…a little bit more….

So I spent a good 30 minutes earlier today typing out a post, and then when I hit Publish….it deleted out everything. UGH. Now it’s 11:15 p.m. and I’m exhausted, but I have M’s computer in front of me (which he’ll be taking back to the office with him in the morning), so I’ll see what I can quickly re-create.

Things have been great in India! I’ve managed to see all of my relatives in this general area in the first three days of my 11 days here – and I have a lot of relatives! Spent yesterday and today in Mumbai, which is a beautiful city, but also amazingly crowded. Some quick observations and notes:

1. Road rules are for sissies! Drivers regularly ignore lane lines and traffic lights, unless they’re on a major highway or police are in sight. Traffic moves in one direction or the other in a morphing mass of personal cars, taxis, rickshaws, buses, animals, pedestrians and people on scooters and/or bicycles. Crosswalks are very hard to find (or ignored), so as you can imagine, crossing the road is quite an adventure. Heading the wrong direction on a highway? No problem, make a U-Turn! Feel free to pull over to the side of the road which already has two cars pulled over — sideways — and chat with your passengers. Don’t worry about your scooter technically only having room for two people. Your daughter can stand in front of you and your wife behind you can hold your little baby. No need for any helmets, either. Have an open-air truck? Grab some friends and give them a ride into town! And honk if you need to:

  • Get a dog or cow out of your way
  • Get a pedestrian out of your way
  • Get a truck out of your way
  • Let a truck or car know you’re about to be in their way
  • Basically, let the world know you exist. Really, no more than two seconds go by without someone honking on city streets here.

2. All my relatives have Western-style toilets and showers now, but they generally come with caveats – “Turn on the water down below the pot, then flush, then turn it back off” (it always takes me a couple tries to get the water completely off). “Tap this flush button verrry quickly; don’t hold it down very long” (and then you have to press it again one or two more times before everything goes down). Another relative has the toilet in a little outhouse in their front yard; the door doesn’t close completely, so it’s a bit stressful using the toilet. Plus here at Aunt N’s, the shower is a tiny stream of water — it’s like showering in a camp shower.

3. People take it VERY personally if you go to their house and don’t a) eat copious amounts of food, b) stay for at least a few hours or c) plan a date to spend the night (this last item is strictly family related). I unfortunately am not a huge fan of Indian food, so it’s hard for me to keep saying no, but I feel it’s worse to take the food and then waste it!

4. I really like wearing seat belts! It’s only required for seatbelts to be provided and worn in in the front seats of cars here. I can’t tell you how wrong that feels! And unsafe, with the crazy drivers here. So whenever I’m in the back seat of a car with working seatbelts back there, I buckle up.

5. I really like saying “Please” and “Thank you”! It’s not very common here in regards to service people, but it’s a habit I don’t mind keeping, even if it gets me a lot of blank stares. I even make eye contact — double weird, apparently.

6. I’m kind of a confusing person for people here – they see my cousins speakng Marathi to me, but then I answer back in unaccented English (my Marathi sounds so bad it’s almost offensive). Several salespeople will be helping us with something and then say to my cousin in Marathi, “Does she understand?” I’ll then reply in Marathi: “Yes, I understand, but I can’t speak very well.”

7. Great deals are to be had from street vendors by bargaining, but I have a hard time playing that game – I know everyone does it, but it feels like I’m trying to take advantage of people. Especially since most of the stuff I’m looking at is already so cheap in U.S. dollars! Thankfully Cousin A and his daughter G did the heavy lifting for me at a couple shops in Mumbai.

8. They’re crazy about security here since the (somewhat) recent terrorist attacks in the country. We have to go through security when entering malls (one mall even does a quick pat-down for ladies) and then to see the Gateway of India, which is across the street from the Taj Hotel, which was bombed a few years back.

9. People have people for everything! Labor is apparently very cheap here. Between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. here at Aunt N’s:

  • A lady comes to make chappatis
  • A guy delivers fresh buffalo milk
  • A lady comes to do the dishes
  • A guy delivers fresh cow’s milk (for Cousin M’s son)
  • Someone delivers the paper
  • A lady comes to do house cleaning
  • Cousin M’s son’s nanny comes

10. “What’sApp” is all the rage here, though I think I’d heard of it once in the U.S.

OK, running out of steam now, and this ran on pretty long. Hopefully type more soon (with pictures!).

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