“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is not cure for cuiosity.”
As I am curled up under my down sleeping bag sick in bed, I have decided to share with you some of the funny or unusual things I have encountered here in India.
One of my favorite things about walking around in India are the cows. They definitely rule the streets, and boy do they know it. They always have right of way (you don’t have much of a choice really, when a huge bull has decided to slowly amble down the street, you kind of have to just let it do its thing), and they are usually quite friendly. Sometimes though, they will try and head-butt you, so watch out! The donkeys are my other favorite part. Like the dogs who roam the streets, the donkeys seem to be strays, though who knows, maybe someone owns them after all. They go through the trash, and wander aimlessly through town just like the cows. The cutest are definitely the donkey families, where mama and papa donkey lead the way, with a little donkey stumbling behind.
We all tend to stare at people who are different than us, but where I come from, I was taught staring was rude. Obviously that same lesson is not taught here in India. It is not uncommon for people, especially in small villages, to stop in their tracks and just stare blatantly as I walk by. And it’s not just the men, the women do it too. Even if you try staring back at them, or saying hi, they seem to have no shame and keep right on watching. Even worst is when I have my bike, tent, or stove, which all seem to attract ridiculous amounts of attention. I have had someone walk right up to my bike, sit criss cross apple sauce, and stare at it intently. Other people try and take pictures of it, and others still will come up and shift the gears. If I set up my tent within sight of people, inevitably some of the curious villagers will come over, sit down, and watch me set it up. I have already given lessons on how to work my stove to a group of police and army officials, and I am sure I will be showing it off many more times through my trip. Though the reason I am here is to meet the people, and see their different ways of life, it does get tiring getting watched all the time. Sometimes, you just want to eat dinner and brush your teeth without an audience, but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible.
You can find absolutely everything here. Need a new zipper? Great, a guy down the street is selling them on the sidewalk. Or a certain kind of chord? Easy, the man in the next alley has quite the collection of those. Need your shoes repaired? For 150 rupees (3$) you can find one of the shoe shiners who is more than willing to fix any broken shoe. There are no super markets here where you walk in and buy everything you need. Instead, there is a person selling every little item you could ever dream of. In the market, a few venders sell socks, others sell shirts, and others sell jam and dried apricots. For fruit and veggies you will have dozens of ladies selling their crops all in a row on the street. Though it seems normal to me now, sometimes, as I walk by someone trying to sell dozens of some obscure item, I realize how different the street life is here compared to North America.
It is not uncommon to walk down the street and see guys holding hands. It’s not because they are gay, it’s because, in a culture that suppresses the idea of women and men together, they have no other outlet. Since they aren’t allowed to show their affection to women, they show it to their man friends instead.
Getting change is impossible here (just as it was in South America). Sometimes getting change when buying something for twenty rupees (30 cents) with a 100 rupee bill (2$) is difficult. Even worst, is the fact that ATMs give 500 (10$), and sometimes even 1000 (20$) rupee bills. They are a pain to exchange, and often the restaurant or shop you try and use it at has to ask all the shops around for smaller bills.
The honking cars in India are a blessing and a curse. Up here in the Himalayas, where there is not much traffic, it’s essential, especially to a cyclist. Almost every curve is completely blind, so as a car approaches, it honks. They also honk when they are coming up behind me as their way of saying “hey, I’m behind you and going to pass.” In big cities though, the honking is a nightmare. Imagine hundreds of cars all backed up in traffic, and instead of waiting patiently, they all honk their horns as many times as possible while they are pushing though. Often times cars will go in the wrong lane, or keep going when it’s obviously just going to make a bigger traffic jam, which just leads to more honking. Though the driving here could be seen as erratic, dangerous, and just plain crazy, I actually think drivers here are much better than back home. Sure, stop lights are seen more of a suggestion, and there is no such thing as a speed limit, but drivers here actually pay attention. They are able to take into account the large truck on one side, the cow in front, and the rickshaw swerving into their lane, and still manage to squeeze by unharmed.
Everyone always squats. The ground is so dirty, so it seems to be the solution is to squat, just above the ground, instead of sitting down like I am use to. Though it gives you quite the leg workout, I now frequently find myself sitting like an Indian while I cook.
People are very creative here. For instance for bike lube, they use sewing machine oil, since there is no oil made specially for bikes. Indians can also fix absolutely everything, and no matter how large or heavy an item is, they always find a way to transport it.
The things that may seem strange if you were to visit, like the squatting toilets, the electricity outages, or the fact that cars honk constantly, seem completely normal to me now. In fact, if I were to arrive back in North America tomorrow, I would be confused as to why everything is so clean, why people wait patiently in line, and why there are no cows roaming around downtown.