Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pop Quiz #2

Choose the correct conversation snippet:

a) "Mirrors? I can't stand 'em! And besides...other people have headlights." Friend with a motorcycle who had ripped off the mirrors on it. Not sure what he'll say when he gets run over by a water buffalo. Will keep you posted.

b) "Now is the time to SWASHBUCKLE"--in my notebook in class. Not sure who wrote it because my brain had shut down due to terminal boringness

c) "No matter what you do, I will not be happy." Professor Chandran in giving us our term paper assignment. An inspiration to all future teachers, I can assure you.

d) All of the above

India is full of "what the..." moments. My most recent was when I was walking back from the Children's Home I work at when a strange man hauled off and hit me on the arm with a bag of vegetables. What? Or it's more difficult to get the paperwork to leave the country than it is to get into it. Huh? Or climbing a lovely mountain only to find a vendor selling the chance to shoot BBs at soda bottles once the view got old. Say what?

Some of them aren't always funny, though. For instance, the most common "what the" feeling I have is about children. Indian children seem to be nailed to opposite ends of the childhood spectrum. They're either insanely pampered and can therefore look forward to a future as a totally obnoxious human being...or they spend every moment from the time they can walk desperately struggling not to starve to death. Dirty children forced to beg on the streets become dirty young people carrying their younger siblings around to beg once they're no longer "cute,” then are married off to some stranger in order to repeat the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. It is so DAMN HARD. It seems there are so few kids who have what I in all my arrogance would term a solid normal know, where you're loved and fed but not given so much attention as to ruin you. And after spending so much time trying to plug up the cracks in the systems so kids can change their future in's even more galling to see that the systems here don't have cracks...because many of those systems just don't exist or are so confusing that they're nearly impossible to navigate. When your country holds a 6th of the world’s population, over a billion seems to be nearly impossible to look after any of them..not enough money, even though to be rich in India is to live in a luxury I've never seen anywhere else.

All the foreigners in India are always rejoicing in how cheap life is here. You can get great things, great luxury services, for incredibly small amounts of money. But life is cheap in more ways than one. Life is cheap because so few seem to value it in other people. Even people I volunteer with, ostensibly kind and honorable citizens, will holler at the busboy or the driver for no apparent reason, as if the nature of their job determines the worth of their life. I was in an auto rickshaw coming home to the university, and we almost hit an old woman. She jumped out of the way...right into the path of a motorcycle which hit her with the worst sound I've ever heard. The basket of grain she was carrying (this was not a rich woman wandering around in the middle of the night I can assure you) scattered all over the road, mixing with the headlight of the motorcycle as it lay on top of her, still running.

And the auto rickshaw driver Wouldn't. Even. Stop. He wouldn't stop. I was screaming at him in my angriest Hindi, then switched to English because I didn't know how else to express my horror anymore. And he wouldn't stop. Later, my friends explained to me it was probably because of what would follow a scene like that---the driver of the motorcycle would probably get beaten up, even though it wasn't really his fault, and there would likely be a riot. I never found out, because the death of a poor working woman in the middle of the city was not enough to make the news.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pop Quiz #1

One of the side effects of studying English in India, aside from various gastrointestinal disorders, is a growing inclination for outlandish and mildly literary statements and a compulsion to phrase observations in the form of test questions.

Complete the following phrase:

Still I....

a) Can't get used to getting stared at by dudes. It's happened nearly every day for months, and it still makes me uncomfortable

b) Love eating food with my fingers, be it rice, casserole, dal, bread, or gravy. Love. It. I'm pretty sure I'll refuse to go back to utensils.

c) Kind of stink at Hindi but now at least sound like a demented 5-year-old and can get my point across.

d) Get a kick out of how straight Indian men behave exactly like stereotypical gay American man. Man, they cannot get enough of each other.

e) All of the above

Outlandish Metaphor

Living in India is kind of like putting on a sari, the traditional female dress which consists of 6 yards of cloth folded and occasionally tucked into a petticoat...and that's all that holds it up. Somehow, this attire manages to be appropriate to all types of functions--insanely elegant parties, professional occasions, and hard physical labor. At first glance, it's India. Upon closer examination, you see that things we keep hidden in the West are very much exposed, and vice versa. Then you try to figure it out by yourself and it's confusing as India. And when you really think about it, the entire structure of the garment depends on one thing (the petticoat), which you can't even see. Gradually, though, the folds and twists start to make sense, but only with the help and friendship of people who live India.

Bonus Poem I'm Inflicting on You:

Like a sari,
Dazzles at first glance
then confuses
Hides many things
and exposes
The dazzle-glamour
held up by the unseen work-a-day