I don’t have a thesis for this post yet. Popper might not really believe this, but I am confused as to what my perception of my stay in my new surroundings should be. What do I perceive?
- Ijtihaad – I use this because any translation would lose the varied nuances. A shop down my street is run by a family. They offer rentals, courier services, print shop, photocopying, money changing, bill payment services, laundry services and much more. Reading their board of services may take over a minute. Did I mention they also do ticketing? I’ve recently subscribed for an internet connection. The engineers who’ve come so far have been amazing. They call ahead, and upon arrival commence on their job with a minimum of fuss. I’ve often seen them calling their shift managers and asking speedy responses citing, “customer’s leaving in 20 minutes,” as their reason. They want a job done, but don’t seem to be shoddy about it.
- Honor – the word is a bond here, in a very real sense (so far). I’ve experimented on this with rickshaw drivers, shopkeeps, and even a locksmith. In each case, despite difficulties their word was a bond. In the case of the rickshaw drivers, once a deal was struck, traffic or no traffic, they would not demand more. In case of the locksmith he fashioned 3 keys and charged me 70 Rs/key. All 3 failed to work on the first try. So he came over, worked for nearly 40 mins fixing the keys and even making a new one on the spot. No further charge.
- Laxness – Rickshaw wallahs, despite wanting to increase their incomes, often take long tea breaks and refuse customers, almost whimsically. Perhaps this is an outcome of salaried jobs. I felt the same way when I tried booking a railway ticket in Bhikaji Cama place where most ticketing agencies seemed to have given up on railway tickets, and were not really disposed to do much or offer any assistance. Another time, the back-end guys who were assisting the engineers seemed to be indisposed. “They’ve all gone home,” growled the engineer at my place while he called the shift supervisor and complained about the attitude.
- Mindlessness – I’ve seen so many boarded up shops and so many in misplaced locations. In a hidden corner in the Defense Colony flyover market I found a boarded up travel agent. Now, who’d go there?! It’s under a flyover, for crying out loud and not even visible unless you’re standing in front of it! In Bhikaji Cama place every other shop appears boarded up, or if not, then there’s a 50-50 chance that the business name listed near the entrance is different from the business itself. Near Bhikaji Cama place appears a government run textile promotion area. Of the vast space only 50 or so shops are open. And I think I was one of the ten people wandering about. The whole compound appeared completely empty. I left the place with a heavier tread.
- Helpfulness – I’ve asked for directions so often, and I’m continually surprised how much effort people are willing to put in. The other day, hunting down the shop which sold gas connections, I found myself in the flyover market – a market under the flyover linking Defense Colony and Jangpura. When I couldn’t figure out the instructions, most folks walked with me a bit to point out the right direction. But perhaps I’m seeing overmuch here. Yet, I feel that people are often willing to take some time to explain things and help out.
- Chaos – the roads here are chaotic. If Egypt was crazy, it’s the jungle here! Respecting lanes seems to be out of the question. Much of the road vehicles speed about at 40 kmph! And the horns – they’re really meant to intimidate. I flinch every time one blows near by. In other ways it reminds me of Agami of old, or Mumbai too. You have the chic stores and you step into a puddle of sewage right outside. My landlord’s parked an old vehicle in the parking slot that comes with our apartment. He’s rightfully scared that if left empty, we’ll lose it – forever! With petroleum prices up, the government is subsidizing electric bikes (no pedals there). These bikes run at a max speed of 30kmph, and require no license or helmet and their range is approx. 70 kms – great for commuting around the city @ 30 kmph! Now, why not subsidize real bicycles and really get everyone fit and healthy? Bicycles cost around 7,000 Rs. Electrics cost around 24,000 Rs, after subsidy (approx. 4,000 Rs per bike)
- Madness – everyday that I read the news, I’m impressed by how incompetent some people can be. A policeman recently tried to arrest a car thief. They blockaded the car from 3 sides. And the policeman approaches from behind (the only unblockaded exit) with the intention of blowing out the tires with his gun!? Are the policemen such great marksmen – and forget marksmanship, they really want to shoot to deflate tires!? What about those simple things like spike strips?They’re portable and probably cost less over time and don’t ricochet and hurt innocent bystanders! And this same car thief was apprehended thrice before and escaped thrice. His last escape: the 3 policemen escorting him on a highway went off to fetch water leaving him alone in a car they’d hitched a ride from. D-uh! Are they really that stupid?! Let’s not even go anywhere near politics.
- Quirkiness – Defense Colony Club. For the first time, I felt out of place! I breezed into the place and found the garden filled with tables, quite a few occupied. The women were engaged in game of lotto. In the chilled indoor bar, their men – presumably – guzzled down alcoholic beverages while munching on tandoori chicken or a variant. I asked for a table indoors and was turned down on account of wearing slippers and a collar less t-shirt.
- Accent – I really have to ask people to repeat themselves often over the phone. As when the engineers called and I had a hard time figuring out who was on the line! Airtel – how can you make that sound unfamiliar?! They do. And Sarah claims I’m picking it up too; rolling the ‘r’ with gusto when saying the word, “throwing.”