Friday, January 1, 2010

Some Oddities and Observations

1. When you walk into a shop in the US, most shoppers appreciate a brief greeting and then the freedom to browse without pestering. But at a restaurant, you usually want prompt and repeated visits from your waiter, attending to your every whim. In India it's exactly the opposite. You cannot enter a store without the salesman unrolling every rug, draping you in countless saris and insisting you sit for chai while trying on every shoe in his inventory. Protests only make this worse - his staff work doubletime to body-block the exit. Meanwhile, you sit unnoticed in a restaurant while your waiter eats, talks on the phone, goes out for a smoke, or leaves entirely.

2. The infamous Indian head bobble is exactly that, a bobblehead motion in a side to side manner, much like the 6 inch baseball player versions on the hood of people's cars. It can mean "yes," "no," "I don't speak English," or "your train left hours ago." it's one thing when being led down the wrong street by a bobblehead policeman. It's another thing when getting your nose pierced and asking the girl if the nosering has been disinfected. In something other than water, preferably. Sometimes the situation calls for a definitive answer.

3. Dogs here love foreginers. They don't really care for the Indians, it seems (and Indians have told me this) but they can smell a sucker when they see one. Foereigners are the only one's who pet them, talk to them, and give them leftover chicken Masala.

4. Grown men walk around holding hands. So9 do strapping male teenagers. Sometimes its a complete interlace, walk in the park style. Sometimes its just a casual pinky-finger link as they navigate through traffic. They also spoon each other when sleeping. I came home one night to find two of the male coworkers canoodling in the hallway in front of my door. Now if you're thinking India will be the next to jump on the gay pride bandwagon, you're dead wrong. It's just the way men hang out together. Meanwhile men and women are all but forbidden from and physical contact in public. Go figure.

5. It's not rude to stare. It's actually quite permissible to gather in large groups around a lonely foreginer and stare at her FOR HOURS, particularly when she's waiting at the train station. It's also quite acceptable to get close enough over her shoulder to read the blog entry she's typing on her iPod, and if this gets a trifle boring, to request that she take you through her digital p[hoto collection instead.

6. Being a celebrity must be the worst life ever. Particulalry one that people recognize and request photographs with. I'm just guessing, but based on my experience in a park the other day, I'd say incognito is the life for me. I was the only non-Indian in this small, non-touristy town, and the entire park stopped and watched every step I took, the whole time I was there. I was stopped by two girls for a photograph with them. Then two more braved it. Then their mom's wanted photos with me. Then their dads. Then came the babies. Lots and lots of babies. 45 minutes and countless photos later, I'm ready for the silver screen. Nah, not the life for me.

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