Coming to a close
So it’s only been a week since my last post, and I haven’t done too many new things in that time, so I thought I would just talk about they few things I did and random things I’ve seen and learned about in India. So I had to exchange money from my card and that was an absolute mess. It was after work time so I rode partway to the city with the girls, and they stayed with me while I attempted the exchange, and then I had to ride back to the institute alone while they went to the train. I rode back on a very public and cramped bus, and Swetha just gave my money to the woman sitting in the first window of the bus and told her to take care of me. So as the bust got more crowded and I was pushed towards the middle, I was relieved to see that she had given my money to the collector and that I wouldn’t get thrown off the bus. But then she got off the bus and I was like “I really hope I remember where to get off”. I knew the bus ride was about 20 ish minutes, so I was feverently staring out the window looking for everything and anything I recognized, because it’s not like they announce the stops and if they did it wouldn’t be in English. I ended up getting off at the right stop (Hooray!) and I can now say I have navigated Indian public transformation kind of alone. Then on Saturday we had an all day excursion, which I enjoyed but it was very repetitive. It was a 14 hour trip and I think we were out of the car for a total of maybe 4-5 of those hours, the rest was driving on extremely bumpy roads in stop and go traffic. We went to four temples and an anatomy and pathology museum. The first temple we went to was basically for the view because it was at the top of a mountain. It was very beautiful and we fed some wild monkeys. The next temple was very crowded and popular, with a lot of shop stalls and such. We ate lunch there (it’s usually free) and a bunch of people gather in one room. This one we sat on the floors, there were marble walkways with one inch raised marble lining them which is where you sat. I turned around and looked at people eating, and asked Amrutha- “Are we eating off of the floor?” She says “Of course not!” I pointed behind us to the people eating off of the marble walkway people came in on and she goes “Oh my god are we eating off of the floor??” Luckily they had optional plates but surprisingly very few people took them. Though the marble was “cleaned” with water, I was not about to try that. That was an interesting adventure. The museum was very cool and had lots of dissected human and animal bodies showing the anatomy and then lots of diseases. Also some anomalies like conjoined twins were preserved there. Very interesting. The next temple is called the Thousand Pillar Temple, and was built about 600 years ago. Finally we drove aways home and stopped at a temple after nightfall. There’s a little walkway to the temple which is out in a small man made lake. There is a crocodile in the lake (always only one) that they claim is vegetarian and is holy. Unfortunately we didn’t see it because it was dark out. So it was a fun day, I’m just not used to sightseeing. I like to usually do more, here I felt like I kinda tagged along and watched them pray most of the day. It was fun to see them, but I’ve visited I think over 10 temples since being here and they get kind of repetitive. On my last full day here, we went to Bekkal Fort which was a British fort right on the waterfront. Very cool place to visit. We had a really good lunch and went shopping for some last minute stuff, then there was a little going away party and it was a really nice last day. I had a wonderful time here and couldn’t have had it without Swetha and Amrutha. We had so much fun together and by the end they felt like sisters. We would be sarcastic and joke around and talk about boys and give each other crap and poke fun. It felt very normal and the language barrier really doesn’t need to be a problem as long as you have someone great that you want to communicate with. They made me feel comfortable here and took me under their wing which I will forever be grateful for. Now just some random things: They have little concern for safety. I have seen multiple construction sites (pick-axing concrete, jackhammering roads, cutting metal with sparks, and more) where all the people working are wearing no shoes or just sandals, no gloves, shorts, no helmet, and no protective glasses. And concrete and materials are just flying everywhere. Saw a corpse on the top of an auto rickshaw being taken to the burning ghat to be cremated. It was completely covered in cloth and everything but still, just chilling on the top of an auto rickshaw. Married women wear a gold necklace, a gold ring with their husbands name on it (on the right hand), toe rings on both second toes, and they put either a red dot or red line at the middle of their forehead at the hairline. A gesture they have is something like a head bobble. They quickly tilt their head from side to side, and this can be anything like “Okay”, “Sounds Good” “I agree” “That’s fine” and things like that. Everyone does it all the time. You basically get ostracized and ignored by your family if you marry out of your caste. The potholes here are obscene. You have to slow down to about 3 mph to cross them, and that’s when there’s no possible path to get around them- which is often. I have not seen one traffic light, though people claim they’re there…. The women here are definitely the backbone. I don’t think many of the men would survive without the women. And they also create the strongest community. There’s a level of trust in simply being another women in this country. (Although being considered a woman is usually at an older age than what we would consider) Women often ride side saddle on mopeds and motorcycles. (Hey right when I typed that I looked out the window and there it was, husband driving and a woman with her child in her lap riding side saddle) Men, mostly in the south, wear these bottoms, which I can best describe as a bedsheet tied at the waist like a long skirt. Then to shorten it they grab the bottom and tie that at the waist loosely, so it goes up to the knees. Honestly men show more skin here than women. Women can marry young, but men usually wait until they’re 25-27. They don’t care about burping. So all you people who have ever given me crap should be more Indian! Everyone eats with their hands (if I haven’t already said that), and only their right hand, even when they’re ripping chapati. They don’t bathe in showers or baths, they use one big bucket that they fill with water, and then a smaller hand held bucket to pour the water over your head. (Actually it’s pretty nice and you should try it sometime, also conserves a bunch of water) They use padlocks to lock everything. Only padlocks. Tarps are everywhere. They are very handy things cause they’re great at keeping the rain off (which is so important down here), they basically don’t break, they’re cheap and they last forever. Great investments really. Oh, one of the biggest things different here is how money is exchanged. Here it is all by cash, and all by hand and super informal. So many things aren’t bought from storefronts with cash registers and all that. Even the parking attendant in the parking structure is just basically standing in the middle of the aisleway with no real way to tell if he’s actually the guy, and he just tells you how much you owe and if you need change he pulls this huge wad of cash out of his breast pocket, counts it out, and hands it over. This happens so often where if you need change they just pull a bunch of money out of a random pocket and then put the rest back. Considering this, I think India is actually way more honest than some people give it a rep for sometimes.
I love all of your notes on the differences in culture: very astute. Reminds me of my time in India! I miss it!