On a train from India’s most dangerous city to its least dangerous, from one of the most slum-ridden cities to the richest city in all of India, I spot the sun embellish the countryside through a cloud’s sharp contours. My feet hang from the side of the train, the gravel in strokes of grey paint below my broken sandals. The train feels like a rollercoaster.
Chandigarh is a city of bigness, with its large streets, double-decked buses and parks, its grandiose shopping centers. Planned by western architects, primarily Le Corbusier, the city feels modernist, bureaucratic, the blocks are renamed sectors; the streets are in a grid.
Primarily Sikh, Chandigarh is the disputed capital of Punjab and Haryana, but the Sikh name Singh predominates every restaurant sign and motel. As a burly Indian Sikh told me, after realizing that I was already familiar with much of Sikhism, modern Sikhs imbibe in three main pursuits: chicken, beer and gloating. By gloating, he tells me, he means fashion. This explains not only the inescapable shopping centers, but also the underground bars, where, surely enough, everyone is eating chicken.
An elderly Sikh invites me to his home, feeds me Tandoori chicken, egg curry and scrambled eggs and tomatoes. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but we drink whisky and speak in our mother tongues and it feels that we understand each other. We watch the wrestler Triple H take down Mysterio. WWF is huge everywhere I go.
Two high school boys meet with me; their questions are typically high school. You have girlfriend? You kiss her? You fuck her? How many girls you do this with? Very common in America? They are obsessed with white women. Very naughty, very sexy they say. I ask them about Indian women. Very naughty, very sexy, they say. The first boy tells me he has proudly slept with seven to eight Indian girls, all of them his friends, though the second boy tells me they are all prostitutes. The second boy has a meeker sex life however, at two to three women. What’s with these ambivalent numbers?
A drunk Aussie tipping his barstool, as if meaning to appear helplessly inebriated, tells me he “hit the jackpot” in Goa. “I had to ask her guardian” he says. “I told her guardian I was going to sleep with her and maybe stay with her. After the guardian said it was ok, it was so easy!” “Then?” I say. “And then I left.”
He was a fat, white, old fuck.
What do you do for fun in Chandigarh? I ask the many within Sector 17.
Shopping, they say.