Traveling Man Journey to the West…A Trip to India – Part II – The Knox County News
Previously I wrote about a trip through India when I went to the Taj Mahal, saw monkeys swarm onto cars, enjoyed spicy, tasty food, met with a long list of factories, and was fortunate enough to see some of that amazing country. There was not enough space in one column to relate all the memorable experiences, so here’s Part II of Journey to the West…A Trip to India.
On one of the first few days in New Delhi, working with my colleague John Burns, we were on the way to a meeting with a new factory. Riding along in the usual taxi in heavy traffic, we came to a stop at a traffic light at a busy intersection. Looking around, I saw a light tan-colored cow and calf standing on the curb at the side of the road. When all the cars stopped, the cow started ambling across the road, with the calf following along.
As the cow and calf crossed, it occurred to me…how did they know when it was safe to cross?
Cows were all over the city. There was never anyone around that seemed to be controlling them or caring for them, so my impression was that they didn’t belong to anyone. If someone owned them, they wouldn’t let their cows roam free, right?
I was not used to “city cows” that knew how to cross the street when the light was green in their direction. I was used to “country cows”, cattle that would wander anywhere. We’ve all seen cattle get past a fence and wander onto roads with bad results.
I didn’t think the cow was watching the traffic light and crossing when the light was green. I thought cattle were color-blind, but a Google search says they can see green, yellow, and blue, but not red. So, they are limited in colors they can see, but I still didn’t believe they were watching for the green light.
I believe Darwin’s theory must come into play in this case. They must have been simply watching the traffic. The cows that did not learn to watch the traffic did not live long. These must have been smarter than the average bovine to watch the traffic and know the vehicles would not move for a few minutes.
Still it was hard not to give in to anthropomorphism and imagine the cow saying “OK, light’s green, let’s go.”
On the last evening of this trip, we were staying at a good hotel with an upscale restaurant featuring American food. We decided to celebrate with a good dinner at this plush restaurant. It had a formal entry, down a wide set of stairs with an intricately patterned red and gold carpet, tables with long white tablecloths down to the floor, red velvet drapes covering the walls, and several white-coated waiters for each table standing nearby at attention. Definitely an upscale restaurant.
I was surprised to see tacos on the menu, not only because it was an upscale place, but also because it was in India, where there are many vegetarians. After all the vegetarian food we’d had all week, tacos sounded great. Tacos in India, what a deal! We ordered tacos, and splurged and ordered an $80 bottle of wine.
The tacos were soon served, and the service was excellent. Life was good.
As we were munching on the tacos and enjoying the excellent wine, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, at floor level to my right. I turned but didn’t see anything, so didn’t think much of it, and turned my attention back to my dinner.
Most of the tables were occupied, some with businessmen, some with couples. The restaurant was busy. A minute later, I saw a quick movement again, just off to my right side. Again, I turned but didn’t see anything. I was sure I saw movement, so this time I didn’t turn back. I kept watching to my right.
A few tables over, a well-dressed middle-aged couple were enjoying their dinner. As I watched, a fat gray rat peeked out from under the floor length white tablecloth. It looked around, then quickly ran to the next table and disappeared under the long white tablecloth. A minute later, it peeked out from under that tablecloth and dashed to the next table.
It was making its way across the floor, from table to table, hiding under the long tablecloths on the way!
People were sitting at all these tables, but they didn’t seem aware they had company under the table. It must have been careful not to touch a foot under the table.
First, I pulled up the tablecloth on my table to see if the rat had friends under my table but didn’t see anything. Then I said “John! Watch that table! There’s a rat going across the room!”
He looked at the table next to us, and soon the rat repeated its actions and dashed to the next table. John never stopped eating, didn’t seem fazed in the least.
He said “Yeah, that’s a rat alright,” and casually went back to eating his taco.
I looked at all the waiters, and they were all looking the other way. They either didn’t see the uninvited guest, or chose not to see it, not sure which.
A little more table-hopping, and the rat reached the wall with the red velvet drapes to the floor, then I saw the shape behind the drapes moving along the wall as it made its way to a hallway that led to the kitchen.
My next action was to look suspiciously at the taco in my hand. I wondered…nah, surely, they wouldn’t do that. I had another bite, and it tasted OK, but somehow, I didn’t want to finish my tacos.
I had other experiences that will have to be another column…at one meeting, I ended up with the red dot on my forehead, and went to an amazing dinner at a factory owner’s three-story home…so, if you’re interested in these, please let me know and I’ll write Part III of the travels in India.
In the meantime, if we go to dinner at a restaurant that has long tablecloths, please humor me if I insist on looking under the tablecloth before eating.
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