Thursday, September 1, 2011

{ Indian Insights! }

Here is a random list of things I have been compiling since I've been here. I am loving India and the challenges it brings on a day-to-day basis.

Disclaimer: Some of these are generalizations and although I try to avoid creating stereotypes or labels, these are some of my recurring observances in the little time I have spent in this magnificent, vibrant country.
  • Indians generally hate the West because they brought bad language and bad clothes to their beautiful, pure culture. Here in India, there is no public affection (except in one or two city parks where it has been designated). And in their eyes, gays are not only an embarrassment to society, gays (and lesbians, but they rarely use this term) destroy society.
  • Birds. I've never cared much for birds (particularly when they make a mess all over our cars) but they're even worse here - they drive me crazy.There is birds that sit and hoot/wooo by our window all night long. And they constantly fly into our windows....smack! They keep me awake at night. 
  • Dogs. I've never been one to fancy animals but the street dogs make me so sad. They're so skinny and they walk around like zombies. They're so mellow. We always see them eating out of the trash.
  • Pictures. I didn't think it would be a problem but...we live in military housing and they're very finicky about taking pictures - just don't take them. And in the metro stations, don't even show your camera. And not in the malls. or by a guard - they don't like them either.
  • White people. We are a spectacle here! The people love to take pictures of us! I learned this very well at the Taj Mahal - I've learned to ask them for 50-100 rupees in exchange or no picture after I'd taken a couple hundred with people! At first, it was a compliment and I felt beautiful, then it became a little annoying. One woman asked me to hold her baby and took a picture of me with her baby at the Taj! 
  • Rickshaws. There are bike rickshaws (shorter distance) and auto rickshaws (longer) here. You use party rickshaws with '90s pop music, broken down meters, Bangalese Muslim drivers, crazy old men, cram 3-4-5 people in them, etc. I LOVE rickshaws. I wish we had them in good ol' SLC.
  • Rickshaw drivers are notorious for 1) refusing to use the meter, 2) smoking and driving, driving you around to businesses that have paid them a commission, 3) taking naps in their autos, times, 4) asking people where they are going!, 5) being very reliable (thank goodness!) It's a crazy industry - the drivers wear uniforms and are often harassed by the police
  • Showers. I use a bucket and a cup. and dump water on my head. Nothing like an American shower - I kind of like it!
  • Snickers. They have them here - and Twix! Yay. Well, at least that's what I thought until I bit into a snickers the other night and...kapish. It tasted like the streets and smells of Delhi. Spit it up. In the garbage. 3x brush teeth. blah...
  • Crossdressers. Be careful - they may take their clothes off right there in front of you! They can be dangerous. 
  • Ghandi. He is famous here - he is their hero. He created modern India and they love him. When referring to him in speech they call him, "Ghandi-ji" because they have utmost respect for him. 
  • It is common to see men and women hold hands with members of the same sex (their didis (sisters) and baiyyahs (brothers)) 
  • Anyone that owns a car here washes their car, or has it washed, almost daily - the men wash the car or the women hire men to wash the car! Everyone is washing their cars in the morning when I run around the community! Pagle!
  • Indian pass times - Bollywood, cricket, and...marriage. That is, according to Mr. Jolly!
  • Public affection - kissing or anything more, or even just holding hands - is a no no! However, there is like one park in Delhi where everyone goes to "have a little fun!"
  • You can find lots of American fast food chains here! Often, they are actually restaurants. KFC, McDonalds (I love it here!), Taco Bell, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Subway, etc.
  • Produce is crazy crazy cheap here - love it! But, make sure you wash it well!
  • Mutton curry = favorite! Braden would be so proud :)
  • On the other hand, vegetarianism is much more common here. I love it! I don't know that I'll be eating much meat while we're here anyway based on what happened last week...
  • The people here rarely smile. BUT - I've figured out that when you smile at the women when they're alone, they often smile back :) 
  • Children are often barefoot. And they love to say "hello!" And they will almost always smile back if you smile at them and wave! The kids are my favorite.
  • Bartering is the way to go!
  • India has the BEST markets - Janpath, Khan, Dili Hat, Vasant Vihar Priya, South Extension, GK (Greater Kalish), Connaight Place, Chandni Chowk/Old Delhi, Ambiance Mall, etc. So many places! And although I don't love shopping, I could get used to $1 scarfs and skirts :)
  • Indian food is fantastic - I love all the spices and flavor! Rajma (beans with spices), spinach with dahl (lentils), paneer (cottage cheese), dal makhni (brown lentils), nutria and soybean (tofu - they know how to do it right!) it's all so yummy!
  • Dai, yogurt, and curd are used at nearly every meal - it's good for the digestive system!
  • Most Indians buy Milk in sealed, plastic bags - it's cheaper! But you can buy a carton (like the size of our soy milk boxes) of Nestle probiotic milk for American cheap and it's sooo yummy!
  • Until 2009, homosexuality was punishable by law. And as I said, gays are still an embarrassment to society. 
  • Toe rings. A symbolism of marriage - some women wear as many toe rings as they have children!
  • Work days run from about 10 am (love the late start!) to around 5 or 5:30
  • The people are the most beautiful, simple people I have ever seen/met
  • Since being here, I have learned that the movie stars are often elected into office - no wonder they face issues of corruption! Movie stars are often considered "saviors" based on their movie roles so they "take a leap of faith" by voting for them.
  • Honking. They appear to be crazy people! They never stop honking here! But, it is in fact, a sign of courtesy to pedestrians and other drivers to inform them of your presence - go figure! I've become sort of nonchalant towards other vehicles so when there is no honk, I don't move. I've almost been run over a few times to say the least!
  • Women rarely drive here - I have yet to see one driving a car, motorcycle, bike, whatever! But I often see them carrying large amounts of stuff on their head!
  • Time - no longer of the essence. I rarely know the time here! {and I secretly love it!}
  • Snake Charmers - not as common as you would think but they're more plentiful in touristy areas - like Agra!
  • "Thank you" is an anomaly here
  • Head bobs. They shake their head left to right (rather than up and down) to indicate they understand or say "okee" - still getting used to that one!
  • Sweeping - a common past time. I always see people sweeping here on the streets! Oh and their brooms, are like 1.5 to 2 feet tall - they have to bend over and squat to sweep! And they don't really use vacuums here.
  • Advertisements are often shown with white men and women -or- with Indian men and women of "lighter" skin!
  • Metro. The metro in Delhi is so clean, and so secure - we have to go through a security checkpoint to get on! And even better, they have a women's only section. Boo ya! I love being a woman (most the time). 
  • The Caste system. Still very much prevalent in the culture, although no longer technically in force. 
  • Little Indian boys are the cutest. I have noticed they often have dark eyes - like they have eyeliner on. Adorable.
  • Ajay, the Singh's driver, drives fastest with us and Anita, faster with Winnie Ma'am but when he is with the General, he has to drive more carefully because the General, as a General in the army, has to be respectful to the government rules
  • Drinking age is 25, Driving age is 18!
  • The Chinese Indians. Beautiful, sweet people. Their influence comes from 
  • There is always some kind of unofficial or official holiday or festival somewhere in India. Always, always. And I love it - any reason to celebrate! :) 
  • DIVERSE - 108 languages! So many states! Huge country! So many animals and so many fruits and veggies!

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