Tag Archives: chandigarh

Real India? No thanks, could I have mine airbrushed and airconditioned please?


The search for ‘Real India’ usually comes up when tourists and visitors see something that does not match their Googled images of India. Like tall buildings. And large stretches of smooth road with no traffic.

At this point, person A usually says something like,

‘This is not the image of India I expected. Let’s get away from the commercial areas, I want to see the real thing.’

Which, of course, is claustrophobic streets reeking of urine, dirty kids begging for money, cows  weaving in and out of traffic and lively market scenes that will later be Photoshopped into artistic black and white pictures that supposedly capture the beauty of Incredible India.

And then everyone goes home happy that they experienced the Real India, not like those fake ass tourists who lounge about in air conditioned coffee shops to complain about not being able to wear tiny shorts in public.

hey! let's travel  like the natives do!
hey! let’s travel like the natives do!

 

But even getting followed by drunk men in small towns, sampling whatever the locals eat at roadside restaurants with questionable hygiene and traveling in rickety, old buses is still not real India. That’s called budget traveling.

‘Real’ anything happens to you when you have to take on the systems of the country: It could be going to a hospital in the middle of nowhere, or having to file a report at the police station. (None of which have happened to me yet, touch wood)

Or it could be being given two days notice to find another place to live due to ‘cultural differences’ with your housemates. It could be having to negotiate with people so that you can keep your job after getting into a massive amount of shit.

Real India is when you start to realize that cultural differences are not ha ha, these people all use bidetsbut are more like,

Oh shit, I’m in trouble because I broke rules I never knew existed and how do I get these people to understand my perspective?

Let’s take the house example. Before, the other trainees had a list of somewhat reasonable complaints:

  • the washing machine looks funny
  • it’s too hot in here
  • the shower does not have enough water pressure
  • I can’t stream movies here because the internet is too slow
  • these guys are always scratching their balls when talking to us.

First world problems (source: http://imgace.com/pic/tag/rfirstworldproblems/)

And now, new housing options:

  • Creepy old female landladies hiding knives in the folds of their skirts
  • paying to live in a building with 20 other people and only sharing one toilet
  • opting to stay in a girls’ only prison ‘Paying Guesthouse’ with a 10.00pm curfew
  • Not being allowed to bring ‘non-veg’ food into the premises

Nothing like being downgraded to bring a little perspective into your life.

Chandigarh’s most famous trainee was a guy named Edward. On his birthday, he convinced a bunch of other trainees to go sleep at the train station, in order to experience ‘real India’.

A friend of AIESEC gave the cops a small bribe to keep an eye on these idiotic daring and adventurous youths. And so they got to experience ‘Real India’ in all its mosquito infested glory. And a feeling of accomplishment because they survived a night at a train station.

Congratulations! thanks for showing us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source; http://travelawait.blogspot.in/) )

Congratulations! You just showed us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source: http://travelawait.blogspot.in/)

My point? I rarely ever travel  with the explicit goal to make friends with the locals and experience ‘real‘ life in that country. I don’t want to because its difficult. And frustrating. And I would just rather have a good time and let things happen,  than going around smiling at the natives like an idiot, trying to show how well I can fit in.

And in any case, ‘Real country x’ will come around and smack you when you least expect it.

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Chandigarh is…


I work six days a week. And one Just Jere has been asking me why I am not yapping away about India.  So here is another shallow analysis of India..

As you read this post, you will notice that there is scant mention of alcohol, ‘night life ‘, ‘being social at night’, clubbing or anything that involves loud music or large amounts of alcohol.

Remember the Sikhs I mentioned earlier? Well it turns out that they are not too crazy about this booze thing either. So, while we don’t live in a dry state, booze is relegated to a pitiful little corner where no-one wants to play with it or be its friend.

I don’t know if this will change as the number of trainees rises, but that thing say…when in Rome….yeah.

So, India for me (so far…) is:

  1. Eating chapatis with potato curry and lapsing into a food comma
  2. sitting at the back of a motor bike without a helmet, roaring up the mountains at 2.00am just because we can
  3. Talking about food for at least half an hour a day (what I have eaten, what I will eat, what I will eat later on in the day. Repeat before and after most meals)
  4. Realizing one bite into a meal that, in a couple of minutes, the entire contents of my digestive system will be violently expelled. For my own good
  5. Staring dumbly as our irate house help yells at everyone in Hindi. (If she does not want me to clean her room, then why are you paying me? was the subject of one  such rant, I have been informed.)
  6. Not receiving any advance warning about any major changes that will affect me. (oh, our new house mate will be here in ten minutes.)
  7. Being asked to press ‘control jeero’ and ‘joom in the image’ and not bursting into giggles
  8. Doing that automatic, closed lip smile at people who stare for too many seconds long
  9. Smiling politely because after an entire sentence, the other person (or I) have no idea what has just been said…even though it was in English
  10. Standing awkwardly in a temple as our companions honour their deities…and going to sleep each night under the intense stare of one heavily bearded guru’s picture, not to mention Lord Ganesh over there in the corner (Angie has a great post about religion these sides)
  11. Impressing my colleagues with my knowledge of Indian food, culture and religion (thanks to Wikipedia)
  12. Learning not to ask the locals what’chute’, ‘panthre’ and other potentially offensive nicknames mean
  13. Waking up every morning and wondering what (mostly) entertaining insanity will be brought my way

Coming soon: meeting people I can make fun of, new friends and something interesting to say.

Image

Even my picture is boring. Sigh…