The shrill whistle blew my reverie. The fat guy again, on the dot every 15 minutes or so. For the full 3 hours that I sat there, I did’nt see him sell any stuff. But he sat in front of his little shop with a mischevious inner smile just about touching his lips. And every 15 minutes, he would pick up a little whistle and let go, scaring the odd pigeon and causing ripples in absolutely nothing else. Larnaca’s waterfront promenade at twilight is a place nothing much can cause ripples in.
The wildest sights of the evening are the young studs walking about in marauding groups. And knowing the way Cyprus is, the most dangerous thing they will probably ever get up to is to overdo the hair-gel. Hey, but I cannot complain. I used to be one too, and soon, my elder one will get there. Whew. The chicitas walking in front know exactly what is happening. The poor guys behind, huge hormone cocktails all of them, frantically hurrying after lithe tanned legs in front, involuntarily caught in the oldest rip tide of Life – that of the mating call.
What a mixture of races this is. I can see the patrician Greek faces one remembers from old paintings that show oval faced Greek beauties with tendrils of hair over the faces. Well, go to the Larnaca promenade to see them. They are still there and they are beautiful. Is’nt it strange how the greatest civilisations have the best looking women – is that a Cause or an Effect I wonder?
Anyway, back to the Race question. The ubiquitous Filipino nanny is here too. What is it about the Filipinos that seem to make them great care-givers. For some reason, they seem to be a Race of friendly, caring people for whom the act of helping others is genuinely interesting. While economic necessity and the ability to speak English are often touted as the reasons why Filipinos are all over the world as maids & nannies (and of course, there is no doubt about these), I am starting to think there is more to it than that.
Funnily enough, there are a number of people who look fairly Indian. They look like us, but they also look different. Mysterious. Are they Gypsies? And then of course, there are the hordes of Northerners. Brits, Germans, Nordic types, Russians, Slavs…
Now, let us dwell on Northerners for a moment. They work hard all through the year, running hither and thither buying this, selling that and making money. And for one glorious month every year, they go to the Sun and hang about and do little, soaking in enough heat into their bones to help them pass the next 11 months in a harsh land. Geography determines all human actions. If you are born in a cold and hostile land that does not give you an even chance of survival, the only thing you can do is to Do. Move about, keep warm, forage and maraud – just to survive. Thousands of years of this imperative has given the Northerners a way of life that I am sure they never thought possible. They have almost effectively tamed the Elements in their favour and with their great expending of energy brought the whole world under their sway. So successful has this model of incessant work been, some of them have even coded it into their religion. They call it the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’. The idea that more work is morally & spiritually uplifting and someone who does less work deserves a boot from God. Get to hotter climes and you can see this idea start to wobble. Many years ago, I remember reading a novel by the American Frank Yerby, in which the first scene opens with a European pastor walking down the steps of his ship after a long voyage under the blazing summer sun, to find a small Indian curled up, sleeping under a tree. Confirms all his prejudices of the ‘indolent natives’. Now the whole world has unquestioningly adopted this ideal of incessant work and its pay-off of world domination. Come to think of it, this is a pretty stupid idea for people in warmer climes. After all, if your land is blessed by the elements and there is no threat of imminent death (as there would be in cold and hostile clime) I see no reason to work so hard. And young George, the Cypriot with a Dutch mother, who gave me a great introduction to Limassol and Lefkara (about which another post will follow) eloquently argued for the same thing. Alvin Toffler in one of his books has a chapter titled “Gandhi with Satellites’, in which he paints the possibility of the human race moving to a very small, local community based mode of a quiet life (much like our forefathers in the tropics did just a couple of generations ago) but with the important difference that technology allows us to be masters of the Elements everywhere on Earth and to communicate with each other across the globe. I believe the next century wil take us very close to this situation. Modern Cyprus is a harbinger.
In this medley of races is obviously a medley of clothes. Uber-chic western dresses mix with turkish head scarves with the odd traditional skirt thrown in. Why do Western women look so good in western clothes and not so good – sorry girls – in Indian stuff like Sarees (ok, ok, just to even the field, I think the reverse is true for Indian women). I think it has to do with Shoulders. Occidental women are generally big-built and this means wide shoulders. The more I observe western clothing the more I think it is primaily about adorning these wide shoulders. On the other hand, clothing for Indian women is mostly about draping the hips – the shoulders dont seem to count. And in this difference probably lies the reason why the twain can never meet.
And in these deep and grave thoughts, passed an evening at the waterfront promenade in Larnaca…