Ever since I moved to India a year back I have been cranky. One and a half years. That’s a long time to stay cranky and honestly that’s the longest I’ve ever been cranky, considering I’ve lived with my parents for 18 long years. Haha 🙂
It doesn’t just start with cranky. It starts with me being a little edgy, then annoyed, then a little irritated and then lots and lots of crankiness. Talking about being annoyed, in a survey on what annoyed New Yorkers the most, here’s what a resident had to say:
I’ve lived here all my life. The things that annoy you about New York are usually the things that define New York.
That’s exactly how I feel about India. I cannot change many things that annoy me about living here because it’s part of what defines this place and as I write this I realize I am less annoyed because I understand the things that annoy me. That’s frustrating because I want to write about how India annoys me and this post is turning in to what makes India what it is.
Climate & Weather
India has an extraordinary variety of climatic regions, but a lot of India is very hot and humid. The hotness is fine but the humidity is gruesome. If hotness is having to spend time with someone you don’t get along, then humidity is being bombarded with a whole family of don’t-get-alongs. In a single room. With a lot of heat & humidity. 🙂 Never ever would your hair be so sticky or body so drenched in your own sweat. You’d wish you were in a groundhog day sort of situation where you keep taking showers and never get out. But just the way Phil Connors wakes up one day and decides to learn new things every day, the weather would sneak up on you. Your body has a way of adjusting to the surrounding and letting you know of the changes you need to make to accommodate yourself.
Besides you find lot of uses for all the hotness around. [It’s like knowing that you’re short or born with a third nipple & have no option except to come to terms with it :)]. There’s the solar energy for instance. Natural dehydrator (for vegetables & fruits, of course), natural dryer (for clothes) and most of all electricity. There is no need for moisturizer or humidifier, for most part. There is more business for cap & umbrella manufacturers. There are more tender coconuts selling in summer than ever before. There is more business for fruits & juice vendors. Of course, there is more business for water suppliers that provide for the juice. So there’s more diseases that spread through water. Then there’s more business for doctors & hospitals. Then there’s more business for pharmacies. Then there’s less money left with common people. Now, that’s why they need the free dehydrator and dryer!
People & Pollution
People come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors & shades. They speak many languages & dialects that even some of their own relatives can’t understand. What unites them is religion & culture. Religion that was formed with the intention of creating a discipline and routine in life. Culture that took shape as a result of a necessary class system and social structure. There is no room for petty complaints and emotional insecurities. People handle lot of uncertainties and deal with much bigger problems every single day of their life. I could spend my whole life not really knowing about how people live their life struggling in poverty in the first world because of the sheer percentage. It’s easy to ignore them or think of them as the norm, but hard to go through life not seeing struggling families, poverty and drudgery of the working class in India.
People come together during crisis and don’t hesitate to help out when they think you’re in need. People also don’t blink twice before they ask you why you’ve put on so much weight or why your dress is so revealing. There’s so much population it would be a miracle if there was no pollution. With disturbing reports like this, politicians trying to make easy money through corruption and a very small percentage trying to make things better, people don’t have the resources or money to invest on smart cars or fuel efficient vehicles. There are few working on solar energy and rain water harvesting but the monotony of day-to-day life drowns these efforts like a fly drowning in a bucket of water. A small movie scene like this would not make sense if watched separately, you’d have to watch the whole movie to understand but this explains why people need tools like religion. It’s hard to understand why people would waste so much time on religion, but poverty is exactly why organizations like this come in handy for the common man. That and the free entertainment in the form of chats and gossips with friends and neighbors.
Traffic & Congestion
If you love off-roading, you’re sure to have a great time in India. The short-sighted road designs were built with just bullock carts and horse carriages in mind. The small businesses over-crowd the already crowded busy roads while trying to make a living. The unusually high number of vehicles (and big-ass ones at that) in narrow lanes, mal-nutritioned pedestrians, haggling housewives, ogling middle-aged sex-deprived buggers and kids drooling over stale over priced sweets are definitely a treat for any first world aspirers. We shouldn’t deny the quick mushrooming of fly-overs and bridges all over the city, but the narrow lanes in furural cities seem to have been constructed with a myopic view of development and progress. The old joke about one government worker closing up the pit dug up by another is still true in many ways, but people are also getting smarter about certain things. The businessman with a laptop & wi-fi hooked up in his car who interacts with clients on the road, for instance.
Congestion is not as bad as in China, although it’s scary to imagine the day I would witness the world’s worst traffic back-up in India. The congestion is not just with road traffic, but railway and air as well. Land congestion is a totally different story. Independent houses seem like a waste of space and unnecessary luxury sometimes. I am often reminded of an interview I read of Arundhati Roy somewhere (or is it my imagination?) where she is asked about why she hasn’t written a second fiction (first being God of Small Things) and she talks about how she concentrates in her work on solving third-world problems and how fiction writing seems like such a waste. (I haven’t written everything verbatim and I’m sure possibly some of it came from a fragment of my own imagination). The point is when you see shortage of space everywhere, as a responsible adult you start to wonder why you need a big house with a yard (and this is true of so many other things as well). These are exactly the reasons why people need to use smart cars, use smart cards and have smart families. But with so much population & traffic, the common man’s mind is so congested he takes forever before he realizes he needs a smarter approach in life.
Attitude & Actions
It’s very hard to understand people in India. Especially as an insider, I find it tormenting to experience and endure the fleeting facets of human psychology. I think there should be an “Indian Psych 101” course for anyone that comes to India (or even travels outside and re-enters India) to prepare them for what I would like to call a never ending tsunami of distress and an adventure with emotions. Privacy is an outdated concept in India. Who has time to think of privacy when you have worries about saving for the next meal or saving up for your daughter’s dowry! There is a whole section of the middle class population that is still dumb enough to waste time on MLM & pyramid schemes, but you also see hope when you hear about the shrewd teenager who figured out he can cash an untapped market online by providing information about pets for the first-world.
People gossip and give a hard time to fellow human beings, spread rumors about things they have no knowledge about and don’t bat an eye while hearing about their enemies’ despair. But people halt, take time to give you directions and even push your car or go out of their way to help you with a flat tire in a deserted village very well knowing that they may not be seeing you again in their life. People have an ill-informed attitude they learnt from movies and television that rich are evil. They fail to understand that not all rich got that way by fluke or crook and that they too might have worked like a dog. Many have an attitude that they deserve something just because they are poor. But you are inspired every now and then when you see a coconut vendor or an auto driver that won’t take even a penny more than what they think they deserve. Haggling is a necessary evil for them because there are too many cheaters around that would do anything to make a quick penny.
I haven’t read all her books but from what I hear it seems like Ayn Rand should be India’s national religion. Expecting nothing from anyone else except yourself would be an ideal attitude for all Indians. Working towards a common cause while maintaining individuality would be the ideal action plan to go along with that attitude.
That along with some ecstasy and Prozac to go with the morning coffee! 🙂P.S: I tried to reflect my take on India in my writing – a mix of understanding of what the country is followed by sarcasm, a by-product of helplessness, again followed by some inspiration and then some serious depression due to lack of any solid action plan. I can only hope they all showed up in my writing!
What are your views on India? Have you ever lived here, heard about it or visit once in a while? What are your experiences?