Reader Dear, I’d like you to meet somebody special today – Glenn of Roamin’ Gnomials.Bonus: You can ask him anything you like about gnomes. And magic. (Psst. He even has a mermaid friend.)Glenn is a retired newspaper editor, settled in NJ, USA and has very graciously agreed to do a post for me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. Not just because he writes such fun sassy stuff, but also because he’s such a good friend and someone I’ve started looking up to too. He gives me advice on life, and writing, and marriage and so much more. His blog is a treat to read. From gnomes to grandkids, you’ll find lots to interest you! Here, you can go visit Glenn and the gnomes too .. https://lacksalot.wordpress.comPS: Glenn is a little wary of offending any Indians that might read this. How sweet is that. 🙂 Judging from current events we do seem to be touchy. But since Glenn wants to visit the Ganesh festival, I think he should be quite safe, even amongst the touchy folk!What do you think Reader Dear? What are the places in India you’d like to visit? Or (if you’re an Indian), which places would you suggest to Glenn?
When I asked Ms. Sassy to do a guest post on Roamin’ Gnomials about what she’d like to see if she visited America, I knew I’d be in trouble if she asked me to return the favor, because I know embarrassingly little about India.
I know many of Ms. Sassy’s readers are unfamiliar with my writing style, so let me give you fair warning that sometimes I take wide detours before reaching my point, so please bear with me if I begin my thoughts about India by writing about growing up in Texas.
Long before the internet, students learned by turning the pages of books, and when we were assigned term papers to write, we were forced to turn to encyclopedias instead of Google. My family was a middle-class Texas family, and money was sometimes tight, but my parents splurged and bought a set of Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedias, green leather covers embossed with gold.
As a young boy, I remember a photograph of a naked woman on one of the pages that impressed me mightily. I’m sure my mother would have torn that page out of the book had she known about it, but luckily, she never found out. Beyond that, I remember one photo of a beach in New Jersey that was wall-to-wall people. That beach was a veritable sea of humanity that was so unlike our Texas beaches that I remember thinking, “I never want to go to New Jersey!”
Fast-forward roughly 30 years, and where did I find myself? You guessed it, New Jersey! This little state on the East Coast happens to be the most densely populated state in the United States, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d wind up here, but thanks to a job change, I’ve now lived in New Jersey for some 20 years, and what I know now is that it has places that don’t seem crowded, and are in fact beautiful. Outsiders would be amazed to learn about New Jersey’s scenic areas because the only part of New Jersey most visitors see is the crowded industrial corridor between the major urban hubs of New York City and Philadelphia. Further west — where I live — are hills and forests, farms, lakes and clean air.
See, when you have never visited a place, your stereotypical impressions can be shattered by experience, and now that I’m pushing 60, I wonder if my thoughts about India could be something like my young and inexperienced thoughts about New Jersey — wildly inaccurate and destined to be shattered by reality.
Most of my impressions of India come from movies, including Gunga Din and Slumdog Millionaire. Oh, there was one photograph from the old encyclopedias that I recall, and I also remember a home-cooked Indian meal by a Bangalore native and former co-worker that almost killed me, the pepper was so hot, but as a typically insular American, my thoughts about India are somewhat sparse and fleeting.
I know there are crowded places in India — Ms. Sassy has even confirmed this to me by e-mail — but I think India might be a lot like New Jersey in that there are probably many quietly beautiful places that only the locals know about, places that are off the beaten path. I’m betting that most Indians don’t break into spontaneous dance routines on train platforms like they did in Slumdog, and I doubt I’d see many Englishmen running around in pith helmets like in Gunga Din. I’m sure I would find delicious meals that wouldn’t make my head explode, like my poor, embarrassed co-worker’s cooking did.
If I visited India, I would be shocked and amazed by things I never expected, but there would also be things I’ve seen pictures of before, that I’d love to see with my own eyes. Among them:
A Ganesh Festival: Yes, I know I said that I like to steer clear of crowded places, but I’d make an exception for a Ganesh Festival. I’ve seen pictures in the movies and on television, and they look absolutely fascinating. Of course I’d want someone along to explain to me exactly what I was seeing. Are you up for being my guide, Ms. Sassy?
The Taj Mahal: Maybe you’ve been wondering about that Indian picture I saw in the old encyclopedia. Of course it was the Taj Mahal, and I thought then that it was the most beautiful building I’d ever seen. Guess what … I STILL think it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen, and I’d love to see it in person.
Elephants! Ms. Sassy assures me that it’s rare to see a rampaging elephant these days, but I’d still like to see one — a calm one, not a rampaging one! Even if I had to travel a great distance, I’d love to see an elephant in the wild. Somebody please tell me that I could find a wild elephant somewhere in India, still doing the natural things that elephants do.
Hindu Temple: I’ve seen the outside of a Hindu temple right here in New Jersey, but I’ve never been inside. I’d love for someone to take me inside and show me around, explaining absolutely everything. I’m fascinated by the world’s religions, and I think we all benefit by understanding and respecting beliefs that are not necessarily our own.
The Black Hole of Calcutta: A lot of Americans have heard of the Black Hole of Calcutta, but many don’t know what it really was. In reading about it, I realize that it might not even exist as a place anymore, and the historical record is somewhat in dispute, but as a tourist, I’d want to visit the site just so I could tell my friends I’d been there. In the many places I’ve worked over the years, I’ve often exclaimed to co-workers, “This place is just like the Black Hole of Calcutta!” even though no workplace could ever be quite as bad as the real one must have been. So yes, I’d want to visit there, and maybe even buy a souvenir shot glass for my extensive collection. I’d pay good money for a Black Hole of Calcutta shot glass, if such a thing even exists!
Gnomes: I have it on good authority that Ireland is the only country where gnomes do not exist. Still, I haven’t heard a lot about Indian gnomes, and I would have to depend on Ms. Sassy to discover where they live and take me to their hideout!
I want to thank Ms. Sassy for giving me some space on her blog, but more than that, I want to thank her for being such a sweet and charming young lady. We have exchanged quite a few e-mails over the course of writing posts for one another, and I was immediately struck by how easy it is to talk with her. Ms. Sassy has never been to the United States, and I’ve never been to India, but despite this and despite some other significant differences, we get along just fine.
When we make a point of celebrating differences instead of similarities, we grow as human beings. It’s easy, really, and it makes me wonder why it’s so hard for some people to get along.