Tag Archives: driving

So hard to explain………

I have been really grappling with how to share my transition back to America. It’s hard to explain. Sometimes I am truly paralyzed at the thought of doing it all justice which means that I have not been putting fingers to keyboard very much and I am afraid that some of it is going to slip away from my memory.

At least ten times a day, I look around and think (sometimes to myself and sometimes to any poor soul standing near me) that America is exactly the opposite of India. And I really, really mean that. It is exactly the opposite! And that does not mean bad or good – just so extremely different that I know my words would have a hard time describing it accurately.

This morning at Walmart was no exception. Just walking into Walmart is a little bit overwhelming. Heck, just getting to Walmart is different. I grab my car keys and I hop in the drivers seat and I drive myself there. No waiting for Rajinder to fill his water bottle. No giving a list to Francis and Rani for what I want. No asking Ravi if he needs anything. No trying to translate what he actually asks for. No waiting for the guard to unlock/open the gate. And certainly no wondering if I will be able to find what I need. Just me, myself, and I hop in the car.

I control the radio – hey, I listen to the radio. I decide which route to take. This way or that way is up to me once more.  On the way to the store, I pass tons of green trees along roads where (nearly) everyone stays in their own lane (everyone except those dingbats who are texting and driving – seriously that needs to stop). No one honks their horn. People stop at red lights and use their blinkers. There are no wild cows or dogs on the road. In fact, people are walking dogs on leashes and they are fatter than they need to be – the dogs and many of the people. There are no children begging or doing tricks on the side of the road. There are no bicycles with 3 or even 4 people on them. There are no women on the backs of motorcycles with their dupattas (scarves) flowing dangerously close to the back tire. There are street signs (in English) absolutely everywhere. There are no people running to literally catch a bus that is so full of people that it already looks like it might explode.

I pull into Walmart’s abundant parking lot and I pick where I want to park. I don’t have to tip anyone to push another car out of the way to make room for me. I don’t have to ask Rajinder where I should meet him when I am done or explain how long I think it might take. A man greets me as I enter the store and I get a cart. Oh sweet shopping cart heaven. No one follows me through the store. No one asks me 25 times if I need help. Two people and two carts can easily pass each other on each aisle. And while I am shopping I can get a Subway sandwich (with meatballs and s.a.f.e. lettuce), order eyeglasses, fill a prescription, develop photos, and just about anything else I want to do.

I do have to push my own cart and pull my own items from the shelves. And it takes me so much longer because there is so much more to look at and so many more choices. But I only have to go to one store.

The reason I went to Walmart was to get clear trash bags for the recycling container. Once again, we are responsible for our own recycling. And we have two trash cans in the kitchen. One for regular trash and another for anything that can be recycled – paper, plastic, glass, and metal items. So I like clear bags for the recycling. That way we can tell which is which and the trash men know which bags have recycling in them. I also wanted small bags for cleaning out the cat litter.

Here again I am assaulted by choices. Upteen size and color options. I really just want trash bags but now I have to decide if I want white, flexwhite, green, black, clear, or slightly opaque. Do I want handles or ties or looped handles. Do I need 8 gallon, 15 gallon, 33 gallon, or yard bags. It takes me just a second to focus. But then I found the recycling bags I wanted.

Now onto the small trash bags. Holy trashbag batman – they come in colors – vanilla and mint green. Then, I realize – not just colors but scents. Huh? I fully understand that perfume was invented to cover up body odor – but we have moved away from that because it can really be a toxic combination. And as such, deodorant was invented. Perfume is much better on a bathed person and scents are much better for candles. And I know the makers of these cute little mint green 8 gallon bags with handles did not know that they would be used for litter – but the potential certainly existed that they would be used for something smelly. And not for nothing, who decided that 76 bags was the right number of bags. That must have been a fun meeting. And who lost out – the person who thought that 88 was just the right number?

So India is the land where not much of the trash finds its way into a bag and America is the land where trash bags are supposed to smell like a cupcake or a bowl of ice cream. I really don’t know if this makes sense to anyone who has not lived in both places – but honestly, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is different, different.

And the the final irony is that I searched and searched for these small bags for our kitties poop only to be given about 15 bags of almighty plastic to hold all of the c-r-a-p that I bought at checkout. And they are the same, same size and they do not smell like cotton candy and they would work perfectly fine for holding cat litter. And I would be recycling if I just used those.

On to checking out. Even that is different. The woman in front of me was using coupons. Dang, I forgot about that. Note to self – get Sunday paper, cut out coupons, and remember to bring them to the store – then remember to use them at checkout.

Most transactions in India are in cash – so the debit card machine temporarily stunned me. Do I want cash back? It’s a simple question – but I forgot that it prompts you for that. I stand there waiting to be done – and the people behind me think I have dropped in from another planet – how can I possibly not know what to do here. Okay, okay. No, I don’t want cash – well, unless it is a door prize – but I am guessing that is not the case, so no, I don’t need cash back. But that is not the end of it. Do I want to contribute to a fundraiser for a children’s hospital? I can buy a paper balloon and write my name on it. I should not have to think about it – but wait a minute – what did you ask me? Oh, a charitable donation? Sure. How much? A dollar? Fine. And no thanks, I don’t need to write my name on the balloon. Besides, my hands are full because I am going to have to carry my own bags to the car and remember where I parked it.

A kick in the rear……..

Yesterday was a big fat homesick day and I wallowed in it. For a while – then I literally got a kick in the rear – or a bump in the bumper – and was reminded of why being here is such a good adventure for my family.

I was riding to school on a busy road when the driver behind us hit the back of our car. It was a jolt, but I knew right away it was nothing serious. I was on my way to a meeting with the elementary school principal and I did not want to be late. So, it wasn’t the best thing that could happen on the way to school. However, it was not – by a long shot – the worst thing either.

And in India, fender benders are handled so differently. Most of the time neither driver even stops. A car is just a car. Nothing to get too upset about. (It is interesting to note that there really aren’t many super nice cars on the road here – it is kind of a waste of money because it would be nearly impossible to keep them in mint condition.) The challenge for me will be to embrace this more patient, uneffected mode of living – while still teaching my children to value the blessings we have – not to take them for granted. A car is certainly not disposable so we do need to take care of it – but ultimately it is just a car. A little dent here and there gives it character and a history of the places we have been.

In the U.S., a car accident of any magnitude would involve a lot of time, a lot of paperwork, time in the repair shop – frustration. Here a bump is simply a bump. You can move quickly on from it.

Not Exactly Driving Miss Daisy………

You might remember the 1989 film in which Morgan Freeman plays a driver for an old stubborn Jewish woman in Atlanta. It takes a long time for the woman to be convinced that having a driver is a good thing and there are several scenes where they are shown slowly driving down unattended roads with few distractions. Ha. My riding in the car experience is not exactly “Driving Miss Daisy”.

Driving (or in my case “riding”) in Delhi is a unique experience. There is always a lot to see. It is never, ever boring. The first thing I noticed was the noise. It is VERY noisy. People honk their horns constantly. It means “move over, I am behind you and want to pass” or “hey, I was here first” or “it’s been too quiet for the last 5 seconds, I think I will honk my horn.” Some of the trucks even have signs on the back that say “honk, please”. This lets them know you are there. Even though it is a pretty good bet that someone is there – apparently, it’s good for them to know it’s you. There are some billboard signs that say “if you love Peace, don’t honk.”

The one thing I have not seen yet is road rage. People just seem to accept that it is crowded. Right of way is earned by the car that inches the furthest ahead. There are lines in the road – but I am not sure why. We have counted up to 7 vehicles across on a two-lane road. No, that is not really a great idea. Bikes, scooters, motorcycles, carts, tractors, pedestrians, cars, trucks, and buses all share the same roads. Sometimes there are beggars and animals in the middle of the road too – just to keep it interesting.

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This is an auto rickshaw. It has a motor and three wheels. They have horns and certainly are not afraid to use them. They are smaller than a car but slightly more substantial than a motorcycle – so they are more nimble than the cars. They weave and bob through traffic with the best of them. I have counted up to 10 people in one of these – it’s not uncommon and no, I am not kidding.

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More than one person can ride on a bike.

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This is a rickshaw powered the old-fashioned way – with hard work. My Dad would say that it builds character. But, I do not hope to grow up to be a rickshaw driver. Many of them are barefoot.

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Usually more than one person is riding in them. And it’s not necessarily that I am a horrible photographer – but it is often very hazy here. Okay, maybe the slightly blurry part was operator error.

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Delhi is expanding its metro transportation system – so there is a lot of construction.

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Your car will be side-swiped at some point. At least once. So far, we have had three traffic incidents. I consider it preparation for having teenaged drivers.

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There are animals everywhere. Some of them are working – some are just wandering. This guy needs a hug.

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This guy is delivering eggs somewhere. Did you know that eggs do not have to be refrigerated? Don’t worry – we still keep ours in the fridge. But they don’t have to be. I am just not willing to risk it. Hmmm.

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Motorcycles can transport entire families.

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Just maybe a scarf should not be worn on a motorcycle. But that is the way it is done here. Yes, this always makes me nervous.

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Besides the poverty – this is one of the things that is the hardest for Western women to understand. Yes, you are seeing that right – she does not have a helmet on, her scarf is draping, and she is sitting side-saddled. And no, she is not holding on to him.

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Indians seem to make the most of everything. A lot of people can fit in one car. I am always surprised when I see these cars so full of people and I always have to peek in. I never see children fighting over who is touching whom or parents drawing imaginary lines in the seat. I would love to know how they make that work.

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Sometimes  people will drive the wrong way down the road.

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Sometimes trucks are overloaded. Would you like to buy a sweater?

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Sometimes people just hitch a ride. Going my way?

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Sometimes people walk down the side of the road with bundles of sticks on their heads.

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Sometimes it’s baskets.

This is just a little teaser of all the things you can see while driving in India. I will share more later – but right now, I think your boss, wife, and/or kids might be calling. 😎 I know mine are!