I’ve been reflecting a lot on the things that make India unique, the things that I’ve become accustomed to and the things that still irritate me about living here. I think there will be a bit of reverse culture shock when I return to the UK!
Things I will miss:
The food: It’s mostly been incredible, and my tolerance for chillies has definitely increased! Highlights: masala dosa in South India, amazing lassis in Rajasthan, chaas or buttermilk – like a thin spiced yoghurt drink, really refreshing), chai, crispy aloo parathas with curd and pickle, biriyanis, fresh fish in Goa, Kerela parottas (not parathas, these were different)….oh, and that weird 8 course tasting menu in Bangalore. That was special. It wasn’t all good though – if you ever visit an Indian McDonalds don’t have the McPaneer burger. It’s rank (trust me, I tried it so you don’t have to).
Masala dosa in Bangalore
Value: I love a bargain, and it’s mostly pretty cheap to live a comfortable life out here. I particularly love having my washing done for a few quid, stuff comes back sparkling clean and properly ironed (even my pants!). Fruit and veg is bargainous as well – jt’s mango season at the moment, and I’ve been feasting on amazing mangos for unbelievable prices. I won’t be able to keep up that habit in the UK!
Weather: The monsoon rains have just started here, but before that I could count the number of times it has rained on one hand. There’s no denying that endless sunshine does wonders for the mood (and the vitamin D levels) and although it was uncomfortably hot at times I’m lucky to have escaped the horrible winter back home.
Optimism: People say that “anything is possible in India”. And it really does seem to be true. I feel that people here are more content with what they have, even if that is very little. We seem to have a constant sense of dissatisfaction in the Western world, the more we have the more we want. A lot of people here have nothing, and want for nothing. Of course, that’s not true for everyone, but it’s true of a lot of the patients I’ve met, particularly the poorer ones.
Indianisms: Words unique to Indian English. There was an article about this on BBC News a few days ago. Words like “prepone” (opposite of “postpone” and used a lot in my friends’ offices), “revert” instead of “reply”, “very less” instead of “much less”. You don’t get off the bus in India, you get down from the bus. If you go away, you are “out of station”. People also wish you “happy journey” which I love.
Rickshaws: Even though they’re bumpy, noisy and you have to constantly haggle with dishonest drivers I have a certain fondness for rickshaws. Certainly beats taking the tube to work! Plus, its fun to see how many people can be crammed into one (I’ve seen 10 people at the most!) I also play a game of “spot the weird thing in the rickshaw”. My favourites were bananas and a goat (not in the same rickshaw!).
Things I won’t miss:
Traffic: There are no traffic rules. It is INSANE. And noisy due to the constant use of horns all day and night. To cross the road you always have to look both ways, even if it is a one way street as more than likely there’ll be a scooter coming the wrong way, or a stray cow or two. No one gives way, it’s survival of the biggest.
Dirt/bad habits: I’d written before about the constant spitting/urinating in public, and the litter everywhere. I have to say that Pune is better than Bangalore, but it still gets to me!
Overly obsequious service: Shop assistants follow you around constantly asking you what you want, waiters serve everything to your plate from the serving dishes (a pet hate of mine). Especially as they then watch you eat, and spring across the restaurant to wrestle the dish from your hand if you try to serve yourself even a tiny spoonful of rice. In some places you can barely eat as you’re always being asked if “everything is OK Madam”. I also hate being called Madam but that’s a different story!
Sexual harassment: I knew India was notorious for this, but it is constant, and very wearing. Staring, catcalling, getting honked at by cars, being offered lifts. To be honest, as bad as all that was I’m very grateful it wasn’t worse. The media spotlight on rapes has waned a bit, but the statistics are incredibly scary.
Endless bureaucracy: Again, covered before, but it’s everywhere. Yesterday I went to print out my flight ticket. The guy wouldn’t let me use the internet without photo ID ( a Govt rule apparently). I didn’t have my passport so showed my driving licence. He wouldn’t accept it because it didn’t have “a number” on it. I’ve no idea what number he was referring to, but he sent me home to get my passport before I could use the printer. Sigh..
Mosquitos: Enough said. I’m covered in scars from scratching bites, I look like I’ve had a pox. Classy. I am awesome at killing them now though.
There’s loads more that I can’t think of right now. The craziest things happen every day and that’s just the way of life. You can be walking down the street, turn a corner and suddenly see this:
I have plenty of stories to bore you all with when I’m home. Wish me a happy journey!