Inspired by Life

Friday, October 5, 2007

Maniacal Maneuvering...

...is what it takes to drive in India!!!

Cars, motorcycles, taxis, auto rickshaws (3-wheeled taxis), bicycles, three-wheeled carts, buses, lorries (trucks with long open beds), scooters, carts pulled by cattle – what do all these things have in common?? They are all considered modes of transport – some are universal and others are unique to the country. But nonetheless, they are all used for transport. Now throw into this mix, random cows and Indian buffalo, beggars, orphan children, foot traffic and fruit and vegetable vendors….Welcome to India.

At some point during the day, you will see and experience many, if not all of these transportation methods vying for space on the roads. The width of the road does not play into this equation - the challenge is how many vehicles and people can all fit in at the same time and still move – not always in the same direction. This is what one experiences everyday while commuting to work via the public roads. In all fairness and honesty, one should not fail to mention the construction crew and materials that are strewn along the path, in open and sometimes oncoming traffic with no cones or barricades indicating that there is work going on.

None of this would be worth experiencing if you were devoid of the auditory pleasure of interminable honking which leads many to believe that the louder the horn, the faster you move or easier to clear the path. Therefore, leaning on one’s horn is an almost friendly warning to say, “I am coming, please move 3 inches to the right so that I can squeeze in the hood of my car and that would lead me to believe that I have made some progress.”

Given the fact that everything is turned around here as far as driving goes and way the traffic works, it is no wonder that one who has spent a considerable amount of time abroad in an organized country, would suffer from temporary spatial delusion. One would always try to get in the driver’s seat since that is usually the side that the passenger sits in other countries; one would inadvertently call the dickie – the trunk and the bonnet – the hood. The Indian car manufacturers do not believe in trunks or trunk space in cars. In fact they do not believe in spacious cars that we so enjoy in the Unites States of America!!! The more compact the car, the better it will be in traffic and parking will be a breeze. It feels like a sardine tin to me, but that is a lost sentiment in this country.

Gas stations are trying hard to model themselves after the US and other countries, but gas is always pumped by an attendant. And inevitably, there is always a fender bender that occurs while waiting in line for your turn. If there isn’t a fender bender, there will be an argument about an imaginary one. So needless to say, there is never a dull moment!!

Rarely do people and car manufacturers believe in seat belts or safety. The traffic laws fail to include the obvious fact that children are supposed to be in car seats and only in the back seat until a certain age or weight versus on the lap of the passenger with no safety restraint for neither the adult nor the child. In fact, a newborn being transported atop the lap of its mother, who is seated with both legs one side of a motorcycle, and is holding the baby with both arms, which means she is not holding on to anything else to support her, is a normal sight.

In India, the Highways are controlled by the Central Government and the Traffic is controlled by the State Government. Sometimes the laws that come out of these two divisions are so varied and do not help the daily traveler, who is mostly unaware of the traffic rules, if there are any. This enables the cop to cite you for pretty much anything whenever he very well pleases.

The main roads in India are well paved and very frequently used but one can only imagine 1 billion people pounding those roads everyday in some form or fashion. The durability of the roads is in serious question and therefore it leads to potholes and in some cases the potholes being more frequent than the asphalt, leaving the roads looking and feeling terrible. Chiropractors would thrive in this city!!!

With all the traffic that is on the roads all the time, you can have the fantastic opportunity to be in a gridlock even at 11:30 pm depending on where you are going at that time. This does wonders for the air quality all day and all night – wonders as in “I wonder if I will get out of this auto rickshaw alive?” “I wonder if I could find those face masks like the ones Michael Jackson sports all the time?” “I wonder how many seconds I would need to sit in traffic before my face is caked with dirt and dust?” The poor quality of the air leads to so many illnesses and the people suffer to recover as they are constantly exposed to it every day, with no break.

With all this said to give you an insight to traffic in India, I am gathering up the courage to actually take a driving class here and obtain a Drivers’ License…YIKES!!!! Wish me luck and in one month, I will either be a part of the statistics of traffic in the city or the statistics in the morgue…that is if they even have morgues here…hmmm, research for my future blogs…

Single and Fabulous...

...this is the writing on one of my favorite t-shirts..and although it is a very catchy phrase...being single or fabulous or both is somewhat detrimental in the Indian society, especially when you are in the older single (closer to 30) category.

So recently in my search for a house, I learned that people will NOT RENT to single females, irrespective of how much they earn!!!! Single and Fabulous obviously has no impact on the landlords here...If I am not married, or if my parents do not accompany me, in which case, the presence of my father is more valued than my mother, they will hesitate to rent me a house and in some cases, flat out reject my offer.

The fact that I lived in the US and am still single is a mystery to most of them - there must be something wrong with me, that explains my single status.

The fact that I want to live alone despite the fact that my parents live in the same city is another mind-boggling mystery to them.

The fact that I might be earning more than my male counterparts in most areas and in fact more than they ever earned in their lifetime gives them a complex.

The fact that although I am single, I am about to move into a large 3-bedroom house alone with enough stuff to fill a 4-bedroom house is sacrilegious.

The fact that I am single and therefore when I go shopping for kitchen utensils, I am led to the smaller size of everything and strongly suggested by the shopkeepers that I don't need that much for just one person. (little do they know!)

The fact that I am single and therefore a sinner if I have male friends who are also single or even worse, male friends who are married.

So will this deter me from being single and fabulous right now? Not one bit...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm an Alien, I'm a Legal Alien...

....I am humming Sting's "Englishman in New York" since the feeling is very much the same...

...on the phone, people presume they are speaking to an American and are shocked to see me enter their boardrooms...

..in a country where even today, parents will not allow their adult children, especially the women to stay out too late or after dark, I return home after a night of dancing and eating with my friends, sometimes at 1am...

...where dating is considered of the devil and there is such opposition to it in this culture and the parents feel they are losing control of their children's lives if they are allowed to choose their life partners, I encourage dating and somehow, they say, you are different..it's okay for you to do that, but not our children...

...where adult children are not allowed to leave the house and live on their own until they are married and sometimes, not even after they are married, I live in a 2 bedroom apartment in the city all by myself...

...where holding hands in public would be considered sacrilegious, I hug all my male and female friends alike...( I once had an audience when I hugged a guy friend in an auto rickshaw when he was getting ready to leave..)

...in a city where people eat idlis and sambar for breakfast and I crave a bowl of high-fiber cereal...

...where people blast the latest movie soundtracks and I listen to Classical Music...

...where people own not more than 10 pairs of shoes in their lifetime, and Emelda Marcos would be nothing but a funny-sounding name to them, my collection is close to 100 pairs that I have to design storage for it...

...where a family of six will live in a two bedroom house that is not more than 690sq ft, I live alone in a large 2 bedroom apartment, measuring about 1200 sq ft and use one of the two rooms as a closet since there is no room in my bedroom for all my things...

...where the mosquitoes and bugs are friendly neighbors to the Indian people, I flip out if I forget my repellent spray...

...where most women use one handbag until it falls apart and then buy another one, I have one to match each outfit I wear...

...where group activities never involved only young single adults, I encourage it and usually end up being the only girl with all the boys who are allowed to attend...

...where fathers and brothers and husbands are the mouthpieces for even the most educated women, I am not afraid to voice my opinion whenever I feel some thing needs to be said...(altho' the no-filter-between-my-brain-and-my-mouth often gets me in a jam)...

...where married men cannot be friends with unmarried females, I carry on very jovial and serious conversations with other American married men whose wives I am also good friends with...

...where females in India have more female friends, I only have my childhood friends and the rest are all male, who drop me home late at night after a night out on the town... (frowned upon by my watchman)...

...where it is apparently considered rude for a female to walk out of the house chomping on an apple or something similar and the food should be consumed before one leaves the house, I walk out and get in autos with a fruit in my hand as I had no time to eat it earlier...(although men crowd the roadside joints and eat on the road at any time and any place..)...

...where not showing any skin, i mean even too much of your arms or your neckline is slightly below your collar bone, my very conservative for the US standards of dressing have people questioning my moral standing, simply because you can see my calves and I wear stilettos...

...the differences are so apparent and I am given a wide berth of outward acknowledgment, in that people will not tell me up to my face but the disapproving look on their faces is sufficient to remind me that..

I am an Alien in my country of birth...and yet, I keep on keeping on....