The Incredibly Strange India

An interesting installation by Anant Joshi has all-outs emanating wonderful scents while the inner sanctum of the temple with Rama's slippers.

An interesting installation by Anant Joshi has all-outs emanating wonderful scents while the inner sanctum of the temple with Rama’s slippers.

Although I thought I wouldn’t bring in outside content till the 10th post in this blog, but the recent mid-year special cover story by The Week, called “We, Quirky Indians was just too brilliant not to be shared.

I’ve been a huge fan of The Week’s reporters, reporting and story selection ever since my family started subscribing to it more than a decade back. Oddly enough, the reason for taking the magazine was not because of its brilliance, but because we wanted the phone that the group was being given free with its three-year subscription. Then, of course, I fell in love! But, I’m digressing… Back to Quirky Indians.

Now, as much as we gallivant around the world, not many of us have explored the wonders of our own country — India. And WE are delightful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Initially I thought I’d introduce everyone to the bizarre Indians over a period of time, leetle by leetle… But The Week went ahead and did this cover, so I figured, why not feature it. They chose over a dozen villages with various idiosyncrasies, from one where the bride and groom cross-dress before the wedding, another which is built to facilitate the movement of snakes, and yet another where the people are named Coffee, Hotel or Court.

So, without much, ado…we present to you Incredible India…

Bhadrapura and Guaripara, Bihar — Now there are people who crowdsource the names of their children, while others go through elaborate astrological calculations, but there’s a place where a newborn’s name can be dictated by something as simple as the parent having recently bought a ‘cycle’, or because the kid was born near a restaurant or ‘hotel’. What does this give you? A village full of people in the Hakki-Pikki tribe called everything from Court, Coffee, Shaadi, Laayu (short for Love You), Congress, Pistol, Japan, and Cycle and Hotel, of course.

Shani Shingnapur, Maharastra — Now, this is one that has been written about before as well. It’s the village where trust rules all because there are no doors. (Of course, if they simply own a locker each in the bank and/or have all their money locked up in Swiss accounts, we don’t know about it!) Apparently the local deity, Shani, doesn’t like to be in confined spaces, so to appease him, the inhabitants don’t lock their doors. Even the UCO Banks’ doors aren’t locked.

Gunalli, Karnataka — Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada would have loved this place. If she didn’t like the botheration of having to remember her secretary’s name, chances are, if they came from Gunalli, she wouldn’t need to because for most people, it’s a case of one name fits all. The men are called Gynappa, the women Gynavva, and these names belong to at least one member of each family. So, should you wish to visit this small village, make sure you know the surname too, else you’ll probably go around knocking on various doors trying to find the right guy.

Punsari, Gujarat — This is probably what Village 2.0 would look like. Wi-Fi at Rs 10, areas demarcated for shopping complexes, schools fitted with CCTV cameras, 24×7 water availability, a centralized sound system, among other basic (or not so basic, if the rest of the country is to go by) amenities.

Khejuri, West Bengal — I’m guessing this can be called India’s doctorsville. According to the report there are around 40 ‘orthopaedic doctors’ in this village. And before you start imagining a sea of white lab coats walking around, farming, etc., please note that none of these have even seen the inside of a medical college, nor do they know what a “gigli saw” is. Their method includes traction and massaging to set the limb, with support from a boiled rice and white cloth wrap, followed by bamboo sticks and string. There’s the involvement of a coconut oil-based paste somewhere, but let me not give out the WHOLE secret!

Sathyamurthy Nagaram, Tamil Nadu — After 40 doctors, it’s 40 days (and how many times have I said I wanted to research this recurring No. 40 phenomenon in different cultures? I should do something about it soon!). The inhabitants of this village just stop by for 40 days a year to celebrate a festival dedicated to the local deity, Jakkamma. The rest of the time, the nomadic tribes move around the country, with their families, to make a living. This annual get-together is when all the important decisions and rites and rituals take place, marriages are solemnized, etc. The cool factor is that when a man and a woman want to get into a relationship, they simply start living and travelling together (*sigh), and get married the next time they get to the village! Now, how COOL is that!?! 😛

Mattur, Karnataka — Now this is a place that’s been written about before, but since I’m particularly partial to Sanskrit, I thought I’d make end my list with this. A hamlet in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, Mattur is (in a way) stuck in the classical times of Sanskrit. The residents are all masters in this ancient language, which is also hailed to be the most scientific language in the world. Although the local language here seems to be Sankethi, people from across the globe come by to learn and understand the scriptures here.

As I said, the cover story covered many other villages, but it’ll be unfair of me to give you the list here. So, if you like what you read, I suggest you either buy a copy or just check out the piece online. In the meanwhile, I will write about the village below… Do you know where this fantastical place is? A hint — 99,99,999.

Guess where this place is.

Guess where this place is.

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