Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

Another guest blog. Perhaps the last one from Quagmire...


So I'm down to my last week in Mumbai and I think at the end of it I'll be ready to say goodbye to India.

Despite all the great things about this place, I really prefer more order in a society in which I reside. It's not really the constant and utter chaos here that is getting to me. What causes me the greatest struggle right now is that India is the land that logic forgot.

For example, the cabbies and rickshaw drivers have no idea how to effectively fleece a tourist.

Like New York, cabs here are allowed a maximum of 4 passengers per fare. On Sunday, 5 of us took the train to South Mumbai to pay a visit to Gandhi's house. We got off the train at the station and needed to grab a cab for a 5 min ride to the house.

We found a cabbie who knew where the house was and started to get in his car. He
counted heads and informed us that taking 5 passengers would cost us 50 rupees more (50 rupees = $1). Here's where the logic problem in India becomes apparent. The ride from the station to the house in a cab was going to cost about 20 rupees. If we took 1 cab for the 5 of us it would have cost 70 rupees, whereas 2 cabs would have cost 40 and afforded us much more room. I hate to say it, but I simply cannot
exist in a society where cabbies are incompetent when it comes to price gouging.

A lot of my friends that came to the program with me from school are children of Indian immigrants to the USA. Their theory on the state of Indian logic is that all of the smart Indians have left the country for America, leaving only idiots and criminals in India to run the show.

My theory is a little different. I subscribe to the slob theory. Everyone knows someone who is a huge slob - messy house, dirty clothes, poor personal hygiene, etc. I think that the slob actually cannot see the mess in which he lives. Slobs go through their lives oblivious to the fact that they live in squalor. It's kind of the same thing here.

I think that people who live in Mumbai just don't see things that are glaring to me. The average Mumbaiker isn't seeing adults defecating on the side of the road daily. That rickshaw driver doesn't see the throngs of people living in slums in the gutters as a problem. It's just the way it is, has been, and always will be. I imagine that their noticing these things here is akin to a native New Yorker being amazed by yellow-colored taxi cabs or a Californian being shocked by the smell of patchouli.

Within this chaos though, it is comforting to know that anything is possible. Rules and schedules as I know them as a westerner are viewed differently here. They are more guidelines to help navigate through life rather than guardrails to keep you from veering off the highway.

Take crossing the street. In the US, you can get cited and fined for crossing the street anywhere outside of crosswalk lines. Here, crossing the street anywhere is only illegal if you die in the act. Also, there is pretty much no problem that can't be solved with a well-placed 100-rupee note.

Well, the Internet cafe is about to close. If I don't get a chance to write again, I'll see you all back in the states soon.

New York maloom hey? Ti-kay, New York chjenna hey, aht-chah! (this is my phonetic Hindi)


P.S. I don't speak Hindi.