India’s Love, Hate and Why

November 16, 2008

NOTE: posted later than written due to internet

November 12 — I heard before we arrived, that people tend to either love or hate India…or they maintain a love-hate relationship with it.  I have to say…mine is a love-hate relationship.  There was quite a bit I found fascinating, especially the fact that there is so much history there are truly beautiful people.  I was deeply moved by Gandhi’s plight and his goals and principles and enjoyed visiting the place where he died and was cremated.  If he wasn’t assassinated in the 1940s, I wonder if India would be different today.  It’s a great country filled with great people, but there’s an undercurrent of “take.”  People beg…they try to swindle tourists, they are always on “the take” to see if they can get more.

 

There’s also an air of difficulty in everyday life here that makes it exhausting to be in India much of the time.  Brad reminded me several times, “It’s India” when I asked questions about “why” something was done a certain way…because there’s often very little logic or reason to “why” – it just is.  By the end of the trip when Brad was getting a little *short* with some of the lacking logic, I even got to reply to him “It’s just India!”   

 

One of the most memorable shopping experiences was when Brad taught a shopkeeper a lesson about haggling.  First, he taught them the word then he proceeded to tell the man that he didn’t want to haggle and asked him why he was trying to steal from tourists with Indian prices and Tourist prices. The explanation? Because most people (tourists) will pay a higher price…so the part Pashmina shawls I eventually bought for 400 rupees (US $10=Indian price) started out as 1200 ruppees (US$30).  The guys was so shaken by Brad, he asked him to write down the word “haggle” so he could know this for future.

 

Brad was amazed though (I’ve encouraged him to write himself to no avail) at how much India has changed since he was last there (when he contracted Dengue fever in 2000). In Delhi, for example, he was able to eat things like Japanese food, salad, Mexican food…he shopped for shoes in Nike and Adidas stores – things he was never able to do before.  And, the most notable was the advances in the transportation system. We took trains and flew out of Delhi airport.  For one, we can book train and airline tickets online but he tells stories of years past when he had to arrive 8 hours early and bid for seats – even if you already paid for and had a confirmed seat…because all the systems 8 years ago were manual.  (This is why we arrived at the airport 3 hours early – ugh. There’s no need BTW, regardless what Air India says) 

 

Below is a list of whys we started as we made our way through country… I’m sure anyone who has been to India can add their own and we’d love to hear.

 

WHY?

 

  • Why is people can ride packed like sardines in a tuk-tuk or car and travel on top of a bus and transport a family of 4, including an infant on a scooter, but it’s compulsory to put on a seat belt in taxi in certain regions?

 

  • Why will a hotel pay a man to walk 100 yards back and forth for days to transfer small bowls of dirt on his head when he could buy a wheel barrel for $20?

 

  • Why does everyone feel they are entitled to know “where I go?”

 

  • Why does every shop owner want you to sit to shop in their market?

 

  • Why do tuk-tuk drivers expect you to pay more when they get lost for 20 minutes?

 

 

  • Why do they bother to paint lines in the road when they are never used?

 

  • Why must I have 2-for-1 drinks at happy hour and not just one at half-price?

 

  • Why aren’t there incentives to keep family sizes low in a place plagued by overpopulation?

 

Any other whys for you?

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