thriller – With John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Early reviews say it’s a genuinely creepy thriller based on a Stephen King story, with a strong lead performance by John Cusack. A writer who debunks apparent supernatural phenomena is determined to stay overnight in fabled haunted room 1408, convinced that the horrific past of the room is just mere coincidence and a myth. But what he is about to experience is no myth, as 1408 truly is a room where the guests don’t check out by noon. 1408 is more psychological thriller than outright horror, recycling many of Mr. King’s familiar motifs. Generally favorable reviews
War – Rogue Assassin: US Action/Thriller – With Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone. It’s a complicated plot, but one that leaves plenty of room for everything an action fan could want, from gunplay to that old standby, a decapitated head in a box. Despite its big action stars, War turns out to be a flabby and formulaic standard-issue crime drama laced with routine martial artistry. Generally negative reviews.
Ghost Mother: Thai Horror – Mother takes good care of her kids, is murdered, worries about her kids, comes back home, no one knows she’s dead, continues to care for the kids while seeking revenge on her murderers.
Gig Number Two: Thai Romance/Comedy – Four horny teenagers, members of “The Gig Club,” try to come up with a list of four sure-fire rules for how to make out.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

India: first impressions last

I have just three words to say about India: I love Thailand. Four years ago, I was on my way to India but Thailand got in the way. It used to bother me that The Land of Smiles was so damn comfortable, charming and enchanting that I couldn’t even get out and explore the neighborhood. After twenty-four hours in Chennai = Madras, my love for Thailand tripled and I had three more words for India: trash and traffic.
Granted, I only visited four cities in southern India while having a hip replacement, but that won’t stop me from making sweeping generalizations about the entire country and its diverse people. If a few of its minions spent a little time sweeping, India would be considerably more attractive. In Chennai, a sprawling, grimy conglomeration of 6.4 million people, there are only three public trash cans that no one has emptied in two thousand years, which now peek above their expanding mounds of garbage, reproducing in the sweltering heat and creating new scientific elements of living debris, growing eyeballs, tentacles and genitals. Besides the bane of advanced civilization – plastic whatever – these piles are composed of decomposing produce, rocks and rubbish, sticks and stones, broken bones, slimy paper this, rusted metal that and decaying other things. Omnipresent piles of bricks, modern or ancient, smashed or intact, give the impression that the city is constantly being torn down and rebuilt into a dirtier copy, and it’s been going on for centuries. Sacred cows wander aimlessly in the streets and on the sidewalks like stray dogs spreading their sacred pies to fertilize these germinating piles or squish up the side of your ill-placed sandal onto the skin of your bare foot.

If I tried this trick, my neck and a couple of toes would be one centimeter high.

The insane traffic makes Bangkok seem laid-back. New York is calm in comparison. Everyone is in a major hurry while barely moving. The idea of “lanes” is a foreign concept. Your personal space around your vehicle isn’t measured in meters, or centimeters – it’s measured in millimeters. Your speed is determined by the amount of millimeters between the vehicles surrounding you and what the limits of your chosen mode of transportation may be: huge new truck, small old truck, first truck ever built on earth shrouded in black smoke, car, motorbike, oxcart carrying a billboard the size of an intersection, cow, elephant, horse, 300-year-old emaciated man pedaling a 400-year-old bicycle or your bare feet while your head balances enough fruit to feed a family for a week, two monkeys and a computer, perhaps all at the same time.
In stark contrast, the women, resplendent in their multi-colored, intricately woven saris, float above the rubble like innumerable species of unique butterflies. Their daily uniform for life, the women wear these flowing shawl/skirt/pants combos for every task: going to the market, work or school; raking molten asphalt in the road, carrying ten bricks on their heads in pairs, five high – do not try this at home – swimming in the sea with a few thousand of their closest friends on holidays; or flying by on scooters, scarves fluttering three feet behind in the breeze, ready to tangle in the side mirrors of passing buses and rip off their heads.
Auto rickshaws, three-wheeled motorcycles with a passenger seat similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuks, are manhandled by Maniacs of Death whose secondary role in society is to reduce the excess population by their reckless driving. Lured into the very-common-so-why-did-I-get-sucked-in-again shopping scam of I Take You Sightseeing Cheap Then Drop You In Deserted Areas Populated Only By Fancy Museum Stores Selling Goods For A Hundred Times The Going Rate, after the driver stopped to smoke something aromatic and powerful, we caused at least two accidents, one of which left a pile of motorbikes in our wake, which will probably still be there in two hundred years under a growing heap of garbage.
Everyone honks their horns incessantly for these apparent reasons: 1) “Another vehicle, person, animal or vegetable is within three kilometers of me.” 2) “My auto rickshaw doesn’t run unless I honk.” 3) In the legendary words of a famous Indian philosopher, “I think, therefore I honk.” Enveloped by an incomprehensible number of honks that equals the number of air pollution molecules surrounding you, it’s impossible to determine what they mean or who will smash into you from where.