Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting on with things

The rain is pounding against the windows of the bus and because there aren't any window seals, it's pouring down the inside of the vehicle and soaking everything within a five-foot range of my left leg.

Strangely, I'm ok with my clothes being saturated and the water running over my feet. I don't wish it wasn't happening, I don't wish I was in an aisle seat instead, and I don't mind being wet. I pull the thin and dirty curtain across to try and stem the monsoonal onslaught, but other than that I accept the reality. This is India, and cursing the situation isn't going to change it, so there's no point in getting my knickers in a twist.

As the lake around my feet gets big enough for a child to sail a wooden boat in, I wonder about the state of a nation that can function in this way. That is, most things essentially work – services, utilities, objects and people - but in a kind of chaotic and haphazard manner that feels very unique to this country. If a bus leaked this badly in Australia there'd be outrage, in America there'd be a lawsuit, and in Britain there'd be shared if subdued grumbling at least.

But here in India, there is a general acceptance that things are generally crappy and broken and filthy (or all three); people don't get upset about it as far as I can see. So it's filthy and crappy and broken – hey, at least it's still working to some extent, right?

Perhaps this acceptance is the genesis of the Indian head-wobble; which can mean yes, no, maybe, perhaps, and god willing - sometimes all at once. I might get to Bharatpur wet, but I'll get there in the end. People simply get on with things or find some kind of innovative solution – and I wonder if this acceptance is the quality that characterises India the best?

Your patience is tested everywhere, in even the smallest things. The constant electrical blackouts. The dodgy powerpoints. The icecream sundae that comes without half its listed ingredients. The sink unconnected to a pipe, so the water gushes out over the floor. The squat toilets filled with faeces. Villages – lots of them – where women have to carry water for miles to their homes in pots on their heads in the blistering sun.

The festering piles of rubbish all over the streets, with pigs and dogs and cows and kids truffling through it for food. The roads that probably cause more accidents than they prevent. The hotel room I had in Ranakpur where I could get water from the taps in the bathroom sink but no water from the shower.

The barefoot beggar children, with hair like scarecrows, carrying gunny sacks over their shoulders as they collect any scrap of plastic, metal or string off the streets that might be useful for something, somewhere, someday.

All of this goes on with an apparent sense of acceptance and reasonable good humour. That is of course a sweeping generalisation and cannot possibly be true of everyone, but the great extent of what I've witnessed to date is that there is certainly an atmosphere of just getting on with things rather than having a pants-down tantrum about it.

Because I suppose if you did do your lolly, who would listen? Everyone is too busy just trying to survive and make a living in their own small corner of the country.


polly pratt said...

Your famous,
Your stall was on Postcards tonight ,from way back when they filmed at the shirt and skirt.

Hope your trip is going well.


Heather said...

I understand your acceptance (and tolerance) of India but I am still amazed at it. I'd be upset, worried and wishing I was on the first plane out as a recent trip to Indonesia proved. Enjoy the rest of your trip and maintain your unique perspective!