The Dance with Public Transportation
I, like many others on this subcontinent, am not a proud car owner. My preferred mode of conveyance has always been that kaleidoscopic circus on wheels we all know (and not always love) as public transportation. It’s a world unto itself with its roster of eccentric characters, variety show of sights, and of course, its unique trials. Using it beautifully encapsulates some of the everyday struggles of life in India.
Take the instance of buses for instance, they are more of a running joke, quite literally in fact. They don't always stop at the designated venues. Even getting concession tickets is such a hassle because they often run out. Who knew tickets could pull a Houdini, right? I have seen my son, Nikhil engaging in an Olympic sprint to catch one; sometimes winning but mostly coming home with a sheepish grin.
Then there are autos and rickshaws, the lesser evil or so you think until you begin to negotiate a rate. These three-wheeled monsters can demand rates comparable to a last-minute flight ticket if the weather's just unpleasant enough. I have, on occasion, even resorted to teleconferencing from the back of one just to make it on time.
The Wild Weather Woes
No one prepares you for the bipolar nature of Indian weather. One moment, you're enjoying the balmy sunshine, then all of a sudden you're channeling Noah, building an ark because it’s been raining cats and dogs (and sometimes cows and elephants too if you dwell in the more rural areas).
The monsoon season, best known for its overflowing roads and power outages, plays havoc with everyday life too. Our parrot, Chiku, has often added his own running commentary to the calamity, squawking excitedly every time the lights flicker off. Priyanka once humorously remarked it's his version of a disco night.
Summer is a beast altogether. The sun here doesn’t believe in subtlety and outdoor errands transform into voluntary roasting sessions. My daughter, Sejal still insists on her midday playtime though, despite resembling a ripe tomato afterwards.
The Barrage of Bureaucracy
The infamous Indian bureaucracy – a labyrinth of red tape, relentless paperwork, and seemingly endless queues. Gathering a document isn't a task, but a quest straight out of an Indiana Jones film except, there’s no treasure at the end of it.
I recall one time when I rushed to the post office to pick up a parcel sent by Priyanka's aunt living in England. However, the package had seemingly gone on a world tour from one post office to another. An entire week was devoted just to trace its inconceivable voyage. The ordeal was almost worthy of an epic movie saga in itself, full of twists and turns I didn't see coming.
The Conspiracy of Communication
No other country has such an algebra of languages, dialects, and regional variations as we do. It adds to the cultural charm, but communication in India is a complex board game you didn’t consent to play.
My dealings with our Tamil speaking neighbor are a testament to this fact. Despite sharing the same country, I often find myself in a game of expressive hand gestures when conversing with Mr. Subramaniam. I can hardly forget the time I asked him for a ladder and ended up with a ladle instead.
A Clash of Customs
An Indian's life is a constant people-pleaser's guide. We might have a crazy number of diverse cultures, but each one comes with its own set of intricate etiquette that we adhere persistently.
We're expected to touch the feet of elders as a show of respect. Forgiving the momentary awkwardness, it gets complicated when you're not sure about someone's age. Once, I ended up touching the feet of a guy younger than me, thinking he was elder because of his salt-and-pepper hair.
The Indian Spa aka Indian Bathrooms
The quintessential Indian bathroom is an untamed beast, a type of adventure not for the faint-hearted. Sure, it’s where you go to cleanse yourself but sometimes, you come out dirtier than you entered.
Let me tell you about the day I encountered a disgruntled frog in my bathroom. I'm not sure who was more surprised - me, Leo the Corgi, or the frog itself. I had never used a broom with such intent until that day. We still chuckle over this incidence sometimes at our family dinners.
The Masala of Street Food
Lastly, the tantalizing trap of street food! It lures even the most diet-conscious individuals into an alley of delectable sin. But there's a fine line between sensory heaven and stomach hell, and we've all been to both ends.
Never has this been truer than during Diwali of '21 when the irresistible pani puris had everyone running to the restroom in a relay race for the ages. It came to be known in the family circles as the year of the Great Diwali Dash. However, it taught us a valuable yet memorable lesson on the impact of street food on our delicate digestive systems.
Much like an elaborate Indian thali, life in India is a complex medley. It's vibrant, exuberant, with a bit of chilli thrown in. In the humdrum of these struggles, we find our charm, our moments, our laughter. Just remember to relish every morsel and occasionally share a laugh, because isn’t that what we Indians do best?