Thursday, July 27, 2006

What I learned today...

i had realized a while back that mother india is a very macho country, indeed. but this morning it was brought home anew.

Leaving my parking space outside the gym, i was pulling our SUV into a U-turn - waved on by the gym’s “watchman.”   Out of nowhere a black Tata Indigo veered around the curve - he would have plowed into me as i was making my U.  I stopped short. He stopped short. The rickshaw wala that had somehow got between us stopped short.  No harm, no foul.  Just frayed nerves.  Our man in the Tata Indigo was very upset with yours truly.  He remained stopped in that position, holding up traffic shaking his hand at me, muttering god-knows-what.  Finally, he finished - esp. with the prompting of the rickwala’s horn.  So we all drove on further.

Tata man was driving slow. So rickshaw man and i passed him.  I saw that as i passed him, he was still waving his hand at me and muttering.  So i waved my hand back and muttered, too - as i thought that was the proper etiquette.  after all, it takes two to almost have an accident, right?  

But i was wrong, this angered tata man even more.  He raced ahead and pulled his vehicle to a stop right in front of mine, blocking me and any other traffic behind me.  He got out of the car and came toward my vehicle. I remembered my husband’s advice and did not roll down the window.  I just stared at him.  He stood outside there lecturing me, rhetorically asking where i learned to drive.  Just for the record, i learned to drive in India (2000 rupees for 10 hours of driving).  

I was a bit shaken.  That guy could have been even nuttier and harmed me or my vehicle.  Finally, lots of buses and lorries were honking at him, so he got back in his car.   I stalked him from behind.  I saw that he had a chick in his vehicle with him, probably his wife.  I think what i had done to him was too much for his ego to take and he cracked.

he must really have a small peepee, dontcha think?  

moral of the story:  don’t do that again.  the man in question may have a small peepee and a big woman in the car.

point to ponder:  are indian chicks impressed when their man yells at another woman?  

Wow, you have two live-in maids!

some of my friends back home think i am living it up here just because i have two live-in maids. Like them, before i came here i thought these maids would be like the ones that worked for Daddy Warbucks or the White House - literate, English-speaking, possessing common sense (like don’t mix whites and colors), and automatically knowing what to do and when to do it.  

i’ve been here 10 months now and gone thru 4 maids and 3 drivers. I can tell you what they are not like.  They are not the sharpest knife in the drawer, they usually have had a lot of tragic crap happen to them in their lifetimes (orphaned or husband walked out on them or parents just didn’t give a sh*t); they may steal anything from personal care products(creams, makeup, hair clips) to milk and sugar.  They may know little English, and less personal hygiene.  These people usually come from such a level of want that we spoiled members of the developed world can only imagine.  

That’s the worst of them that you will find.  Now, let me illustrate the best that you will find.  They will attach themselves to you so that you really feel they are part of your family.  They will call you elder brother or sister and be a more devoted younger sister or brother than maybe even your own.  When your cell phone rings, they will run and get it for you before you miss the call.  They will cry when they hear that your baby is sick with a terrible virus, and spend a sleepless night with you nursing the baby back to health.  They will learn English from you and teach you a little of their own tongue.  They will bring you back special festival food from home, and invite you to their family weddings and christenings.  

Of course, the best are extremely hard to find and keep.  Especially as progress marches double-time thru the subcontinent.  

Bummer of a Tamil class

Date: Saturday, July 15, 2006 11:02
Topic: bummer of a tamil class

i finally reconnoitered with my tamil teacher after a long hiatus.  Tamil is a language spoken in the state of Tamil Nadu and much of south India.  I decided to learn tamil because my maids speak tamil and i want to be able to directly converse with them.  Also, it is very similar to Malayam (the language spoken in the state of Kerala, which is where my husband’s family is from.)

Sadly, one of her aunties passed away that very morning.  I asked why she was sitting there with me when her thoughts are probably in Kancheepuram (where her auntie lived).  She told me it would take too long to get there and come back, and she didn’t want to miss work since she just started a new job.  Instead, she explained to me all the rituals and customs surrounding death in Tamil Nadu.  

The eldest son or child is the primary person responsible for the deceased’s funeral arrangements.  They perform all the pujas (prayers), wash the body, and light the funeral pyre.  The family cannot partake in any celebrations for one year after the date of death (no weddings, no festivals).  During that one year, the family is supposed to offer prasad (food offering to the gods) not to the gods, but to the dead person’s soul, and the prasad should first be fed to crows before being offered to anyone else.  It is believed that crows carry the souls of the dead to the next life — I think she was saying that you want to be good to crows because they will be part of the team reassigning your dearly departed’s soul.  


Drivers say the darnedest things

i was headed to yet another stupid errand, when my driver says to me...“ma’aam, see that lady?”

I looked at the lady he indicated.  She was a solid-bodied lady, dressed in red sari and blouse; not at all beautiful, but she appeared immaculately groomed, with braided hair, coordinating jewelry, and bindi centered on her forehead.  I was about to ask my driver if he had beer goggles on.  “Yeah, so? what about her?” I asked.

“That’s is not a lady.  She is a man.  They are called ”ombideh.“” He practically giggled.  “They really think they are women, but they have men’s bodies.... seeing them is supposed to be the good luck.  If the first thing you see in the morning is one of these ”ladies,“ it is considered the good luck.  Also, cows and dead bodies.”

India has taught me the value of a dollar

it is largely claimed that if you come to india, she will change you.  she certainly has changed me.  I now know the true value of a dollar.

A dollar (as of this push) is worth 46 rupees.  That is no small change.  46 rupees can buy a full meal for you and a friend at a pretty nice restaurant (Friendly’s class), 4 liters of Aquafina, cheap seats at a matinee, or you can get your eyebrows threaded (the ancient counterpart to waxing).

The area where i think most americans would enjoy the cost-savings is in the medicinal area - i pay just 400 rupees ($9) for my monthly supply of three allergy and asthma medications, 150 rupees to see a generalist and 250 rupees for a specialist. There is no insurer picking up any part of the tab, this is all billed to and paid by me, the consumer.  the biggest bargain is my husband’s epilepsy medication - it costs $1/pill without insurance, here it is a little over a dollar (49 rupees) for 10 pills!  Next Tuesday I have an appt. for a slew of routine annual medical checks – 1150 rupees ($24).  

Our daughter was the main reason my husband and I decided to move to bangalore.  Over here, I am able to be anjali’s primary caretaker all 24 hours of the day, assisted by two live-in maids.  When I want to go for work, or any other baby-inhospitable errand, I can leave her at home with two maids, and they mutually adore each other.  I pay these two ladies the same amount I paid one lady to come once a week.  

Maybe overpopulation is the answer after all.  :)