Some funny things about India, and I use the word funny in the loosest of ways:
1) The roads are crazy (duh) but here’s why: the goal for every driver is to go as fast as possible. To once again liken it to a cyclocross race, it’s similar to being a pretty fast guy in an oversized cat 3 field who forgot to register in time so you are stuck starting in the last row. Throughout the race you pass slower guys, dodge others’ mechanicals and whip around the course but you never get to the front. A major difference being that you are going a bit faster on the road in India and with traffic going both ways requiring each and every driver to play chicken constantly with oncomers. You’re also obligated to blow your horn to let others know of your presence, so the piercing and sometimes musically comical sound of horns is incessant. In fact, every single commercial truck has a message on the back of the truck saying to blow your horn. It’s either “Blow Horn” or “Horn Please,” always in a handwritten text with its own personal flair. It all seems batty but somehow it works. Better than sitting in traffic, I say.
2) All purchases are wrapped in a piece of news or other type of paper. From bananas to toothpaste to fabric to beer, it all gets wrapped up. It’s nice, in a way, as it makes for a sense of top notch customer service in even the most trivial purchase.
3) Their footwear is terrible. I’ve adopted the sock flop combo myself occasionally, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s slippery and unsuitable for walking. The ladies wear the most fetching and eye catching frocks with flawlessly manicured makeup and well coiffed dos. But as your gaze drops below the ankle you are met with an eyesore combination of often flesh-toned, baggy socks and crummy sandals, sometimes with an additional nonconducive-to-worthwhile-mobility wedged heel. I guess it’s no wonder they’re all plodding along like an overpacked Dodge Omni going uphill.
4) Everything is documented. At hotels you’re met with an extra large registration book immediately upon agreeing to take a room, in which you are required to write the date, your name, address, phone number, passport number, visa number, where you’re coming from, where you’re going to, father’s name, and name and birthplace of your firstborn. Okay maybe I exaggerated on the firstborn business but you get the picture. After this lengthy intake process they make a photocopy of it to check that your handwritten information adds up. Once the business is done everyone carries on as normal. The odd part about the whole thing is that then they take no money up front and don’t ask you or seem to mind how long you’re staying.
5) Skipping lines is fine and sometimes encouraged. If you want to get to the front of the ticket window you do just that. The person you cut doesn’t complain and the ticket window lady takes care of you like nothing happened, and even beckons you before you knew she was ready.
6) You get asked to pose for photos a lot. Whole families pose with you, or just the ladies or just the men, but they love photos with whities. God knows what they’re doing with them. I do wonder what they say when they share the pics with friends, but I’m guessing there’s no need for explanation since they’re all doing it. So strange.
7) Hocking loogies is a way of life. It’s right up there along with food, water and housing. They hock in the morning and at night in planes and in trains. It’s often the rooster crow of the Hocking that gets us up in the mornings. Women are not spared, although they tend to be less audacious about it.
More to come.