I am conflicted between going about this in a chronological manner and just posting about random events. Bill is convinced that I will never have the enthu to complete this if I start from Day 1, so he thinks I should just do random days. The dutiful spouse that I am, I shall listen to him and do short, random snippets which are more manageable. So here people, flag hoisting in Beijing (Day 2).
Day before we are supposed to leave for Xian. We woke up at the crack of dawn, actually, before the crack of dawn to see...hold your breath...the flag hoisting at Tiananmen Square. Whose brilliant idea was this, you ask? BM's of course. Because she was so totally jetlagged and couldn't sleep after 3 in the morning, she made us wake up at 4 to go see this flag thingy. By the time we got a taxi to the Square, there were already busloads of people there. There was also some military presence as to be expected in the form of a few yawning men in proper outfits standing around the flag pole. The section was roped off and us spectators have to stand about 30-40 metres away.
"You think we blend in?"
"Do you see anyone other than Han Chinese people in the crowd?"
"Do you see any Beijinger? They are all from the provinces"
"I am a provincial too. I am not like you cosmopolitan people from Bombay and Bangalore"
"Maybe you should go mingle with your provincial friends and see if you blend in"
"Sure" I said and left the other two and walked off by myself to join the provincials. This was Beijing in March, so it wasn't exactly warm and after a few minutes, my teeth started chattering. But still, I was right behind the rope and had an unobstructed view of the flagpole. My provincial friends were all around me, at times pushing me against the barrier that I was sure that the yawning soldier staring intently at me was going to pull out his rifle and shoot but thankfully did not happen.
Then I saw Bill pushing his way through the crowd.
"What is the idea?"
"I just thought I would come meet your provincial friends"
"Did you see who? Someone touched my hair"
"Don't be silly"
"I am serious. They touched my hair"
"If I were BM, I would say that they are all jealous of your wavy hair and want to touch it to see if its real"
"And since you are not BM..."
"I think you are imagining things...dude, here they are"
Sure enough, there were about a dozen soldiers coming out of the main gate of the Forbidden City (this is the one with the Chairman's picture that we are used to seeing in the news) and walking towards the flag pole. They marched this way and that way for a few minutes before going up to hoist the flag.
"This is what she wanted to see?"
"Jetlag. Don't blame her"
"If you say so"
The flag starts climbing up.
"What are you mumbling?"
"Quiet. Everyone is quiet"
"You don't find that strange?"
"Why would I find that strange?"
"The flag hoisting!"
"Don't you feel like singing Jana Gana Mana?"
"No, as strange as it may seem, I don't feel like singing Jana Gana Mana when I see the Chinese flag go up. Maybe those of us from certain states..."
"Says the Bong"
"Not the point"
"Agree. The point is nobody is singing national anthem or waving flag. Something is wrong"
"Nothing is wrong. They are not used to it"
"How can they not be used to it? Its their national flag being hoisted"
"Yeah, why don't you teach them to sing their national anthem?"
"Oh shut up. You are useless"
"That I am"
By this time, the flag was all the way up to where it was supposed to be.
The crowd was slowly dispersing. We looked for BM and found her posing for someone else's family album. This obviously would be a recurring theme. The way back to out hostel was uneventful except for the fact that we discovered why we lost a War.
"This long jacket these military men are wearing - it sort of looks funny on them"
"What do you mean?"
"You don't think so? Probably some Russian influence. Because the Russians have long jackets doesn't mean these people should have"
"Why not? It is winter"
"Yeah, but this is not Moscow. It is not that cold here"
"But this is a big country, you know"
"The US of A is a big country too. The point is it does not get colder than this in this country"
"Right. Up there in some of the tallest mountains in the world, it absolutely does not get colder than this"
BM now: "Why do you think we lost the war?"
Bill being helpful: "Because we did not have long uniforms"
Poor me: "Never heard that one before"
"Its true. Its also why my mother fasts on Fridays"
"Wait, where did that come from?"
"Shastri was then PM and he said on radio that our soldiers need socks. He then requested everyone to eat one less meal on Fridays to help the troops. My mother started fasting then and even now, she fasts on Fridays"
"She knitted socks too, I am guessing"
"Of course. But we did not have long jackets. So we lost"
"Shastri wasn't PM in 62"
"He was PM and he came on radio"
"Different war with a different country"
"Perhaps. But why do you think we lost the war?"
"It must have been the long jackets only"
"Of course it was"
The rest of the way back to our hutong was spent in thoughtful silence.
Coming up next: How we got molested by cartoon characters in front of the Water Cube