Thursday, 21 June 2012

Random observations from India

My first semester at Woodstock School in India is almost over. Here, in no particular order, are some observations on life in India.

Incessant car horns

As I write this every minute or so the peaceful mountain air is punctuated by the sound of a car hooting. This is because hooting is an inherent and normal part of driving in India, as normal as indicating or checking one's rear view mirror (although incidentally those driving disciplines don't get much of a look in here). Drivers basically use the horn as a warning to other drivers as they approach a bend: why bother slowing down when you can just "blow horn", words which emblazon many a truck. I'm always amazed there aren't more accidents on bends as one sees two cars or the numerous scooters approaching one another at breakneck speed, but somehow it seems to work out, and I've yet to see a crash.

Blow horn: Oh OK if you insist. A typical message on an Indian lorry.

Lack of personal space

Personal space as a concept doesn't seem to exist in India. This can be difficult for the westerner, particularly on a train journey, when playing Bollywood movie music at full volume in a crowded carriage is positively encouraged. Or if you try and sit on your own in a park people will come and sit right next to you. I guess many people here have grown up in large families in cramped homes, and personal space is not an option. I guess it highlights how cossetted some of us have become.

Hot work for coolies

Coolies are the men here who carry and transport stuff around on their backs. They deliever anything from shopping to fridges, which make them look like giant ants as they lug items much bigger than their body weight. They work extremely hard and often walk long distances with their heavy loads, which they tie round their heads to help ease the burden. What's depressing is the tip we sometimes give them for the delivery is probably larger than the sum they're paid to do this gruelling job.

Workmen watching on

It's felt like we've lived on a building site this semester as work has gone on for months in our garden. Most days we have a team of workmen turn up to shift earth from one side of the house to the other; then the next day they come back and move it back to where it was before. What I've noticed is that while one or two guys do some work, there will always be another two, three, four or five men just looking on (see photo below for example). This seems to be the case in the majority of labouring situations I've seen. Why work when you can watch on?

Workmen ratio of 2:5 of those working:sitting around

Doesn't matter if you're brown or white

There are adverts everywhere for skin whitening cream; it seems many Indians want to be whiter as lighter skin is considered more attractive. Meanwhile us white folk always want to be browner. Funny eh, and somewhat tragic none of us are happy in the skin we are in.

Cheeky monkeys

I rang my sister the other day and she was paying a fortune to take her family to Colchester Zoo. Here we don't need to pay for the wildlife, most days we see rhesus and langur monkeys on the way in to work. They are often very cheeky monkeys, trying to steal food and even swimming in the school pool. Contrary to my wife's advice, I try and stand up to the monkeys if they are being aggressive, insisting we assert the natural order of man versus beast. So far this policy seems to be working, and hopefully I won't get beaten up by a marauding monkey anytime soon.

I'm heading back to Blighty soon so this'll be my last blog for a while. All the very best, look after yourselves, and take great care. Edster

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