India is Happening

February 9th, 2013

 

Country/Day:      India/4

Bikes Fixed:                  5

Bikes/Day Avg:            1.25

 

If you’re keeping up you know that I’ve posted four times in the past four days. Most of those posts were typed and edited in less than 20 minutes because I’ve been absolutely exhausted — not because of jet lag, but because there’s just so darn much going on.

 

Bottom line, I’ve got a lot to share, and don’t think I’ll be running out for quite some time.

 

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Here’s a cool photo that has nothing to do with what I’m about to talk about.

 

For now I want to talk a bit more about the culture shock. That’s a term, of course — I seem to be functioning just fine and overall am not really exhibiting the symptoms of someone in shock. But things are very different here, both literally and in the sense they are different than I expected.

 

In defense of my expectations, a lot of the people I talked to did “the tourist thing.” There’s nothing wrong with the tourist thing, but I think it gives a very narrow impression of any foreign place. For a country like India, where a good way to get money is by servicing those with money (like tourists), the impression is especially narrow for anyone who goes to a “touristy” place — downtown New Dehli or Mumbai, for instance.

Yes, a lot of the things I was told about are true. There are people, cows, pigs, and dogs everywhere. They don’t use toilet paper. Many of the people speak little English, despite it being tied with Hindi for their (official) first language. There’s tuk-tuks and honking. There’s trash everywhere.

But nobody in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Dehli, is obsessed with white people. Nobody has tried to pickpocket me or swindle me out of my money. Nobody is completely uneducated or just plain doesn’t care for themselves or their country’s well-being.

 

I once read an article called ‘Ten Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America.” It was a great article and I am proud to say I knew most of the ten things. It was written by an American who travels for a living, spending the majority of his time out of the country. The only one I was really hesitant to accept was number three: “We know nothing about the rest of the world.” I thought, Man, I’ve taken AP European History, I’ve taken eight years of French, had a beer with friends who studied abroad, seen plenty of foreign films — I know at least a bit about the rest of the world.

Okay, fair. I did know a little bit. Some of the things you see in movies, and hopefully the stories your friends share with you, are true. There is bargaining in Dehli. The beer is good in Germany. But I think the problem with the movie-story education is that it’s designed to make foreign places, well, foreign. You don’t share the ordinary things because they are, well… ordinary.

So for me anyways, I used to see someone wearing a turban and go, “Oh yea, he’s different than I am.” I don’t want to do that. We all know snap judgments are terrible. But that’s just how I was raised — it’s built into who I am (I mean that as a fact, not an excuse). And I think it’s built into who most Americans are. I don’t want to get into it too much but if you still don’t understand what I’m talking about, Google that article. And of course, you’re welcome to disagree.

 

Anyways, the point is that I think the biggest shock for me is something that shouldn’t have been a shock at all. It’s that the people here are just that — people. They have families and jobs and want things like money and cars. They go out for beer and help their kids with their homework. It’s so obvious that I didn’t even think about it.

One time I stopped by Prabhat’s work to see if he was in, and ended up talking to his assistant. He had a lot to say (in perfect English) on the matter and didn’t need to be prompted.

“I think you’ll find that people here are passionate and excited about life. We like to do things just like anyone in America. I tried to go to a concert the other day but it was sold out five weeks in a row. India is happening. My favorite artist is Adele — betcha didn’t think I’d even heard of her.”

One of the bikes I fixed yesterday belonged to a fellow of 15 years old. The mechanic had called me over for some advice (don’t ask me how I know that, given our communication barrier), which I was trying to give when the kid started translating for me. Once I realized he spoke English I asked him what he used his bike for, to which he replied weekend riding, when he wasn’t in class. I asked him what class he was taking — 3D animation. On the side, he practices coding, namely in C#. He’s fifteen so goes to high school full time, and is taking the 3D animation class on the side from a community college. He said to me,

“Yea, my dad keeps telling me to pursue something more dependable, like math, but I keep telling him I’m going to do what I’m passionate about.”

He told me he thought it was cool I was there in India, doing what I was passionate about, and that I should stick with it and “not give in to the corporate monster.”

FIFTEEN.

India is happening.

 

There is something else I really appreciate about India. The people here are interested in each other and not afraid to show it. In the US, it’s sometimes rude to talk to strangers. Sure, you can hold the door for them, but unless you’ve been formally introduced, better not say anything — you might offend them. Also, staring at a stranger is practically a federal offense. Stalker! I don’t think people in the US are innately bad, I just think we’re afraid of what might happen. Red tape is slowly taking over.

In India, people are very open about what they want, and one of the things they want is to get to know you. And so we get to know each other. It’s really quite exciting. Oh, and they stare.

 

The other thing I’ve noticed about India is that people don’t over-commit themselves. In the US I think there’s almost a stigma around having free time (for this one try Googling “The Busy Trap –” again, I trust you’ll check the article if you don’t quite get what I’m talking about). I’ve been here 4 days and have already had more dates (bike rides, frisbee games, meals; we’re about to go see Lincoln) than I would have in a month in the US. It’s great.

 

Anyways — like I said, I’ve only been here 4 days. I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this and my opinion could (and likely will) change or grow. Those are just my thoughts for now.

 

– – –

 

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This time the photo is relevant. BIKES!

 

For the sake of photos I feel I should mention the bike ride I went on this morning. Every Saturday is an extended ride, and there’s a road group and a mountain group that goes. Since Prabhat only has a mountain bike for me to borrow, I go with the mountain group. We did about 50 km today — 20 to the trail, 15 on the trail in a U shape, then 15 back to Gurgaon.

 

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Oh, and the trail came with a view.

Apparently it’s not uncommon to see wild camel on that particular trail, but alas, I was not so lucky. Instead — wild peacock!

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“I hate zoos.”

Anyways, after a killer climb, which all of us walked at least part of…

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Ouch.

We headed back, stopping for tea on the way (a club tradition, apparently)…

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These are the tea dogs. We didn’t pet them because they have ____.

(insert your favorite dog-borne ailment)

…and finally went our separate ways as we entered Gurgaon. Good ride.

 

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(thought: As long as I fix at least 90 bikes in 90 days, I can take a few days off every now and then.)

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