musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From India: Functional Chaos

India is many things to many people. However, it's safe to say that it's probably chaotic for everyone. Not only did I not realize just how chaotic life (especially transportation) is here, I had absolutely no clue how functional said chaos really is.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty about this place that has little function (or utility) associated with it. The visa process is maddening. I would love to have more conversations with Indians that didn't involve them trying to sell me something. Staring at white people is not an olympic sport.

But I have to admit I'm taken by India. It's a fascinating place that is never dull with hidden gems around every dusty corner. And there's just a certain beauty to how all the auto rickshaws, taksis, motorbikes and pedestrians defy all logic, reason, and laws of physics to get from point A to point B without dying. I imagine it looking from above, in black and white and shades of gray, the different objects mere polygons moving in a steady, functionally chaotic way.

Thankfully, we've been lucky enough to survive all of our taksi and auto rickshaw rides to date (knock on wood) and have immensely enjoyed them in the process. They make absolutely no sense. The lawnmower engines. The tripod of bald wheels that threaten to tip you over on every turn. The sense that there's no way that we will fit into that spac... nevermind, you did it again you crazy mustached auto rickshaw driver. Bravo!

Since I am an ex-expat aid worker with more than one international posting under my belt, I'm naturally able to almost immediately decipher local culture in ways that even Indians living here all their lives could not dream of... So with that in mind, here are some other, (mostly) non-transportation related expert observations about India:

  • Michael Jackson is alive and well, both in terms of music and, more importantly, in terms of style
  • Saris baring midriff are appropriate dress for women of all ages, shapes and sizes
  • India has a complicated relationship with the UK that involves equal parts admiration, resentment, nostalgia and contempt
  • Daddy, mommy, little johnny, little suzy, and little rajanpur riding on one moped together in rush hour traffic totally redefines the concept of a 'family vehicle'
  • Hinduism dominates every corner of society and culture - unfortunately I still can't explain it to save my life
  • I consistently wonder whether Indians think I'm less of a man because I don't have a robust follicle explosion (mustache just didn't seem to suffice here) on my upper lip.
  • Chipatis are tortillas
Stay tuned for more tales from the road, including swimming with elephants in Jaipur and Lauren and Erol go to the Taj!