Thursday, December 28, 2006

You know you're in India when...

It's pretty easy to start assembling lists like this it seems:  You know you're in India
...when you get lost in an auto-rickshaw with wet henna on your hands so you can't actually touch anything, including your maps.
...when you spend the morning in your beautiful sari (that took three people to put on you) in the bathroom throwing up because you forgot to take your malaria pill with enough water.
...when you're late for everything and as your explanation start telling people, "I'm on India time."
...when, after eating here for a week, you're singled out at a formal dinner - after you've been eating for 15 minutes and are nearly done with the food on your plate - and asked "Do you need a spoon?"  And you're actually kind of offended.  (I can eat with my hands like everyone else, thank you.)
Blogger doesn't seem to be loading so I'm emailing it in, so sorry if the formatting is whack again.  Maisnon and I have made it to Mysore in one piece.  We were actually pretty sad to be leaving Bangalore, not that we actually saw any of the city.  We both considered that part of the trip to be "the wedding" as opposed to actually "visiting India," which is just fine because the wedding and living at the house was an experience in itself.  I did in fact wear the sari yesterday, because we managed to find a ready-made blouse that matched it.  (Chai's mom has generously offered to have my formal blouse made for me with their tailor in Banglore, to send to me later just so I have the full outfit.) 
One of the most interesting parts for me - not of the wedding itself - has been the curious attention I get here.  Except for one of Chai's husband's law school friends, I literally haven't seen another white person until today at our hotel in Mysore.  It's no wonder I get stared at so much.  Lucky for me, Chai's family have completely welcomed me and enjoy that I'm trying so hard to fit into the culture.  The aunties all tell me how "beautiful" I looked in the lenga (the skirt/midrift outfit) and especially the sari (one even oddly said to me, "We all wear the saris but for some reason when someone like you wears them they seem so nice."  Hmm...what do you say to that?)  I've actually never been so conscious of my hair and skin color in my life, not that anyone means it offensively, it's just always the topic of conversation, way more than I thought it would be.  My little fan club likes to tell me at random intervals how I have "nice hair," and other random comments.  Often I'll be part of a 5-6 person conversation and one will say something about "white people" and follow with a pause and " offense of course."  I was thinking, most of my friends are of so many different backgrounds that we're pretty comfortable talking about race and all that, so it doesn't really bother me, but I guess I've never been somewhere where, like I said, I'm not just in the minority, I'm literally the only one for miles and miles. 
Nevertheless, I'm starting to adapt pretty well, thanks only to the frequent, welcome, and happily-given hand-holding of Chai's family members.  At dinner on the second day of the wedding, I sat next to Acrati (fan club founder), where we had banana leaves set out at each place.  Acrati asks me if I've eaten off one before, and when I said no she enthusiastically showed me how to pour water from my cup onto the leaf and rub it down so it was clean, before they served the food.  I've gotten detailed descriptions of the food, advice on where and how to travel, and so much more.  I'm asked ten times a day if I like the food here and "is it spicy?" ("Yes, but I like it.") 
So yes, we drove to Mysore today and stopped to check out the palace of Tipu Sultan along the way, which was pretty neat but not super glamorous.  It's kind of depressing because the Brits have stripped everything here, so there were mostly a lot of posters saying, "We had these great coins and clothes, here's a picture, you can find them at this museum in London."  I added a few more fan club members, a group of 5 brothers and sisters who were wandering the palace near me.  The older brother (maybe 10-11) asked me where I was from, then my name, and continued to ask me questions - even my ethnicity (he thought I was French) - for about 15 minutes.  The youngest little girl who didn't seem to speak much English yet (but was wearing one of those frat boy visors) just gave me the 1000 watt smile and "Hello!" every few minutes.  He actually asked me something like, "It's easy for you to spend here, right?"  And then asked if I had "currency."  Alarm bells went off, as they do, but I think he was less of a pickpocket and more of a coveter of a possible American dollar or quarter he could have.  I told him I changed it all, cause I pretty much go by the same rule I go by at home - that is, I don't get my wallet out for anyone unless I'm actually purchasing something. 
I guess that's enough for now.  Maisnon and I finally have some time to relax, so it's nice just to sit here for awhile and check my email.  A travel guy at the hotel booked the jungle resort for me on Jan 1 and 2, so I'm headed to Ooty on the 31-1, where I guess I'll be spending new year's eve among the tata tea plantations.


At 3:39 PM, December 28, 2006, Anonymous sylvie said...

i miss heather.

At 3:49 PM, December 28, 2006, Blogger Raj said...

very nice post!!

At 6:45 PM, December 28, 2006, Anonymous Paul said...

great post- so true! you should talk to my mom about the white thing some time- heh! once we went somewhere and this mentally retarded girl kept trying to wipe the "powder" off my mom's face. you know you're in India when you ask someone a yes or no question and they nod their head sideways, but somehow you know what that means.


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