Sunday, January 20, 2013

South America Omnibus (Peru) Part 7 - 11

Part 7



Back to Lima?
Yes, it is back to Lima because we arrived in Lima and then went to Amazonian and then a high speed boat to Brazil/Columbia/Peru border and then to Bogota . . . . then crossed the border to Ecuador, there I begun this series at Columbia-Ecuador border.
Airplane flew in no time and I am sad and watching the desert landscape of Northern Peru. At our right side is Pacific ocean and at our left side are the snowy peaks of Andes and some volcanoes here and there. Under the aircraft is the famous Pan American Highway. Pan American Highway is about 47,958 kilometers in total length. Except for an 159 kilometres rainforest break, called the Darién Gap, the road links the mainland nations of the Americas in a connected highway system.

Herbal tea cart in Lima
According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world’s longest “motorable road”. However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America by traditional motor vehicle. Pan American Highway traverse from the ices of Antarctica to the ices of the near North Pole to the ices of near South Pole. In Darian Gap road is not build yet because of the cattle disease called Foot and Mouth Disease that may travel from South America to North America.
Well, my love at first sight lasted not more than 45 minutes.
Same air-hostess who opened the door of the plane for me comes to serve me coffee. She speaks English with an accent.
I tell her, “The lady who brought me to the air-craft; I owe her money and in the rush to get me on-board I forgot to pay her. ”
“Señyor, I am so sorry to know this.”

Chamomile tea in Lima
“Is there any way I can pay her back. Her name is Isabel and that’s all I know about her. She works in the ticketing office at the border. ”
“How much you owe her?”
“About 10 dollars. ”
“Well, I will see what I can do for you?”
She served me tea and was gone.
She returned again on her trip to serve paid beer and liquor. To maintain the communication with her, I buy a beer. As she hands me a beer, I give her a bill of 10 dollars. On it I wrote
Isabel, my email address and then “Praveee”
“May be you can pass her this bill.

Emoliente
I wrote my name and email address on it. ”
Taking that banknote she says, “Ok Señyor, I will try but I cannot grantee. I don’t know her. Isabel is a very common name in Peru. Every 2 girls in 10 has this name. ”
“Thanks. ”
“What if I cannot find her?”
“Then give this away to any charity of your choice. ”
She is in hurry because her bus is about to leave, she walk away.
Plane lands at Lima airport.

Emoliente with Aloe Vera
Since it is a local flight, there is no security or custom inspection. I walk out of the building.
Then this air-hostess comes running to me. She is glad that she found me.
She says, “Señyor, by mistake I used that your bill while transacting with passengers. ”
So this is a very good news for me that she remembered.
Handing me a pen and paper, she says, “I will try to find Isabel but your email address .. it was on that bill.”

Emoliente, man slicing aloe
I scribble my email address on that paper and give return it to her. She says that she does not belong to Tumgbes and does not know when she will return there.
“Señorita, In just any anticipation I thank you very much. Mucho mucho gracias. ”
I walk out of Lima airport premises. It is 3PM. I am not new to this airport anymore so first thing I do is, walk to a herbal tea paddler.

Emoliente and various herbs for tea
Peru is full of herbal tea paddlers or carts just like the one we have in India. They serve about 35 types of herbal teas, including cocaine and aloe-vera tea. I ask him to make a base of aloe tea and then add chamomile and other herbs. It is so yummy that I drink 4 cups and in the end I drink a cocaine tea cup.
Lime is a hustling and bustling city just like any large city of India. Whereas cities in Columbia and Ecuador were kind of half dead.
A post about Peru is useless unless describing Emoliente or herbal tea of Peru. Like India we can find tea pushcarts, in Peru or also in most of the South America we can find Herbal Tea or Emoliente push carts. I enjoy emoliente and actually emoliente is the reason I want to visit Peru again and again.
You can find this in any town, whether in a little mountain village or the big city of Lima. Vendors congregate in the streets at dawn and dusk in plazas or by bus stops with their rolling carts of unlabeled glass bottles of colorful magical ingredients. Emolientes are part of the lifestyle here and people drink them before they go out drinking, after a night of drinking, daily habit or if they are sick. I just like the way they taste and have one whenever I see a cart around. It doesn’t throw us off budget, either as it’s half a sol for a glass (about 6-7 rupee)
Every person I’ve talked to has told me different benefits of consuming emoliente. I’m surprised something this healthy (and not very palatable) is popular regardless of age or class. All of the ingredients are pretty healing on their own and must be a powerhouse as the mixture. I have seen emoliente kits in stores (a package of dried herbs) but getting it on the street is an experience of its own. The vendor makes your drink by putting in a quantity of his (or your) choosing of each herb and then mixes it with a viscous mixture of aloe-vera and flaxseed liquefied.

Emoliente
He mixes it by pouring it at arm’s length multiple times and I can’t help but be reminded of getting slimed on family double dare, because it looks like a giant stream of snot, every time. But I love the viscous texture and the flavor and the boost it gives my system.
I have asked various vendors about the ingredients and I have squeezed the secrets out of a few guys about what they use:
The main ingredient is linseed (flax seed) which is well known for being a source of Omega-3′s and lignans (heart-healthy, anti-cancer, blood sugar stabilizer)
Aloe vera, scraped right off the stem.
Cola de cabello/Horse tail (it grown near streams and wetlands in the India and US too) (a diuretic good for the kidneys and bladder and may help with senility due to the high silica content that balances the aluminum in the body). It is also called Equisetum. This is a main homeopathy remedy for children wetting their beds at night.
Chanca piedra (helps with the kidneys (especially stones), the liver and is an anti-viral that fights intestinal parasites). Botanical name is: Phyllanthus niruri, also best known by the common names Stonebreaker or Seed-Under-Leaf (Eng. ), Bhumyamalaki in Ayurveda,
Barley (good source of selenium, phosphorus, copper and manganese and can help combat diabetes, high cholesterol and colon cancer)
Boldo (cleanses the liver, aids digestion and fights intestinal parasites, among other things) Peumus boldus, the only species in the genus Peumus, is commonly known as Boldo.

San Cristobal Slum of Lima
This tree of the family Monimiaceae is a native of South America. This is not available in India
Una de gato/Cat’s claw (the inner bark of a jungle vine that helps boost the immune system as well as colds, arthritis, tumors and digestive problems). This is considered a super herb in Peru and grows only in Amazonian jungles.
Alfalfa juice (a super-food high in phyto-nutrients that also can aid in digestion, diabetes and anemia). Alfalfa grows all over India as wild.
Lime or lemon juice.
Sometimes a few drops of sangre de grado is added. This is not real blood, vegetarians take a breath. It is the sap of a tree that grows in the jungle and it looks like blood and tastes metallic.

Lima Old Town, in the corner is my hotel.
It’s very antibiotic and antibacterial (great for that traveler’s diarrhea).
But I never go for the standard concoction mixture. I ask for specific ingredients. Aloe-vera, regular green tea and chamomile are my favorite. In Peru I have learned to make Aloe-Vera tea. Peddlers remove the top peel of aloe with a sharp and thin blade. Then they cut the transparent sticky solid into very small cubes. Hot water is added over these cubes in a cup, and then one may ask for any other herb from a variety of more than 35. Most of the aloe dissolves in the tea, if not then one can just gulp up the bottom things.

Lima old Spanish colonial town
That’s how I make my own aloe-vera tea. Natives of South America are using aloe-vera for thousands of years.

Main plaza in old town Lima
End

Part 8

Some times after a long journey, one finds his luggage has not arrived.
I arrive in Lima but reverse has happened with me.
Luggage has arrived all-right but I am not arrived.
I want to go back to Tumbis at Ecuador-Peru border, to talk with Isabel or life is no life.
But the border is infested with crooks and criminals . . . but she is there to take care of me. I am there to take care of her.
Otherwise .

Central Lima
Yeh jeena bhi kya jeena hai.
Ceaseless awaragurdi, it must come to an end.
Seeing new places, eating new things, meeting new people like Balwinder Singh …..
It must come to an end.
I am 45, I may begin balding at any time.
I touch my scalp for any symptoms and I decide to double check my head in mirror as soon I get to the hotel.

Lima Metro station
Cocaine tea soothes me and from airport I walk to Argentina Avenue, as far as I know that if I keep walking in the east, I will hit Avinda Emancipacion. There I will reach the old town and then will take the same hotel where we stayed 3 weeks ago. I don’t know how far I have to go neither I care much because I am not arrived. Flight to Tumbes is at 3 pm tomorrow and I have more than 20 solid hours.

Lima Metro
I keep walking, but a motorcycle give me ride and I arrive at the Lima cathedral at 6PM.
It is still evening in the south of Equator. It is June but it is peak of the winter in Southern hemisphere. In Lima I feel like I am walking in Delhi in winter but in old town things change. There I feel like I am in Spanish Colonial era.
I check into the same hotel where I and Harsh stayed together 3 weeks ago, and owner is very suspicious of me.
And now I realize that everybody is suspicious of a single unmarried man. World is not a suitable place for a single man.
He asks, “¿Dónde está tu amigo?”
“He gone back?”
This bald man’s hand is wandering on his shining bald head. He sings, “I think you keeeld heeeem?”
“Yeah, right.”

Slums of Lima
“Es un asunto de la policía ahora. ”
“Hey man, I need a room for just tonight. Tomorrow I will go back to Tumbis. ”
Now Mr. Baldie is even more suspicious. His one hand is wandering on his head and other is on the phone cradle.
“¿Así que quieres volver a Tumbes”
I should never have told him that I am going back to Tumbes. Tumbes is a headquarter of smugglers, contract-murderers, criminals and whatnot. Now Baldie is thinking that I am a rat of the underworld.

Suburbs of Lima touching the beginning of Andes Mountains
He is about to call police and police. Peru Police is just like any police of the third world country.
I try one trick that I learned from an actor of Ramlila in Bhatinda. There I used to play the part of Lakshman and this man used to do several prominent roles like Rama or some times Sita or some times Meghnath (except Ravana’s and Hanuman’s roles because he was just 5 feet even). He was Ramlila all-rounder. He taught me how to dance my eyes-brows. I tried and tried but I was unable to do it but it only scared people. He begged me not to do it on the stage or do it only on the scene of Lakshman and Swaroop Nakha and at Lakshman and Meghnath battle where Meghnath almost kills me each season.
Baldie is staring me and I make eye contact with him and dance my eye-brows.

Rimac river in Lima
I say, “Senyor, Su decían de policía. ”
Now his head is wet with sweat and his hand comes away from the phone.
So I am not a rat of the underworld now but a cat or rather a tiger of the underworld.
He pushes the guest register towards me and didn’t even ask for my passport. I fill up my name and address and pay him. He assigns me the same triple bed room and charges me as a single person.
I come into the room, dump my backpack and start the room heater because it is cold.
I am not arrived in Lima.
And I must have some hard liquor, beer is too week in this situation.

Lima Beech
In Hindi movies every hero drinks hard liquor in this situation, only at this point I agree with them.
I press room bell and Baldie himself comes.
“Sí, mi querido Señor. ” (yes my dear Sir. )
“Man, you bring me something strong like wheat alcohol or sugar alcohol etc. ”
“Sé lo que debe necesitar, Senyor. ” (I know what exactly you need Sir. )
I give him hundred dollar bill and he goes away.
Well now I am regretting about being a Tiger of the underworld.

Central Plaza, Lima
Using anything less than $100 is an insult to Underworld.
Baldie brings me a half Tequila bottle and returns me 84 dollars.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. The red volcanic soil is particularly well suited to the growing of the blue agave. Agave tequila grows differently depending on the region. Blue agave grown in the highlands region are larger in size and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agave harvested in the lowlands, on the other hand, have a more herbaceous fragrance and flavor.

Slums of Lima
Blue Agave grows wild in most of India but concept of making a liquor has not arrived in India yet. Tequila is almost raw alcohol.
I open the bottle and it smells like varnish. Well, I am not new to tequila or liquor. After all I am from Bhatinda.
Lima, was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, is a fascinating city and a treasure trove of history. Pacific coast of South America was under the control of Governor or Panama. One can explore here ancient Incan archaeological sites, or stroll through the elegant cathedrals and lavish palaces dating from Spanish colonial times.
Inca ruler of Peru Atahualpa however refused to tolerate a Spanish presence in his lands, and was captured by Pizarro during the Battle of Cajamarca on 16 November 1532.

A parade in Lima Central
A ransom for the Emperor’s release was demanded and Atahualpa filled a room with gold, but Pizarro charged him with various crimes and executed him anyway. The same year, Pizarro entered the Incan capital of Cuzco, and the conquest of Peru was complete. In January 1535, Pizarro founded the city of Lima, a project he considered his greatest achievement. Quarrels between Pizarro and his longtime associate Diego Almagro intensified and Almagro was captured and executed. On 26 June 1541, his embittered son assassinated Pizarro in Lima. The conqueror of Peru was laid to rest in the Lima Cathedral.
I drink my tequila and then I remember that I was suppose to email the engineer about the certification of the relay.
Who cares?
I am single, this is not a life anyway.
I am not here anyway.

Lima over the cliffs by the sea
In Lima, Peru. South of Equator.
In the severe winter of June.
Suddenly an idea comes to my mind and this changes everything.
I will dance my eyes-brows in the streets of Aguas Verdes, at the infamous border of Ecuador and Peru where Isabel works in the airline office.
I will buy a nice hat also.
Everybody will salute me there.
Whenever I am enlightened I begin shaking my legs.

Colonial Lima
End

Part 9

In Lima Hotel, I wake up in the morning feeling badly beaten up. I remember that I was having very strong tequila and then it appears that I collapsed. It is seven AM and I come out on the street and cross the river and walk towards other side of the town which is haphazardly placed. I badly need a half a dozen cups of herbal tea. Actually I love this side of town because it is haphazard like the towns of India, I feel at home here.

Emoliente (Herb tea carts in Peru)
I find a cluster of Emoliente (herbal tea) carts and I try everyone for their tea. After having 7 cups, I feel renewed. Then I eat a couple of buns with jelly and drink a cup of coffee.
I wonder around the streets and change my money outside from a licensed money changer standing outside of Reserve Bank of Peru.

Vies of beach from Miraflores
Money changers wearing uniforms are always present outside this bank. At 9am I find a cyber café open.
Whoa! I got an email from the airhostess. Her name is Abelina.
She writes that some of her friend in Tumbes found her the phone number of Isabel and she called her. Will give her the money on her next trip but my email address is passed to her and she remembers me very well. Abelina wrote that she understands that it is not just a matter of 10 dollars but a lot bigger.
Good luck Senyor, she wrote at the end.

San Cristobal Slum
I decide to postpone my flight to Tumbes but wait for Isabel’s email if it will ever come. Let’s see what happens.
My friend Pappu, he always had/has many girlfriends and also a wife too. He always advised me to be very dheet in these matters. His motto is: “???? ???, ?????? ?? ???? ?? ???.”
I will do that this time. Isabel is a keeper.
She is always worried and I am always not worried so this levels us out.

Lima Suburbs
She is extremely responsible and I am irresponsible so this may straighten our some matters.
Ram Banai Jodi.
As I am about to leave the cyber café, suddenly I get Isabel’s email. It is in Spanish, she cannot speak English. Then she comes on the chat.
I tell her that I am coming to Tumbes today evening to see her.
She writes in Spanish: No Amigo you no come. Three tourists are murdered here at yesterday after you left.

Near my hotel
I: I will take my chance.
She: I have to come to Lima tomorrow. I have relatives here. I get free air ticket.
She disappears, saying that she has to get to work at nine thirty am.
I don’t know may be she is coming so I won’t go there in the world famous den of criminals-and-scoundrels; or may be she has to come to Lima anyway. This only means that I have good chances.
I was supposed to catch the flight to Cusco but then I never arrived in Lima.

Inside Lima Cathedral
Since I have nothing to do here in Lima so I come out of the hotel and walk towards the San Cristobal hill.
One of the most amazing yet underrated places to visit in Lima is the San Cristobal Hill, or Cerro San Cristóbal, which has witnessed Lima’s history since ancient times: located very near to Lima downtown, its 400 meter high peak offers a privileged and unique panoramic view of Lima, not found anywhere else.
The route to the San Cristobal crosses starts at Plaza de Armas (Main Square). All travel guides recommend taking this bus but never walking through the unsafe slums. Tourists bus costs about 3 dollars. But I decide to walk to the hill through the slum. I walk past most of the Lima’s historical monuments. First was Lima Cathedral, than Alameda de los Descalzos, the convent of the same name, the colonian Paseo de Aguas, the Plaza de Acho, where bullfighting take place, and El Angel cemetery, one of the oldest ones in Lima.
Leaving all these landmarks behind, the road begins climbing the hill. Well it is not like a slum in India but a lot better and very clean. Hundreds of colorful houses built one after another. It takes me one hour to walk past the slum and people are all looking at me because it is rare for any tourist to walk in these streets. At a shop I have a cup of coffee.
Day is clear and I can see the ships anchored at Callao Bay, and the Rimac River coming down from the East, between the first Andean elevations. I come out of the slum and now the road to the peak very steep.
Ancient Peruvian civilizations believed that the hills surrounding the valleys were their protective gods, or apus.

San Cristobal Hill
When Spanish conquistadores arrived, brought their Catholic religion and decided to place crosses at the top of every apu and changed its native name by the one of a Catholic saint, as a way to exterminate what they considered as idolatry and paganism.
According to a legend, this hill was named San Cristobal after an indigenous rebellion in 1536, and a wooden cross was placed at the peak to protect the new and small City of the Kings. Time and earthquakes passed by and the cross were changed by new ones several times, until 1927 when the current huge iron and cement cross was placed there.
Nowadays there is a Site Museum near the gigantic cross, whose most attractive collections are undoubtedly the historic photos of old Lima; there are also collections of historic documents related to the first cross and the hill itself, and sculptures of traditional Lima characters such as various types of street vendors, women in old typical outfits, etc.
Since Peru is still a Catholic country, San Cristobal Hill receives a large number of pilgrims during the Holy Week celebrations; pilgrims climb in procession, walking until the top, offering a stone to each of the smaller green crosses spread along the route, that represent the 14 time Jesus fell down during the Via Crucis.

A cathedral plaza in the suburbs
I mentioned in each of my post about Andes Mountains so here are some words about these majestic mountains.
http://en. wikipediaorg/wiki/Andes
The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, about 200 km (120 mi) to 700 km (430 mi) wide (widest between 18° south and 20° south latitude), and of an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia,Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated by intermediate depressions. The Andes is the location of several high plateaux – some of which host major citiessuch as Quito, Bogotá, Arequipa, Medellín,Sucre, and La Paz. The so-called Altiplano plateau is the world’s second-highest plateau following the Tibetan plateau.
The Andes range is the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia.

San Cristobal Suburb
The highest peak, Mount Aconcagua, rises to an elevation of about 6,962 m (22,841 ft) above sea level. The peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is farther from Earth’s centre than any other location on Earth’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from Earth’s rotation. The world’s highest volcanoes are in the Andes, including Ojos del Salado on the Chile-Argentina border which rises to 6,893 m (22,615 ft). Over fifty other Andean volcanoes also rise above 6,000 m (19,685 ft).
After spending 2 hours on the hill, I return to the bottom, walking aging through the San Cristobal Slum or rather an unplanned town of India Standard.
When I return to the hotel, I tell Baldy that I am not going to Tumbes.
His hand reaches on his head, he asks, “¿Por qué”
“Tumbes party is coming here to meet me. ”
“Aquí en mi hotel.”
“We may meet somewhere else. ”
“Puede,” he shouts in disappointment because such important meeting between the Dons of the underworld may not occurr in his hotel.
I enter in my room and take bath because I left in the early morning without taking my bath. As I come out of bath, Baldy knocks my door and asks me to come to the phone. Harsh is online. Washington USA is in the same time zone with Lima, Peru. He expected me to be at hotel so called here. I give him the news that I fell in love with someone at that scary border crossing with Ecuador and he gives me news that he fell out of love with his Filipino Girlfriend.

Upscale Miraflores market
He demands full story because he is more experienced in these matters whereas it is my first love.
After listening to my story, he says that actually she (Isabel) kicked me out of Tumbes. She made sure that I am out of her sight and far away from her.
“??? ???? ???? ?????. ???? ?????? ????? ??? ??? ??, ??? ??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??.”
Well I don’t think that “???? ???? ????? ??? ??? ??, ??? ??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??.” She is very responsible and she made sure that I get to Lima. (Whether I wanted it or not).
When I am off from phone, Baldi is again staring at me.

Upscale Miraflores market
“What now!” I say.
“Yoooor frieeeeeeeend is nooot die. ”
Baldie is now very disappointed that after all, I didn’t kill Harsh. His pride that a great Don Pedro is staying at his hotel is injured now.

Part 10

I again come out of the hotel and take a bus to Miraflores. This is upscale area of Lima and coastline is visible below the cliffs. I walk in its colorful bazaars. This area is like Connaught Place in Delhi.

Upscale Miraflores market
My main reason to visit here to have a dinner in the Govinda Restaurant run by ISKON. It is a very simple and restaurant and food is also very simple and also served in a simple way. Prices is also not high. After I eat my food I offer my help in washing dishes that is happily accepted. I spend two hours that helping in various errands. As I am about to leave, they give me free coupons for 3 free meals that I have no intention to use because this restaurant is run on charity.

Govinda Restaurant in Miraflores
Then again I take my final walks in the bustling bazaars and then catch a bus back to Old Town.
One thing that I forgot to mention in my post about Lima is that as I arrived here from Tumbes, I see the posters of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (Beas) in Spanish with the picture of their Guru.

Upscale Miraflores market
Posters were all over Lima including the upscale area of Miraflores. However someone meticulously drew horns on Babaji’s head and wrote CIA Agent on each of them. Hardly any poster was left intact.
At 9PM I again check my email at the cybercafe.
Everybody emailed me except Señorita.
I threaten her in my email:
If you are not coming tomorrow then I am coming TOMORROW.
Your Pravee.
I leave her my hotel phone number.

Old town near my hotel
I got out in the cold night of June and have four more glasses of Aloe-Vera tea in the bustling transport market at the other side of the river, where night buses to all over Peru and South America are beginning to leave off one after the another. A bus is going to Buenos Aires, and out of curiosity I ask the company about how long it takes to get to Buenos Aires. They say at-least 60 hours. Another will reach Bogota in 46 hours, another will be reaching Caracas in 70 hours.
I’d rather walk.
Wait a minute . . .
I won’t be single anymore.
No more walking only except going to shop to buy dubble-roti etc.
Being single is no life at all.
You are not free but a donkey of your desires.
When you are married, you are a husband, you are a father.
You give orders, you are a Malik.
I sing the song: Born Free.
At night, in my room I fall in the dreams that she and I are in Bhatinda – hand-in-hand – and my friends there are now very envious of me.
They are saying about me: This Bhatinda-Murphy —- !@#%^&$#*(% . .

Children dancing in a plaza
I tell them that still I am bringing Shilajit from Himalayas.
Now snakes are rolling on their chests.
Old Fools.
??? ??? ??????.
I wake up at 7am in the morning and run to cybercafé in the old town. It will not open before 9am so I sit on the threshold but a police man gets suspicious of me so to avoid the troubles I walk towards my favorite haphazard area after the river. This area is called Javier Prado Este in La Victoria.
Let’s see the buses arriving from Caracas, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Quito, and Montevideo and let’s look at the faces of passengers who spent days in the buses.
At transport area, I drink several cups of aloe tea and then have breakfast. Mostly tea sellers are Indio or natives (also called Red Indians).

Cocaine Leaves in the market
Peru society or rather whole Latin America Society has also a cast system like India.
There are four main categories of race:
Criollo, a person of pure Spanish descent.
Indio, a person who is descendent of the original inhabitants of the Americas.
Negro, a person of black African descent.
Mestizos, mixture of European and Amerindian,
Mulattos, a person who is born from one white parent and one black parent.
Zambos, a person of mixed African and Indio ancestry.
Whites rule the country. Whites hold all top jobs and dominate the politics. Basically the society is based upon the color of people where black color is at the bottom and white is at the top. Most of the riches are White but there are some poor whites also. Isabel’s family comes into that category. Balwinder Singh of Ecuador is also married to an utterly poor white woman. Most repressed people are Indio or natives.

Traditional Andean Dance
They do all menial jobs and these are very silent people.
A bus has arrived from Bogotá and passengers are not really interested to get down. Now they love the cage of the bus and showing no interest in leaving it. I wonder around the area and then return to the cybercafé and sit on the stairs. Same policeman comes to me and asks for my business there.
I point him to the cybercafé signboard.
He does not believe me because signboard says 9am to 9pm. He hides in the corner of the streets to keep an eye on me. Everybody is suspicious of a single unmarried man. I have no choice but again I walk to La Victoria to check on the Bogotá passengers, it they are still sitting in the bus after theirs 60 hours of journey or are kicked out of their seats? They are now out of the bus but hovering around it as they don’t want it to go away from them. I watch them while drinking another 2 cups of aloe-vera tea because I love it. Another bus just came from Santiago (Chile). Only driver and conductor come out and have a double cocaine tea.

A woman eating cocaine leaf
Passengers are not interested to leave the bus.
Finally it is 9am and I drink another cup of herb tea, this time Cocaine Tea.
Cocaine was discovered and cultivated by Peru natives (Indio) for thousands years before it became a major drug nuisance on this earth. Cocaine is illegally grown in mostly Columbia, Peru and Bolivia mostly. Cocaine increases alertness, feelings of well-being and euphoria, energy and motor activity, feelings of competence and sexuality. It is a hunger suppressant and poor people in Peru chew cocoa leaves to suppress their hunger and also to work inhumanly hard and walk great distance in the freezing temperatures of Andes. Cocaine Tea is legal in Peru and Bolivia. Once I chewed a single leaf of cocaine in Tingo Maria (Peru) and I walked for whole day without getting hungry or thirsty. It leaf is of the size of sheesham leaf.
I return to Cybercafé and it is open, I check my email and no symptom of her. However I got an email from airhostess. She says if it does not work out with Isabel then she has a sister. She has sent me her sister’s photo.

Cocaine Tea
She says that her sister wants to settle in USA and she is 25. She also mentions that age does not matter in love. Wow! I am a hot commodity. It is good to know that I have a backup now. I forward her email to Harsh because he is 27 and he needs a wife too. But when he was in Peru with me, tens of girls were after him anyway. They found just any excuse to sit with him in the buses etc. Whenever we walked in the plazas girls walked with him.
In each Latin America city there is always a city center or rather several lavishly arranged city centers. City center is mostly a church and area around it is called plaza. It was an old Spanish tradition that girls of marriage age use to come in the plaza in the evenings with their friends and they use to walk around plaza. Interested boys use to sit on the benches in the plaza. After several days, interested girl begins eye contact with the boy she is interested.

A couple dancing at a wedding
If boy is also interested in that girl then he reciprocates her with smile. In the next stage she gestures the boy to walk with her. Boy begins walking along her, initially girl and her friends also walk in a group along with the boy, and boy keeps a distance from her. After some days talking begins. If girl decides the boy is not suitable after several days of acquaintance then boy is asked to not walk with her. If everything goes well then she walks alone with boy. This courting may go on for several months.
Then a stage comes when they hold hands. In the final stage families are informed and engagement is arranged.
A crowd of girls used to walk in the plazas and crowds of boys used to sit there waiting for their chance. But Things are changing now because of the arrival of information and cell phone age. Most boys and girls do a virtual walk with each other on internet or cell-phones.
Well whatever; I want to sit in the plaza where Isabel walks and want to smile on her.

A Dance at the street
My famous ear to ear smile (that also I learned in Ramlila) that she cannot ignore.
She does not email me or come on line till 10. 30am. I give up because she is now at her job and will not come to internet. I come back to hotel to take bath. Baldie is at the reception and tells me that a girl called asking for you.
“What did she say?”
He hands me a slip. Some address in Miraflores and 7 pm.
Good enough for me. My day is made.
Dream will come true very soon. No more harassment for being a single.
Freedom is very near.

A Plaza in Lima Suburbs
Baldie asks, “Así que ahí se encontrará con el partido de Tumbes?”
“Yes.”
He asks, “Tengo Gat?” (Got Gat?)
“Cat?”
“No, Gat. ”
“Bat?”
“No. Gat.”
“Hat?”
“No no Señor, GAT, GAT, GAT, GAT, G A T.”
I don’t know what a Gat is but I say, “Sí, tengo Gat.” (yes I got Gat.)
News is so overwhelming to me that I want to celebrate.
I want to shake my legs.
Lima O Lima.

Part 11
At noon.
First I go to my favorite Emoliente cart for my another refueling.
This time I am having Alfalfa tea, suddenly I remember about Gat.
What is Gat?
I ask the vendor, “Tiene gat?” (Got Gat?)
Indio makes a cross on his chest and sings, “Nooooo Señor, nooooo soy Pistoooooleer. ”
So this solves the Gat puzzle.
I begin marching for Miraflores because I cannot wait. Miraflores is an upscale area of Lima.
I take metro train to San Juan de Miraflores station. Lima metro is also new as Delhi metro and it is equally clean. But anyway South American countries may be as poorer than India but they are very clean. Nobody urinates or defalcates in the open. Nobody spits in the streets.

Train just outside of Lima in Andes Mountains
May be it is Christian culture. People wear clean clothes. One thing amazing that only a person from India can notice; even in the worse of the slums where homes are slums and several members of a family live in just one room. Everything is clean in the slums, no piles of filth and homes are also clean and painted or color-washed to the excellence. All dwellers of slum are perfectly clean and smiling.
Deuteronomy 23 (From Bible)
23:14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
In India we may have tons of sayings in our scriptures about cleanliness but it is seldom followed. One white friend of mine visited India and he says that Indian only keep their home clean. They throw away all their dirt away from their home front, or at other’s front.
Well whatever, I am born desi and die desi.
But then I am after a Señorita from Peru.

A Village street
Here are just 2 Indian restaurants in Lima. One is Guru Kebab and Curry run by Mr. Waheed Ashraf, from Punjab, Pakistan. Other is Mantra Indian Cuisine run by Mr. Jay Patel. Mantra is in Miraflores and is more expansive than Indian cuisines in USA. It costs at least $20 to have dinner there. A small roti or naan is at-least 3 dollars.
In Miraflores I walk into Mantra. A very pretty Spanish girl is on the reception. I ask her if here is someone from India she goes in the kitchen and fetches Mr. Patel, he turns out a strictly business minded person and he anticipates no business from any person from India because of the pricey menu. It appears that he came to Peru from USA to open this and only one upscale Indian Cuisine.

Peru Railways
He comes and asks very professionally, “how can I help you?”
I tell him that I wanted to see a fellow Indian here in Peru and he is the only one and first one I am seeing. He tersely pushes the menu in front of me and I decide not to eat there.
I walk out of the restaurant and then a desi comes running after me. He was visiting a friend in the kitchen of Mantra and then he saw me leaving the restaurant. He is Satbir Singh from Hoshiarpur, India. He asks me if I have some time, that I always have in plenty. We walk together in the colorful Miraflores area. He paid 20 lac rupee to an agent to bring him to USA, once in USA, his family was to pay the another 20 lac.

Lima old railway station
Agent brought a group of people to La-Paz Bolivia. There he took them to the Amazonian at the Bolivia/Brazil border. He was to get help from some drug cartel to get the boys to USA. Their group of 7 boys stayed hidden in the jungle town of Cobija for 3 months. They left their room rarely and only at nights to avoid detection from people and police. Somehow police found about them and agent had to bribe the police. That money came from their homes in India. Agent was in negotiations with the carter but carter was asking for more money so more money was asked. Parents of the boys had no choice but to pay because their sons were stuck in the infamous drug area where murders was a routine thing. Police wanted more money now so agent brought them to the town of Epitaciolandia of Brazil by illegally crossing the river.
One day agent disappeared, he was never found.

Railways Station
It is believed that the cartel robbed him and shot him. Now group of boys were on their own. They had no money and no passports. They were stranded in amazonian area bordering Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. They surrendered to Brazil police, Brazil police dumped them to Bolivia Police and Bolivia police put them on a boat to Peru. They were beaten by several people and were hungry. Boat dumped dumped them in the jungles of Peru. They wanted to get arrested but there was no police. They became scavengers. Some catholic mission sent them to Cusco and then police sent them to Lima so they may contact Indian Embassy and obtain travel documents to return to India.
An Embassy staffer arranged a message to be sent to their families for some money and they arranged some cheap accommodation in Lima.

Street food
Money came from India and travel documents were issued. Satbir Singh found a girl and married her so gained some Peru documents. It is easy to find a girl to marry in Latin America. Girls are after boys here whereas in India it is reverse. It is understood that girl was also from very poor family and not much educated. This made two miserable. They both had menial labor jobs and life was difficult. Their marriage was about to break because of the lost hopes from both sides.
Satbir says to me that he wants to stay in Peru for a while because agent also promise people here to take them to USA or Canada on bogus papers. Price is just about 5 lac Indian Rupee. As he knows that I have US Passport so I become his hero immediately.

A ship selling herbs
I cannot help him much. I ask him to join me for lunch at Govinda restaurant but he says that he had his lunch. I can only promise to him that once he arrives in USA, I will find him work. He says that he cannot offer me to visit his home because they live miserably.
“The main reason that I cannot return to India is because my family has no money now. Because of me they sold all lands. I am very ashamed to return to them. No money is left for my 2 sister’s education. They want to go to college but they cannot,” Satbir says.
He works with painters and day laborers. I give him my hotel address and ask him to join me for few drinks.

Old town
He shakes hands with me and departs.
I walk to Govinda restaurant and eat superb lunch that is so called Indian but actually it is a Globally Inspired lunch cooked by hit, miss and trial after reading this or that Indian recipes. An ad-hock Hare-Rama-Hare-Krishna-Devotee-Chef also used his own background and culture to create a fusion or mess or mix-up or mismatch . . . call whatever you wish. Food is eatable and not very bad. When I want to pay they tell me that I already got those tokens but anyway I pay my bill that was about 3 dollars. Rice, Raita, lentil and some strange subzi. After food I offer them my cooking services and they again gladly accept. Instead of cooking I end up chopping lots of Ghea and onions followed by cleaning of their kitchen.

Lima Beach
I leave at 4PM to find the address on the slip so to hover around that location. I still have 3 hours.
I buy a hat to look like an Amigo.
7PM.
I am at the given address. A small cafe. People are coming or going and busy in their shopping chorus. At 7. 30 someone touches my shoulder and it is Isabel. She looks different, actually I saw her five minutes ago with another girl but didn’t recognized her because she is wearing makeup and nice clothes.
She didn’t recognized me because I am wearing a cowboy hat.

A train in the high Andes mountains.
Now she is laughing brutally seeing a 2 gallon hat over my head.
I tell her that I got a Gat too. She laughs so much that her tears come out.
She is looking very pretty and very worrisome. I shake hands with both girls. I ask then if they want coffee or food. She is hungry but she is hesitating. I take them to Govinda Restaurant. At this hours only snacks are available so I order samosas with tea.
Everyone at Govinda knows me now, they keep bringing the object that they call Samosa and both girls keep eating it. They claim that they have never eaten such a tasty thing in their life.

A village bus
And I want to smack at the head of the ISCON devotee chef from Germany.
At the end Isabel wants to pay because I am a guest in her country but anyway Govinda Manager refuses to accept payment from either one. Secretly I leave 10 dollar tip about the price of the samosas.
We keep sitting in Govinda because nobody asks me to leave or may be they are only waiting for me to start my shift at their kitchen.
Isabel’s story turns out the story of the mankind.
Her family is very poor, father is no more. Mother is sick. They are five sisters and 2 brothers. She is eldest and breadwinner. Her sisters are getting married one by one but she cannot. Hardly she got the job with airline only because no-one wants to work at Aguas Verdes office because of high crime rate, guns and drug trafficking.

Village folks
She says that she cannot marry, or at-least now. She cannot leave her siblings and her mother or at-least now.
I try to reason out with her but she is adamant.
She says that she is now alone but a full Lungar-Party of dependents and even if she agrees to marry someone, her marriage will not last because of her problems.
She says she will be always a friend.
OK, for the time being this much is enough. When the girl accompanying her feels that I am not a thug or scoundrel she leaves us. She had to take some computer class.
We leave Govinda restaurant, shattering Manager’s dreams, that I brought my girlfriend also to work in the kitchen. We walk out and she is amazed at my knowledge of the city streets. I bring her down the cliffs to the beach through a secret way.

A festival dance
She leaves by bus at 9 PM.
So I got a friend in Peru. A best friend.
I gift her my 2 gallon hat. She refuses to accept anything else.
I return to my hotel and Satbir is there waiting for me. We walk to liquor shop and buy his choice of Pisco Liquor. It is a grape based liquor.
Over the drinks I listen to more of his pathetic stories.
Before his this rendezvous, an agent took him to Italy and there he was deported from the airport.
He is gulping his drinks like crazy.

A dance at wedding
High alcohol contents in Pisco mellows him down and he starts singing Punjabi Songs.
Suddenly he asks me for my USA passport.
I give it to him.
He puts it on the chair and he himself sits down on the floor. He does its pooja.
He stands up and shakes my shoulder and stammers, “P pp pp Paji, you got any aggarbatti?”
“Nope. ”
“Any d d d dhu dhu d dhoop?”
I reply, “Nope.”
He goes in the bathroom and returns with my hair oil bottle.
“Any mmmmmm maaa machis, I must light a joth?”
“Nope.”
He orders me, “You can get it from the bald man on the counter. He smokes.”
I look at the old wooden walls of my hotel room and now I am worried.
He goes out himself and I hear a crash. It appears that he fall down.
Baldy comes in the room dragging Satbir by by his collar.
He shouts, “Gang que no puede disparar directamente.” (Gang that cannot shoot straight.)
Baldy dumps him on the floor, he leaves shutting the door behind.
I shout at Satbir, “Tera kya hoga Kalia, tune Daku Gabbar Singh ka naam poora mitte mae mila diya.”
Satbir is lying on the floor and his broken nose is bleeding.
He shouts at me, “Thakur yeh passport muzhe de dae, Thakur.”
Next day I leave the streets of Peru and return to USA.

A village train station in Andes Mountains
It was 5 years ago.
Isabel is a Virgo.
If a Virgo girl left alone she will never marry. You need a shotgun to make her a decision.
In all our Latin America visits, many interested women were always around us but I always picked an impossible target so to get further excuse to stay single.
End of this segment of this series.
Someday I will write the rest of my Peru saga because we arrived in Peru 4 weeks before and then traveled across the country to Amazonian. There we caught a very high speed boat to Brazil’s Amazon river outpost town of Leticia (400 kilometers on Amazon river / 12 hours). Then to Columbia and then to Ecuador.
I wanted to write just one post on Balwinder Singh of Ecuador but it snowballed to 11 posts.

Bajaj Auto-rickshaws in a small town of Peru.
Wait a minute. I forgot to write the further story of Satbir Pal Singh.
That day he stole more than $100 from my room (whatever he was able to mop up). I was lucky that I was wearing my money belt so most of my money stayed safe. I gave him all my clothes, backpack, shaving kit, medicine kit, etc and etc. I just gave him everything except the clothes I was wearing to the airport.
He made it to USA. He abandoned his wife and small child that he had with his Peruvian wife and she was again pregnant.
He became a small time drug dealer in Peru. His papers allowed him to travel till Columbia. From Columbia he crossed into Panama and then somehow with the aid of smugglers he made it to Mexico very fast. He spoke fluent Spanish that always enabled him to merge with the general multitudes.
His relatives in USA recruited an agent from Punjab to get him across Mexico/USA border. A drug gang took him along with 50 others to the border of USA in Texas. He successfully made his crossing near Mission, Texas. Most of his group were murdered by a rival gang. A group of illegals is a commodity and commodity destroyed means profit lost, since more than half the money comes only after people make it to the other side.
He made it because he was a survivalist, very lucky, foxy, clever and street smart.
He petition for Political Asylum is pending.
He works in his relatives’s restaurant who paid his passage from Mexico. The cost was 20,000 dollars and he must pay it back by working there.
He is cocaine addict, he picked up this habit during his stay with other Punjabi boys in the amazonian tri-country border area of Bolivia-Brazil-Peru.
Satbir’s name is not real.
Isabel’s name is not real.
Balwinder Singh’s name is real as he requested.
Praveen Wadhwa’s name is real but he never wanted to be known.
He loves to walk being unknown.
Blessed are those who are unknown.






5 comments:

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    I engy you dear Praveen. Got to know you on Ghumakkar and have since been following your blogs.

    Please keep traveling and writing.

    Cheers
    Mandar

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