Even once you settle into the odd rhythm of honks and horns, it takes more than a week to feel comfortable in India.
In short, it’s just that there are more hardships to life here – even when you’re living an incredibly privileged life. State’s will to put a percentage on that reality: Baghdad, for example, is 35% hardship, Hyderabad is a 25%.
We take a whole lot of comfort for granted in America. But here, you can’t rely on those amenities that we don’t even have to think about back home. The power goes out once, twice, thrice, sometimes more a day. Unlike many folks here, I’m lucky enough to have a backup generator that kicks in to power a light and a fan in each room.
When I come across a problem, one week in, it’s hard to know what’s in my control. What problems can I fix by myself? What problems can I get fixed? What are things I just have to shrug off as beyond control? An example, the other night I cursed a steady beeping as I was trying to fall asleep. I figured someone in a neighboring apartment had left an alarm on while they were away from home. I bemoaned the fact that there was nothing I could do about it as I woke up several times in the middle of the night. By the time I was ready to roll out of bed, the beeping was really bugging me. But as my feet hit the marble, I realized the noise was slightly louder. I looked at the landline phone next to my bed. Sure enough, the beeping was coming from inside the phone. Not quite an off-the-hook alarm, but something similar, solved by resetting the handset back on the phone. A good reminder many things are under my control. Hours of trying to figure out a router for wireless connection though? All for naught after a Monday morning “oh yeah, they were replacing a cable this weekend.”
Solving a problem, or even getting something routine done, always seems to take twice as many steps as you would imagine. But at least I haven’t had to pay any bribes yet...
In a similar sense, the soon-to-depart-ers have show us some fantastic restaurants, cafes, etc. Amazing little joints that would fit in anywhere in America or Europe. The problem is that from the outside, even the great places are less than impressive. Facades are invariably dilapidated. The same trash litters the fronts of fruit markets, paan shops and first-class spots alike. A bit like Hungary, inside the fence meticulous, with nary a concern for what’s just outside it. I figure we’ll get good at it, but at the moment, its often easy to forget that each ramshackle street has lots of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Luckily, discovering is half the fun.