blogitto ergo sum

October 30, 2010

#157 – India, Taking it in I

Filed under: Uncategorized — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 14:43
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With all the traveling I did and the culture shocks I went through, I know better than even assume that I really “get it”.  On the contrary; I’m pretty sure I don’t.  I see, smell, observe, talk a little… take-in as much as I can.  Just as I did with China, my pre-trip reading didn’t amount to much.  If it wasn’t for Ahuvik that shoved the “between the Cobra and the Dragon” my way, I would have been even more ignorant.

And, since I already mentioned the book, I have to say this: from my POV, the writer doesn’t like Chinese or Indians.  Why is this an issue, you ask?  Reading the book, I experienced a growing discomfort, without even knowing why.  Talking about it with my travel companions, I realized that the book reads like a manual “how to handle Chinese and Indians.”  I firmly believe that you cannot really describe people, talk about a culture, convey its essence without, even if it’s only a little, feel some compassion for it, find something to love, respect or appreciate in the people you describe.  Otherwise, any observation you make is tinted with your disposition, not to say judgment.

I know that there are some among you saying, “Hey!  When you talked about what’s-his-face, you said nothing positive.”  Not the same.  Judging a person is so unlike judging a nation, a people.  OK? Good.

So here’s an arbitrary collection of some first experiences.

Also, feel free to in the following FB albums that capture some too.  [note to self: add pictures here]

#1 Single lady

When G. told me that the hotel is screening my calls I accused him of pulling my leg.  Then I realized that it was true.  My calls, room-to-room included, were all rerouted to the switchboard that’d ask for your name, and then call me to ask me if I’m willing to talk to you.  I asked them to stop doing it to my dear colleagues G. & M. it took until an hour prior to our departure for the hotel to stop doing it.

Their view:  you are a single woman, it’s our responsibility to protect you, your privacy, and we are doing it for your own good.

My view: I can take care of myself; I’ve traveled enough and have my own judgment to rely on.  It’s really none of your business.  This is patronizing, more so after I’ve already asked you not to do it.

When I checked in tonight, I asked UPON check-in that G. will be permitted to call my room directly.  Let’s wait and see.

#2 Car talk

The honking offense is unbelievable.  Finally today I made sense of it.  Imagine sardines in a can.  Now add 5 more. Now add 2 more.  And there’s no oil to keep it smooth.

  • Car 1: Honk, Honk – hey you, I plan on passing you from whatever side, be forewarned
  • Car 2, option 1: no honk – I don’t plan on letting you in, I ignore you
  • Car 2, option 2: honk-honk – OK, I’ve noticed you, I’ll find a CM or two to move and make room for you
  • Car 1: honk, honk, I’m moving in, passing, you better notice.

There’s no “thank you” honk though.

With motorcycles there’s only the warning honk from the car: honk honk, I know you plan on entering, you better not… or, as Achmed says “I kill you.”  [Lost 11 minutes watching one of the episodes again. LoL] Motor-Rickshaws have to be quick and nasty.  Yes, there’s hierarchy even in pushing forward on the road.  Did I mention the folded left side mirrors?  Cars are so on top of the other that people fold the mirrors in.

#3 Airline food reminds me of the Army

There’s a saying that in the army everything is divided into 3 components.  All airline meals look alike, white rice in the middle, mushy vegetables on the left, lentils or beans on the right.  The veggie may change, the lentils may change, but the 3-color flag in a tinfoil container remains.

mushy on left, mushy on right, rice in the middle

74 hours in India.  And the book I just bought an airport ago, says it better than me.  The writer IS Indian: “… our nation, though it has no water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense if hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs…”

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, pg.4



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