Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can I adapt to the disorder?

Before arriving, the participants in my program got a letter from the program director telling us to "bring our patience with us," as things in India happen much more circuitously (and therefore slower) than in the United States. Later, during orientation, we watched a Powerpoint presentation on generalities of India which said that Americans know how to form a direct argument, whereas Indians talk themselves in circles in order to express a semi-understandable argument. This disorganization, maze-like quality is manifested in various realms of Indian society, especially in the
Waiting in "line" in order to pick up our Residential Permits. You can see the papers piled on top of workers' desks. And the guy with the umbrella?
legal system and in transportation.

When our tourist van got stopped for speeding on our trip to Mysore, the driver asked if any of us had some small bills to give to the police to let us go! When we found the gate around a local lake/reservoir to be locked during the Orientation City Tour, our Program Director slipped the guard some rupees, and we got to go in. When my friends were in the Mysore Palace, the police stopped them, asked them where they were from, and then showed them to a special spot where westerners were impelled to buy camel and elephant rides! And the roads....oh, gosh....I have no idea how a blind person could possibly survive in this city. The auto-rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists, bus drivers, car drivers, and bicyclists barely co-exist; I was riding on Florence's motorbike during rush hour, and when traffic stopped, she looked behind at me and said, "I rarely use my signal, there's no point!" and then she laughed, and I did, too, at the mania I was allowing myself to be swept away in.

 Today at school I found myself with a low supply of patience. My stomach was feeling better, yet not quite well enough for Indian food, so I went to the health foods snack bar near the basketball court for lunch. There were 13 or so Indian students shoving rupee notes at the cashier in order to get delicious goodies like papaya juice, cold coffee, veggie sandwiches, etc., and there were four workers trying to get everyone's orders taken care of. But the concept of a line does not exist in India; rather, people believe in the Hoard. There is little pity for patient people: if you've been waiting, it's as if you're a ninny! (S/he must have missed the memo, they'd guess.) At the kiosk, I got my cold coffee with ease, but for some reason, my sandwich was not going to be covered under any "Five Minutes or Less During Lunch Hour!" guarantee. (I actually did see one of those when I went with my friend to get her chicken nuggets at McDonald's.) The Indian students were crowding, pushing money at the cashier and rolling off orders, and I was just trying to be patient, and it felt like everyone else was being so self-righteous and ruthless. I was getting exhausted just being there, so much that I was even contemplating relinquishing my order. After 12 minutes or so, I did get my sandwich (veggies and cheese, melted on toasted wheat bread!). I don't know if I will soon embrace the "get-in, or get-out" attitude and be loud about my next silly sandwich, or if I will try to find a more peaceful alternative. When is something really worth the discomfort?


David Glaser said...

Great question, Lauren. I have actually often wondered about when the appropriate time is to leave gentility aside and get in there with elbows flailing.

Papers all over the place reminds me of your room at home. Or maybe mine...keep those cards. letters and blogs coming!

Lauren Frances Moore said...

ah lauren! love reading about your adventures. i think this circuitousness would drive me crazy too! even though i am kinda like that in my own kind of way ;) we miss you lots on the homestead... keep livin!