Our beaming guide picked us up in Mangalore, a city we have not visited before. He exclaimed how happy he was to show us his beautiful city. We’re not so sure about the beautiful part, but his attitude reflected many of the people we encountered on his tour. Mangalore is not really a tourist city, but he showed us what they have and along the way, many folks stopped to wave and ask where we were from. They seemed genuinely glad to see us and asked nothing in return. Mangalore was a typical Indian city from our experience. The traffic was terrible at times with lots of honking. Our fellow tourists wondered aloud how many pedestrians would get hit today, but as usual we saw no accidents. There were few traffic lights, even at major intersections. Some of those had traffic police posts mounted above the traffic, but none of them were manned. I did notice one traffic cop blowing his whistle and wandering aimlessly through the jam up. Somehow it all worked.
Our guide brought some show-and-tell items to entertain us when the traffic bogged down. He passed around tiny little cigarettes called bindi that are hand rolled by local ladies in their homes to earn a bit of extra income. They are filled with local tobacco, but have no filters of other additives as our cigarettes do. They are purchased by low income folks who cant afford the factory processed cancer sticks. He also passed around a sort of chill pill: a betel leaf that contained herbs, tobacco, betel nut, and lime juice. Locals chew it and spit it out to relieve themselves from the stress of the day, especially before bed time. None of us were stressed enough to give it a try.
Our tour included a visit to a local produce market, ringed with shops selling the goods of every day life. The smell of all the fruits, vegetables, and spices was rather overwhelming, but it made me reflect on how few of the locals smell in need of a bath despite the oppressive heat and humidity. How do they do it?
The supposed highlight of our tour was the Pilikula Nisagadharma’s Artisan Village, an effort to preserve the way things used to be done. We saw oxen walking in circles to press seeds for their oil. A woman used a huge pestle to take the hulls off the rice kernels. Potters and weavers used traditional tools to produce their wares. A blacksmith fanned the flames to soften the iron tool he was making and beat it into submission. We appreciated their efforts, but must say that except for the setting, tit was nothing we had not seen before. These handicrafts were all housed in primitive buildings, but Guthu Manor House was also on the grounds to illustrate how the other half lived. It was roofed with terra cotta tiles, which are supposed to absorb the heat of the sun and make the interior cooler. Not enough, from my sweaty vantage point. The house was furnished with traditional pieces including a carved wooden throne.
Then we went to Gokarnath Temple, a recently restored Hindu masterpiece. Here too the traffic and crowds were oppressive. A wedding on the grounds added to the chaos. Many folks were here to get a free meal, a common occurrence at Hindu temples from our experience. A cleric put red spots on some of our foreheads. Soon the red dye was dripping down some of their noses in the heat. A baby was there; a Christian might guess she was being baptized, and her face was dotted yellow, black and red. A sort of holy measles outbreak.
Although we docked in the commercial port area, it was not a dilapidated as the port area in Cochin. The container port was busy with the unloading and unloading, there were huge piles of coal. There was even an air conditioned facility for us as we stood in long lines having our landing cards examined. They will be replaced by yet another set for our stop in Goa tomorrow. Bureaucracy rules!