“The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”
I was in Kot for one of the many festivals that happens during this time of year. It is the festival of women, where the women wear a new suit and bangles, do henna on their hands, and fast for the day in order to ensure a long life for their husband. They fast until the moon comes up, at which time they look through a strainer at their husband and the moon. They then throw rice and water, and eat certain foods such at a bite of coconut, sweets, and a piece of bread to break the fast. I am not sure if they actually believe this will ensure a longer life for their husband, or if they do it purely out of tradition.
Here are some other cultural differences I have found amusing or difficult here in India.
-Burping and spitting. Imagine sitting next to a very nicely dressed lady, who, halfway through a meal, lets out an enormous belch as if it were normal. Well, here it is normal. Though it made me feel slightly uncomfortable at first (and made me want to say, “where are your manners”) now I just snicker to myself when it occurs. It is the same with spitting. Everyone here makes this very loud noise in their throat, then spits, no matter where they are or who they are with.
-This picture shows the water heater that a few people I have stayed with have. After starting a fire in the bottom, you can add the cold water inside and watch it pour out boiling hot. Add a bit of cold water to it, and voila, you have your bath.
-Girls here like to dress up, and never seem to be without make-up, jewelry, and a freshly pressed suit. What I now know after staying with different families is that the minute the women get home, they all change clothes into more comfortable, much simpler suits. Guess that explains how they keep their suits looking so nice!
-Children here don’t wear diapers. They are just left to pee wherever, though their mothers are extra attentive and try to get them outside. You can imagine the obvious messy drawbacks to this approach, but a benefit is that these children are potty trained at a much younger age.
-Markets here are not at all like the extravagant markets in South America, with stands of fruit, cakes, and clothes, all in rows inside a building or outdoors. Instead a market here just refers to a street in town with shops where you can find literally everything. New toy for your child’s birthday? Check. New door handle? Right next door. Shoe fixer? Take your pick, there are four. (This one came in handy for me. Though my last pair of sandals, which I bough for two dollars in Bolivia, lasted through over a year of constant use, my hundred dollar name brand Birkenstocks lasted a whooping four months. Lucky for me I am in India, where I could get them fixed for under fifty cents.)
-The most difficult thing for me about India is that there is absolutely no sense of personal space or alone-time, things I apparently value more than I had realized. People, and especially girls, are literally never alone. They sleep with their parents or siblings, even if free rooms are available, they take a friend to walk the ten steps to get water, and they don’t have the concept of being alone, even for a moment. Maybe it’s because they live in such a densely populated country, where you are hard pressed to be alone due to the shear lack of space, or maybe it’s because everyone’s families here are so tight knit, but I can’t see how Indians survive never having a bit of time for themselves. Stemming from this is the lack of personal space or boundaries, something I’m still trying to get use to. On multiple occasions I have found Indian women going through my bags, picking up each item and asking what it is. Never mind the fact that it’s a bit awkward to have someone holding up all your underwear and examining them, it’s quite frustrating to have to redo your bags after someone has unpacked them. It is also irksome because you feel somewhat violated, and like they are being rude, though obviously it’s just another one of those cultural differences.
-Another slightly amusing, and slightly difficult thing here, that has happened on multiple occasions and just seems to be normal, has to do with sleep. If someone is sleeping, Indians have no notion of letting them sleep peacefully. They will talk loudly in the same room, turn on the lights, and even go shake the person awake for absolutely no reason. I have been awoken on many occasions like this, almost if the Indian thought well.. I’m awake, so they need to be awake too (even if they are people I don’t know!).