Saturday, May 24, 2008

It May Not be Nagaland but It’s Not Kansas Either

I had requested a residence hotel with a functional kitchen and the Halcyon had that. So our next task was to buy something to cook. The first supermarket we found was completely “veg.” While we don’t eat red meat, I was hoping for chicken, fish, or even canned tuna. They had none of the above. We bought some things anyway including 1-liter bottles of Italian olive oil and red wine vinegar that set us back $20. U.S. (Imported items have huge duties in India. While these two items aren’t available in an Indian version, things like pasta are available at about a quarter the import prices.)

We asked the driver if he knew any place to buy chicken. He searched and inquired and soon stopped by the side of the road, telling me the nearby shop was the place. It was filled with chickens all right, live and in cages. He told me in halting English that they would kill one for me. I thanked him but said that I would look for it all wrapped in plastic like I was used to.

The next market, a brand new branch of a European chain, Spar, was the place we had been looking for. We found almost everything on our list including reasonably priced spoons, spatulas, hot pads, a can opener and grater. The one thing we couldn’t find was laundry bleach. When I asked for it, a female employee started to lead me to the cosmetics section. I told her I didn’t think it would be there, that I wasn’t talking about hair bleach. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you wanted bleaching cream.” I told her we didn’t use that too much and she said, “Yes, because you don’t have to. Your skin is good.”

Terri and I often found this mentality in remote Northeast India where the locals had seen very few foreigners. As we visited their villages of palm or bamboo thatched huts, women often inquired about our white skin. One asked our guide if she had been born in our country would she be white. It makes me sad to photograph these lovely women whose rich skin tones I admire and realize that the western standard of beauty has colored their view of themselves. Here are some photos of beautiful women I have photographed throughout India.

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