Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Subtle Changes

We’ve come to make India our home and for the most part,  live a very American lifestyle. We have HD TV,  a nice big car and eat as much beef as we please.  Probably too much. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many foreigners before us and the great Indian entrepreneurial spirit that made it all possible.  However, as American as this life seems,  you may notice some peculiar behavior when we return to the States in a few days.
1. The Toothbrush Double Tap.   We give toothbrushes a couple hard hits on the sink before using.  India has these ‘micro-ants‘ that are a bit bigger than a pepper flake and they love toothpaste. (or just want minty mandibles?)  They will pick your toothbrush clean. On the bright side,  if you spill some toothpaste on the counter,  it’s usually clean by the morning.  

It's all about the Ghandis.
2. Change hoarding.   No merchant (except McDonald’s) stocks change.  It’s a great way to get customers to pay extra once the haggling is done.  You end up paying 200 rupees for a 164 rupee bill because the merchant has no change to return.   So,  I like to have 5 bills of each rupee denomination before leaving the house.  I’ve snapped 3 money clips already, but will usually have the right change.  
3. Charge for pictures.  Cheek pinching extra.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere,  Nolan doesn’t like going out to public places because people will want a picture with him.  As a parting gesture, they’ll try to pinch his cheek, too.  It’s not bad when one or two people ask,  but when a line begins to form it’s time to leave.  Now when people ask for his picture, he says “100 rupees”.  No sales so far. 
150 rupee per cheek
Bite and chew gently.  I’ve had more than my fair share of boneless chicken or meat turnout to be semi-boneless.  Same rule applies to fruit salad. 
5 Ask lots of questions and get pushy.  A friend of ours simply wanted faster Internet service.  He spent two weeks of his life proving he had the permission of the landlord to increase the speed,  only then to be told he already had the fastest rate available.  Brings  me to my next point ...
6. Lose your temper.  My favorite pastime while waiting at the airport is watching the ticket counter.  Once or twice an hour someone loses it on one of the poor ticket agents.  This is no quick vulgar outburst.  This is an art form in India.  A good “tirade” can last up to 3 minutes without pause for a breath or to blink.  No personal attacks.  No cussing. Just a cascade of complaints presented in a rapid-fire chain of rhetorical questions.  It’s a great  way to flag the manager’s attention and receive special treatment. 
It’s tougher than it looks.  I’ve done this while getting a cell phone and again at the bank,  but could only muster 30 seconds of rage.  It still works.
7. Always carry a flashlight.   The power is always going out and you never know where you’ll be.  I have a dinky penlight tethered to my cell phone that has saved me a lot of trouble.  It was the one time I was without it that caused me problems. 
Nolan and I were showering after an evening swim at the club inside the Men’s showers when the lights went down.  No windows, no emergency lighting.  I was able to locate Nolan in the hallway by heading for his voice -- like a game of Marco Polo.  We slowly navigated a 20 foot hallway feeling our way along the wall until we got to the outer door and the moon light. Nolan then realized he left his swim goggles back in the shower.  Return to the darkness.  Upon reaching the shower stall,  we discovered there was a man now using it,  Luckily, he already found the goggles and handed them over.  One must be very careful receiving goggles from a showering man in complete darkness.   
8. Look down when walking.  Open manhole covers,  exposed wiring, missing chunks of sidewalk and cow/dog waste are all par for the course on the sidewalks outside the compound.  We’ve even had a family member fall through when one of the concrete sidewalk tiles snapped in two.  And this was inside our nicely manicured Palm Meadows compound.  If walking at night, see #7 and add sleeping dogs to the potential hazards.