Please note that these are merely my observations of the weird and wonderful, whilst living and working in a very raw and very rural part of India. Naturally, being in a very foreign place, some things will seem odd and at times, humorous. It is by no means intended to stereotype or criticize It is not propaganda, hindering social Darwinism or any other outlandish accusation you may make. It is simply honest.
Right, the nauseating diplomacy ends here.If you feel that you will get your knickers in a knot, then please go untie them with the rest of the over-sensitive politically correct, elsewhere.
1.Spitting – Every single second of the day I am confronted with the sounds and sights of people hocking-a-loogie.How a nation has so much phlegm, is beyond me. Spitting is done anywhere and at any time and it’s not the kind of cowboy tobacco spewing, either. I saw a shirt while I was here that said “ You can piss on the streets, but you cannot kiss on the streets- I am Indian”. This perfectly explained my sentiments about the acceptability of any sort of public ablutions, contrasted with the shame of bearing a shoulder or showing affection.
2.Odd obsession with gold- Young and old, male and female, all take the time to excitedly ask whether my jewelry is real gold or not. It can be a plastic looking piece of junk around my arm, and I get the same question. I suppose that many temples and statues are made solidly out of gold, and it is a very important thing in wedding ceremonies, so I can understand why it may be an unusually auspicious mineral around these parts. Just before I came to India, there was news of a local thief that would break in during the night, dressed only in his undies and covered in oil. This way he was not easy to spot in the dark night and would literally slip away when anyone tried to catch him. His only intent and mission was to steal gold jewelry.
3.Chai- Tea here is drunk out of little glasses with no handles. Your fingerprints are scalded off almost instantly and the fact that we face temperatures of over 30 degrees, even in “winter”, doesn’t stop anyone from having a steaming cup of tea, several times a day. It is absolutely delicious, so rather understandable.
4.Muslim vs. Hindu and other religious differences– A touchy subject but a very real one. The village is rife with the conflict. My new SA friends staying in a little house just down the road from me, were stormed by a troop of angry Muslim men, shouting obscene profanities and threatening to burn their house down. Why were these girls locking themselves in the house and fearing for their lives? They had invited a guy in for tea, of course. Eventually the mob demanded 10 000 rupees to leave the girls alone and not harm them. A small price to pay for safety, but a rather large one to pay for the crime of western hospitality. I was just so glad to have not gone and visited them that night. I don’t know if I would have recovered. There is sadly also no use in trying to get the police to help here, because in such an occasion the police would instinctively take the side of the males. Little or no protection for women is available.
5.Miscallaneous shoes – Everywhere you look, there is a misplaced shoe. Literally everywhere.In the gutter, on the street, in the bushes next to my front door. We have actually made a game out of counting these rogue shoes, every time we leave the house. It is customary to take your shoes off when entering any shop, temple or house. Perhaps people just often forget to put them back on upon exit?
6.The driving – My first experience in a car here in India, was a harrowing one. The same applies for all autos, buses, motorbikes and cars that I have since taken trips in. There is no order on the roads. Cars drive in any lane, with motorbikes and mopeds buzzing in between them. It is literally like the scene from Harry Potter in the night bus. Your bus in hurtling head first towards another bus and moments before possible impact, the bus jerks left and squeezes almost impossibly between a truck and a trailer of cows. You fear for your life as a foreigner. As for the rest ducking and diving in amongst the chaos, they remain totally unfazed and calm. No helmets are worn by those on scooters or bikes and a family of four can quite comfortably fit on a moped.
7. Hooting- On the topic of driving, Indian driver’s would be nothing without their hooters. Hooters are blown to say move, I am coming or even hello! Either way, it never, ever stops.
8.Dodging coconuts – More people die every year from falling coconuts, than shark attacks. It is a real fear I have to have here whilst walking around. Many a times a coconut has meteored down right in front of me and left a crater in the ground, as opposed to my head.
9.Jungle bats and chickens.
They are real. Wild chickens that roam in the jungle and bats, literally the size of those chickens (possibly a cross breed, I should look into that…)
10.Endless hospitality – Most of my nourishment comes from some one new, inviting me over for a feast. Whether I am just walking past their house or they met me at school, I am so often hauled into strangers’ houses for a never-ending supply of hospitality and food. We will sit on the floor with a banana leaf as a plate, surrounded by dishes of delicious local cuisine and a curious family. Some of my fondest memories involve these random, kindly invites from the locals.