You Are Assimilating Well to Life in India When…..
By: Caroline Martin and Jennifer Polan
  • You can argue over 3 rupees (approx. 5.5 cents US).
  • You can argue over 3 rupees (approx. 5.5 cents US) -- and you win.
  • You learn it is OK not to carry your credit card and large sums of money (ie anything over Rs 50) in your wallet or purse unless you know you will use it.
  • You, as a woman, you have learned to keep some money in your sari blouse or your wallet tied in your sari pallu. And to tie your key ring in sari pallu, knot it and tuck inside your underskirt (don't loose those keys!).
  • You frequently take the public bus - sometimes with your luggage.
  • You can get a Chennai autorickshaw driver to go somewhere for 10 rupees.
  • You carry your luggage on your head.
  • You can walk barefoot down a city street without wincing.
  • You can get into the bus by running and jumping up into it.
  • You can ride pillion on the back of a motorcycle and not fall or feel scared- and sometimes carrying luggage!
  • You have learned how to ride in a crowded bus, balancing on the toes of one foot, grabbing the handle on the ceiling with one hand and using the other to hold your bag so the strap or bag doesn't get slit and cut (aka silent purse snatching) and get your ticket (while going over many bumps).
  • You can maneuver through a crowded train (to the exit and successfully get down) three stops before getting down.
  • You forget looking for a seat belt in a car because it either doesn't exist or it is rusted to the car frame.
  • You can ride your bicycle in heavy traffic on the road- realizing you can drive on either side of the road and even go under train crossings when down, because it is not illegal.
  • You can ride your bike (bicycle) on the road in a sari (girls only, I hope).
  • Locals on the bus ask YOU for the correct stop or connection busses.
  • You realize you don't mind holding a naked baby on your lap for the bus journey as the mother hands him/her to you.
  • When the bus or vehicle comes to the side of a road with a drop, cliff or water body next to it and no guard rail, you feel queasy but know you probably will be safe! (Especially in hilly terrain.)
  • You view restaurant paper napkins as a source of free toilet paper.
  • You despise using western toilets (as they seem more dirty than the Indian ones).
  • You stop carrying your antibacterial soap with you everywhere.
  • You have learnt to eat with your hands and don't carry silverware with you everywhere you go.
  • You can drink the sugarcane and fruit juices offered on the street without fear of sickness (due to being made with local water).
  • You find a good, reliable doctor and don't mind going as it is only about Rs. 10 a visit (about 25 cents), and anyhow they prescribe B vitamins and more natural medicines.
  • You have learnt it is OK to have dirty feet (when not at home) and how to wash them WITHOUT using your hands!
  • You feel odd to wear shoes in someone's home.
  • You have started wearing hair oil daily, and if you are a woman, started plaiting (braiding) your hair daily and keeping fresh flowers in it.
  • You don't even know how you took a bath in a bathtub before! (As baths in India in 99% cases require a bucket of water and a mug to pour the water over you.)
  • You learn to conserve water - especially if where you live has open tap only for a few hours a day.
  • You no longer involuntarily exclaim 'oooohhhh' when the power fails. (Especially in Chennai.)
  • Sidewalk hawkers and legless beggars know instinctively not to bother you.
  • You can distinguish the spoken sounds and printed alphabets of Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telegu.
  • You can read the Tamil (or the local language) road signs and understand them while passing in a vehicle.
  • People express surprise that you don't speak Hindi.
  • You can say "leave me alone" in four languages, other than English.
  • You express gratitude for the temperature dropping to 90 degrees.
  • You start taking people's advice on eating 'cooling foods' (ie coconut water, etc).
  • You remember to ask for untorn notes (paper money) as change if given torn notes.
  • You use your sari pallu as an umbrella to cover yourself from the sun.
  • You know better than walk through water puddles for fear you may fall through the road, through a open sewer cover.
  • Noises, like horns, diwali crackers, blaring temple music, mosque prayers, blaring film music and people don't bother you anymore. (You can even sleep through them.)
  • You are OK that things may not start on time, and that may mean up to hours late!
  • You learn to say 'ceri' (Tamil) or ok ok or yes or 'aachha' (Hindi) in pauses in conversations to show you are keeping interest.
  • You don't mind having the PCO or STD phone clerk to dial your phone numbers (and most possibly listen to your phone call)
  • You don't mind anymore if people ask if you are married or not (if you're not).
  • You don't mind people asking about your family background, but you learn to tailor or abbreviate it culturally-appropriate.
  • You ask your family back home to send you Ziploc bags so you can use them to stash the extra sweets in when you visit many friends (else you may have to actually eat all those sweets in one sitting!).
  • If you are a woman, you learn you can use your period as an excuse not to see people (ie. Especially if you don't really want to) or go to work or school.
  • Throwing garbage out of car, train or house windows to the street doesn't faze you.
  • The smell of the Cooum (river in Madras) doesn't smell rancid to you after sometime.
  • People joke saying - it is because you foreigners have learned to wear saris so much and do it so well, that the price of saris has increased.
  • You call every man elder to you as 'saar' (not sir) and not even knowing their name sometimes, and every woman ma'am.
  • You have learned it is OK to look at 100 saris in a shop, paining the shop keeper to take each one out of the cupboards, unfolding them, only to decide you don't want even one of them.
  • You call an elevator a "lift," a hot water heater a "geyser" (pron. 'geezer'), speed bumps "rumblers," pharmacies "medical shoppes," say "kindly" instead of "please," call waiters "boss," all men over age 50 "uncle" and refer to any non-Indian (including Japanese ) as 'Westerners.'
  • You no longer bother to say "excuse me."
  • The "Hindus only" temples don't look twice at you upon entering.
  • Eating 'American' or 'Western' food is considered 'bland' (not spicy or tasty).
  • You giggle if you see other foreigners eating masala dosai and sambar like a burrito at Taco bell (they wrap it and dip into the sambar bowl).
  • You understand the use of carrying handkerchiefs! (ie. For wiping dripping sweat off your forehead, as a 'napkin' in the hotel, as a 'paper towel' in the temple when given kum kum so your hand doesn't get stained red!)
  • You reuse your Bisleri or Aquafina water bottle until there are holes in it!
  • You wondered how you ever walked streets in American cities without looking down (at the ground!).
    Take time to read a more current submission written by Caroline, You Are Assimilating Well to Life in India When…...
    Click here to see Sirensong's India Journeys.

    This page has been visited times since it's inception in July 2003.


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