Monday, September 21, 2009


As I’ve noted in numerous writings, I am very much enjoying living my life in India, but there are, of course, challenges. I mean my ego wouldn’t get any pleasure if I didn’t complain a bit.

But let me just start this writing with noting that I was awakened in the middle of the night with a gecko on my back. Now, was it a dream? I don’t think so as I felt something, small, cool and lizard like on my back. How would the gecko even get into my bed is a question that I have. I think that after I realized that it was on my back it moved to another part of my bed. Anyway, not sure how much sleep I got after that. I do like geckos because they eat mosquitoes and there might have possibly been one or many on my back. But in the middle of the night, please let me sleep. And then the question of whether in fact this was a gecko or some other lizard like being in my bed….Ah, India.

A bit about my challenges-there is the metro/bus, vehicles/pedestrians, internet, maybe the same kinds of frustrations that I might encounter in the western world, but besides the internet I don’t think so.

The metro/bus, vehicles/pedestrians is tied into my notion about “manners”. I am constantly being bumped, pushed aside, with not so much of a mention of “excuse me” or “sorry”. On the bus, at times, people crowded next to each other on the seats, with someone standing, deciding to squeeze in to the seats. Not at all unusual, where someone, typically a man will end up sitting on your lap.

There is something about personal space and it has become somewhat exaggerated for me by being in India. I’m very aware of it in a western sense, wanting people at times, to just back off and not squeeze so very close to my body. But Delhi, is after all one of the most populous cities in the world and I need to deal with this. But I do have my moments. I never really understood this idea of people squeezing in like sardines in a can. I now know exactly what this means when I ride the metro during rush hour.

Typically I wait for people to get off of the metro before I get on. This is not generally the case for Indians. Even though a couple of people may be getting off at a stop and the fact that the metro is incredibly crowded already, 10 more people will get on. The “sardine” concept has become based in reality.

I do my thing though in getting off at the most crowded stop, that being Rajiv Chowk, just by putting my arms straight in front of me when I get off of the metro and politely saying excuse me, excuse me, excuse me. This seems to work as people are a bit “freaked out” by this “western” guy looking rather strange anyway, typically wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It become even more of a strange scene when I’m wearing my Lakers jersey after coming back from playing b-ball. Don’t see any men wearing a “tank top” here.

There is no pedestrian right of way in India and so even if you cross in front of a car or bus, or rickshaw, which is highly unadvisable, the driver will not stop for you, unless you’re a cow. But even then, I wouldn’t want to be a cow crossing the street. I tend to be a bit more aggressive in trying to cross the road, as there are no crosswalks, but caution is advisable. As I was crossing at the major intersection in my area, known to me as Dabri crossing, I almost got smushed between and bus and a truck.

I have started using the word “Dude” quite a lot in India. You can ask my work friend Rohit about this, it’s “dude” this and “dude” that. Every time I get pushed out of the way or almost run over, I say “Dude”. I don’t know that anybody understands me, but it all seems appropriate given that my roots are based in the San Fernando Valley and I am after all a “Valley Boy” but without the blond locks or surfboard.

I’m so used to using what I consider to be “manners” but this is in a western sense. I get somewhat annoyed when I don’t find “manners” used, but am pleasantly surprised when I do hear that “excuse me” on the metro in order to move around as opposed to being bumped by generally a man with a rather rotund belly and orange hair. The orange hair is supposed to keep the heat down, with the belly most generally used for clearing space for one’s self. I don’t think that I’ll ever get to the point of wanting either for myself, but stuffing pillows under my shirt, might make some sense, especially when I’m feeling somewhat sardine like.

I don’t really like the fact that men seated on metro or the bus won’t get up for women, either with or without children, when they are standing. There is something inherently wrong with this. I don’t think that it is chauvinism on my part, but I was brought up to give up my seat and I constantly do this, hoping that the Indian men will see this and do the same. I was recently on one of the smaller buses and three men were sitting and a number of women got on. I asked the men to get up and they wouldn’t. However, this was balanced by this last week when riding the metro I noted to a man to get up and there was no problem. In fact, a very nice conversation ensued in which he told me how much respect he has for the elderly and of course he always gets up, because that woman who is standing could be his mother. This was what I thought India would be more about.

But there also is a certain sense of that insanely needing to rush around, like in the west. I try to always take my time and not rush especially when getting on and off the metro, but I find all around me people rushing. In getting on the metro one has to go through a security check, one for men and one for women. Often men will just cut in front of me, like it really is going to make a difference in how quickly one gets onto the metro. For some reason this bothers me, and I say “dude” and then it is gone.

Not having grown up with so many people all around me, I somewhat lack this “what do I need to do to get ahead”, no matter how miniscule it might be. Maybe that cutting in front of me, or just ignoring the fact that there is another human being in front of you doesn’t matter in this case. It’s not that I’m not assertive, because I’ve certainly become more assertive since coming to India, but I don’t see the point from my western way of thinking of pushing or cutting to get one’s way. (One time though a man cut in front of me in the metro line and I told him that there was a line where he proceeded to laugh. I then cut directly in front of him without looking back. Yes, I do have my moments).

I’m certainly looking forward to being in other parts of India. Maybe it will be different, maybe not. It all is a major learning experience for me, in that “my way” is certainly not the only way. But I knew this coming to India and knew that I wanted to learn more about other ways of looking at the world.

I still love India and always will. The aliveness is just something that I don’t think I’ll see in the west. The things that I’m seeing and experiencing here are truly remarkable, just the everyday kinds of things, which I can see in my pictures. Galoo and Namu, the two little girls in the house where I’m living, talking to me in Hindi, and thinking that I’m understanding, and now in some English will be something that I will always treasure. I’ve come to “love” this children, their way of saying “Mike”, juice, their laugh. To think that this “world” never would have happened for me if I hadn’t dreamed about and really wanted it.

Experiencing the Indian culture is a wonderful thing for me. It is so very foreign from what I knew as a boy growing up in the San Fernando Valley. When I moved to the east coast of the US as a 22 year old, this had a foreign feel for me, but nothing like living in a place such as India. My life is so much more rich now that I’ve been here for six months and I look forward to the next 18 months with so much awe and especially love for the country, the people, the dust, the cows and smells.

I also look forward to a growing love in my personal life, but that will have to wait for the next blog!

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