It’s like what Russell Peters jokes about “Chinese people and Indian people cannot do business together… Because Indians cannot live without a bargain, and the Chinese people cannot give you a bargain. Their objective is to get every penny from you… and ours is to keep every penny… There is a really bad power struggle.”
I traveled to China and India this year and observed stark similarities. Indians are a lot like the Chinese along many facets. In many ways, it’s funny. But as Russell Peters candidly jokes, the Indians and Chinese will never link arms and live joyously ever after. Otherwise, they’ll burn holes in each others’ pockets and chase each other with wooden sticks.
Serious overpopulation: There is too many people on the streets. Every area of the city is crowded and polluted. Old men in togas, plump women in sarees, exhaust smoke guzzling out of rickety buses and auto rickshaws, cracked and dusty roads, and islands of stray dogs. Down Pattom Road during the mid-afternoon hours, students in uniform filed out and clogged the sidewalks. It did not help I was always walking in the opposite direction of the traffic flow of kids. On top of that, kids staring at me and pointing. Gee, thanks for pointing me out to your merry friends… It was a constant battle filing onto crowded buses and crossing dangerous streets. I walked into the hospital everyday, jam-packed with the old and young, frail men and women. No air-conditioning throughout much of the facility, just hot-air fans and windows. With entangled clumps of patients waiting in the hallways, the atmosphere was stuffy and oppressing.
Too many cars, buses, motorcycles! Everywhere! The streets are not pedestrian-friendly whatsoever. The roads are terribly constructed and managed. Drivers show no mercy. People are also professional jaywalkers and that’s not a compliment. For me, crossing the streets never felt so endangering and hectic. However, in nicer parts of China like Shanghai, there are nice roads and sidewalks. Still no immunity from road rage though…
Symphony of honks, loud and vociferous! The clogging city traffic and impatient drivers, plus crowded streets, all add up to some ear drum damage and painful headaches and pounding heart beats. People honk for no reason and without hesitation. They honk loudly and angrily, even at close distances when it’s not necessary, only obnoxious, and then speed away. Take a chill pill men!!!
Umbrellas: Many Indian women (and men) use umbrellas to shield against the sun’s dangerous rays. Except their umbrellas are not as cute as my lavender Monokuro piggy umbrella, or my previously lost baby blue umbrella featuring a pig exclaiming “I can fly!”… The ones used in India are plain, solid colors, like dull black. If anyone knows me personally, I hate black, only wearing it when professionalism calls. Even then, I’m not a solid black block. And when I think about it, Indians do not need umbrellas as much as I do because they have the extra boosted protection from melanin. I’m naturally pale, but the sun’s beating rays have turned me golden yellow, so I’m not well-equipped with pigments. The women there dress in long, flowy pants or dresses and shawls. With an umbrella, they are pretty much covered from head to toe. Me, I’m usually wearing black leggings that absorb sunlight and heat, hence I roll up sleeves to cool off. I care about my complexion and skin texture, so whether I dress conservatively here or freely elsewhere, I lather on sunblock or sport my stylishly adorable umbrella! In India, I feel no shame whipping out my umbrella. No feelings of awkwardness or shyness – enough people do it on the streets that I simply blend in…Besides, I get stared and pointed at enough times daily that sporting an umbrella won’t change the fact I’m a freak on the streets. Sometimes, I try to hide under my umbrella as a buffer to escape all the curious stares. The umbrella is like my double-edged sword, against the sun and Indian men. For an added effect, it keeps me cool and shaded, especially in the mornings when I walk to the RCC and during the sweltering afternoons.
Soapy H20: Indians are notoriously cheap too. At the wash stations in restaurants, there’s the soap and sink. Except, the soap gets diluted down SOOO much that it’s basically soapy water. My mom does this and I’ve fallen into the habit myself – diluting soap and detergent so they last much longer, up to years.
I reiterate Russell Peters: Indians are dirt cheap. “They can be together, but never work together.”
Indians do not waste: Unfortunately, Indians are not as environmentally-friendly as I’d hope, since they do not recycle or use trash cans. The streets are the trash bins. Garbage gets burned on the streets. On the more positive side, they reuse newspapers for takeout packages. Similarly, my mom uses ads and papers for the stove, dorm dressers, and wrapping. I worked with a Jewish scientist back at NYU Med and he wrapped his daughter’s Christmas presents in old newspapers. Indians also keep portions small: small cups, small dishes, small burgers, small sides, a couple of fries, etc… Things are down-sized, most likely for economical reasons. To me, I like smaller portions because I have developed a small stomach and I feel healthier eating less. The big problem with America now is eating too much, especially fatty, non-nutritious foods. You flip-flop and problem can be solved. Easier said than done, but still, America is not as health-conscious as many other European and Asian countries and foodies like me … Regarding electricity, there are evening ‘blackouts’ to save energy. Water is also a precious commodity. Our apartment had a couple of mishaps with toilet leaks, much to the irk of neighbors and caretakers…
Fresh fruit juice and sharjas: Too bad no bubble tea, since tapioca will be over the cheap-ass Indian budget. Still, quality fresh juice for cheap! I love fruits, best blended into a pleasant smoothie: mangoes, apple, pineapple, strawberry, lime, papaya, banana, and much much more. My favorite blend is the fresh milkshake: smooth, creamy, and sweet. After my tropical paradise in India, I have the gravitational urge to invest in a treasured blender =) Power shakes and fun concoctions, here I come!
Indians are public pushers, too: They are rough, rude, and ruthless around other people on the streets. They have stern expressions and do not care who they bump into. They do not apologize or even notice that they elbowed someone. It’s completely inconsiderate and improper. Not even a simple “Excuse me please…” Aigoo …
Rice: It’s a beloved staple carbohydrate across Asia. God bless the grains! Rice is my brundin: breakfast, lunch, dinner… Delicious with saucy foods, meats, veggies, and all sorts of essential ingredients I dare not share, like cheese and Vietnamese chili sauce. Sticky, soupy, and grainy – rice never goes wrong with the palate. Some of my favorite Indian rices include aromatic basmati, biryani, and coconut. Absolutely marvelous as fried rice with egg and vegetables. Even better mixed in with aromatic Indian saucy and spicy dishes. However, when you’re in India, it’s worth the cultural experience to eat the traditional meals with Indian bread and with the bare hands.
In the hospital, people like to drink starchy rice water for nutrients. Hm… it was very filling and thick. I was told to add some salt for flavor and dilute with water. Even though it looked like muddy water, I developed a keen liking to warm rice water.
IT/Computer/Software Business means the Big Bucks: Indeed, more than doctors! There’s a greater demand for software engineers and computer techies. Plus, they have better salaries, as much as 3-4 times more than doctors! Not sure if they have good lifestyles, but they are certainly comfortable in the job market, in India and abroad.
Boiling water for drinking: I’ve been warned by many parties NOT to drink the tap water. It’s supposedly dirty and germ-infested and my body has no immune defenses against foreign bugs. I could get very sick from contaminated water, like Montezuma’s Revenge (aka. Traveler’s Diarrhea). In India, I bought bottled water or cooked water. I’ve also been warned by Dr. Shanley that the bottled water need to be checked because people may take old bottles and fill with water, then seal the cap with glue. When the unbeknownst foreigner buys it and opens the cap, it’ll be like opening any new bottle. Sneaky and cheap bastards… As a way to save money, I cooked water every morning or evening and cooled it down to fill up my water bottles. No Brita, just old-fashioned stove and matchsticks. It’s an Asian thing to cook water, even ‘clean’ tap water in the states and at home!
In the hospital, my friend and I asked a rather obvious question: What about all these kids here, they cannot drink the faucet water?! I mean, the kids and I were no different: we were both immunocompromised. Then we found out from the doctors that they have cauldrons of boiled water available in the canteen and for the patients. Oh~~ In the last weeks when the stove ran out of gas and I was slowly desiccating in the summer’s heat, I resorted to drinking cooked water from the hospital, including the pink ‘root’ water and rice soup…
Bathrooms: NOT user friendly! No toilet paper. You use bidets that are more like hoses. Also you have to pay to use the public toilet. What the hell? Pay to work your kidneys and relieve the bladder? The bathrooms wreak of ammonia; oh so stinky! And public toilets are not toilets; they’re holes in the ground and if you’re a girl, you squat. Therefore, it’s called a ‘squat toilet.’ Better to hold the pee in public and go home to deflate the bursting bladder. Even with a regular toilet, I still squat for sanitary reasons. You get used to it…