A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Dear India,

I never thought I’d be woken by a marching band in Bombay; and for a wedding, no less. Healthier than a jolt of coffee, I suppose. You always find a way to surprise me. Which reminds me: last night I unpacked my dinner package to find the restaurant mixed my mint and coconut chutneys in one bag! You wouldn't mix chutneys for an Indian's meal, that's for sure. I complained to a friend who agreed they are “mad people,” and then I found hidden toothpicks in the paneer (cheese) in the sauce—to which she replied, “Gone case.” Perfectly put. Speaking of which: all the food in India is so flavorful, except the cheese. Why is the cheese so plain, India? I know you love your dairy! Yes, I’m used to European cheese—but even Amul’s gouda and mozzarella flavors taste like little more than a slight variation in texture of paneer. Reminds me of Cochin, as a friend and I quickly walked past the local fish market stench and responded to sellers with a no-we’re-veg, a particularly persistent fish-walla yelled after us, "Veg fish, veg crab, veg prawn!"


On Thursday an American friend is hosting a veg Thanksgiving dinner (not only would it be tough to find good turkey here, none of us have ovens, only cook-tops), and more significantly, it’s the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, where the trial for Kasab and other gunmen is progressing significantly faster than the one for 9/11. Kudos to you, Indian democracy! (Photo: Tree of Life Memorial at the Taj Hotel)

Now I have a question. “Hello? Hello? Hello?” Can you explain why when people can’t speak English instead of passing the phone to someone who can, they repeat “Hello?” as if they can’t hear me, until they either understand my poor Hindi or I give up and call back? I know my tongue isn’t used to pronouncing certain words, and sometimes, I admit, my ear can't detect the difference between what I’m saying and what I’m supposed to be saying. I’m sorry! I’m trying! And repeating “Hello?” (or occasionally hanging up on me) is not a very helpful response.

Speaking of language, “Come!” is another popular phrase, as opposed to the polite “Please follow me” I’m used to. I laughed the other day to learn an American friend’s helpful neighbor always answers her door with, “Yes, tell me!” India, you’re very direct. Friends have told me numerous times to stand up for myself, be more forceful, lodge complaints. I’m sorry, India, I'm just not an arguer. I find most conflict unnecessary and stressy (yes, I know I went to law school—but for policy and conflict resolution!). But last weekend I finally had my first argument. With a taxi driver. (Photo: from a modern art exhibit at Jehangir Art Gallery)



I got into a taxi, told the driver where to go, and he started in the wrong direction. With a “Bas! Bas! Bas!” (Enough!) I immediately made him pull over and let me out. Then I got into another taxi, said where I wanted to go, and the driver replied in English,  “Yes I know where it is.” I didn’t believe him, but I knew how to get there, and at least he started driving in the right direction. Now, I’m concerned if you can’t correctly navigate to a neighborhood 15 minutes from me (hence leaving that first taxi), and if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you could at least follow my directions when I say and then yell and then wildly gesture for you to turn left or right instead of pulling over, getting out (meter running) and asking people on the street who make directions up to be polite. At one point the road had been blasted, we stopped, and I thought surely he’ll turn around now and listen to me, but no: he rumbled that taxi over the rubble and continued on his own insane invented path (by which point I had no idea where we were and there were no other taxis around). Fifteen minutes from home and one hour later, he wanted 4 times more than I should’ve paid. India, I’ve been kicked out of taxis halfway to my destination and told they don’t want to go any farther, turned away because they don’t feel like driving somewhere, driven in circles just to make extra money, and dropped somewhere completely wrong which the driver argues is right, and this morning I’d had it. I told him I’d pay him 50 rupees ($1) or nothing. This of course led to an argument that quickly morphed into the main neighborhood attraction, and at least ten people hurried over to see the scene and intervene on my behalf in Hindi and Marathi. Like pedestrians, taxi and rickshaw drivers are also always at fault (except in a collision between the two, I think pedestrians would face more blame).

So, to avoid a repeat of further drama (and to partake in a deliciously fishy lunch), a friend drove me home. Along the way an officer pulled him over for a dubious traffic offence, for which my friend offered to “settle things,” meaning a small bribe. When the officer saw whites in the car he waived us on with a license check and a warning. Thanks for the appearance of legitimacy and legality in front of me, India! I like to think things can work that way—especially since I'm in law.

Also, India, I’ve meticulously assembled holiday packages and cards, and I’m finally ready to post them today. Please don’t steal my mail. There’s no money or anything exciting inside; I'm just sending some love.


One last request: I live in a Silence Zone. It’s also a one-way. Please stop honking when you’re one foot from me and I’m walking on the side of my street (right); I see you, and you’re not supposed to be driving that direction anyway. Not even if you’re trying to be more legit by backing your car up the entire block. The next street over is one-way the other way, and you can drive by Gandhi’s house (left). So try Laburnum instead.

Love,

Valerie

P.S. I know I don’t go through a huge roll of toilet paper in a week. I’m onto you and your increased usage of the extra bathroom, flat-mates! But you probably by now know I won’t start an argument to save a mere dime, so just consider yourself On Notice (like Colbert and the bears).

Friendly tip: if you use dashboard, you might like to follow my blog by clicking the follow link on the top of the screen, which may be more convenient than randomly checking to see if I've posted something new. xoxo

Posted byValerie at 2:43 PM  

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