In my first few days in India, two different times on a bus a woman exploded in rage at a man who had done something to her and started beating him with a shoe. I see arguments and hear raised voices all the time. Even the animals get into it; the monkeys make terrifying noises when they fight.
I’m in a fighting mood, too. I am exasperated all the time with Indians, which I can’t understand. I know Indians, have Indian friends, correspond with Indians that read my blog, etc., but the moment my passport is stamped it seems like I am constantly at war with everyone I come in contact with.
It is very difficult to communicate. Just to understand them (and vice versa) is a Herculean task. Is each other’s accent so hard to pick up? Sometimes it feels like I am using the wrong English vocabulary, too, though even in the best of times I get short, terse answers or comments, like the main point of any interaction is that I am in their way of doing something else. Even if it is partly a communication problem, I’ve been to plenty of places around the world where there is barely a common language, so I can’t put my finger on why India is so problematic.
In many cases the frustration is just with aggressive hotel/rickshaw/souvenir shop/group tour touts, the kind of irritation travelers always attract by nature, but I get it all the time with everyone else, too.
My experience and perception might change if I could meet “real” local people. I am looking for a Couchsurfing host for when I am in Jaipur. One guy wrote in his Interests section: “All interests are destroyed by my wife…” I am going to pass on that happy couple. Couchsurfing is hard to arrange anyway given I can’t plan very far in advance.
The fantastic Indian food normally heals all wounds, but I am hardly eating for some reason, and if you know me, that’s hard to imagine. Must be the heat. It is brutal. My shirt and body become caked with salt that I sweat off and then 33C in a 400 rupee ($9) fan room blowing hot air on me isn’t soothing.
When I am eating, I go for the curd in little ceramic cups if I can find it. Often when you finish the curd you are supposed to throw the cup to the ground, smashing it to pieces, but not at every place and I am afraid to make a mistake and start another clash. I saw one guy mixing his curd with some water and I asked if it was mineral water. He said the water was “government supply”. I like that answer. I am going to say that from now on instead of boring “tap water”.
I am trying to make my money last in India, which is harder than expected because India isn’t so cheap anymore. I used to always reflexively say that India is the cheapest country in the world, but that’s the past. Food, especially, is noticeably more expensive.
Question of the day: how many saris get stuck in the New Delhi metro escalators? I bet the maintenance guys have stories.