The bus drove down the dusty road, The air conditioning was not what
the kids were used to in their own countries. All carrying their
ionized water packets and personal temperature controllers. The
Chinese students immediately put on their pollution masks that were
standard for any travel outside China.
“But then”, Geeta mused, ” we were told to expect a bit of adventure.”
Her parents had said that life must not be selfish and that we must
also learn about those that were less fortunate than us, culturally
“They sure are”, she thought as she saw the little urchins run after
the bus shouting “Choculatte ! Choculatte !” A strange mixture
between heavily accented Spanish and Creole English.
Of course the Chinese kids had known about the tremendous poverty
here. They had come prepared with high energy enzyme imprinted candy
bars to throw to these urchins while taking quick Videograms of them.
This then was the City she had read about in her travel sites. Not a
normal tourist path, but then Geeta was always looking to go where her
friends would not want to. Most of them would have gone to Shanghai
Down the broken streets, with people staring aimlessly. Prostitutes
hanging out in skirts too tight and stocking torn at the seams. Men
in T shirts, sweating, swigging what looked like stale beer. She
tugged at Yang’s arm – pointing to a building that looked like an
ancient Chinese palace.
“An entertainment centre” said the Guide. with great passion ” Once
this city was the centre of culture in the whole world, the great
entertainment machine.” Hard to believe.
As Geeta and Yang stepped out of the Bus to take a small climb to what
the Guide promised was the proudest landmark of the City. Up the
hill, with a lot of grumbling kids, and into the area now overgrown
with forest and shrub. There the proud Guide showed them large
letters almost falling off their steel support. Yang spelled it out
H – OLL…Y – WO…O – D
“Did you know that the word Bollywood was coined from this City ?’
said the Guide proudly.
‘Dont be silly” said Yang to the Guide. Mouth pouting in disadain.
All the children giggled. They found the Guide so funny.
Geeta felt sorry for the Guide. It’s like the myth that the word
Boogle came from an ancient site called Google.
© Shekhar Kapur