Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What is the DEAL?!

(Warning: This is going to be a venting post. I love India, really I do, but some days, like today, are just over the top. If you'd rather not read my whining and complaining, please come back in just a little bit and we promise to have a new, better post. 'Til then, I'm just too fed up to keep it in.)

Alrighty then, if you're still here, can't say you weren't warned!

First, the kids and I hit the library and did a few errands before lunch. We caught a rickshaw home and the driver clearly understood, and even repeated back to me my destination, saying (in letter-perfect English) "You want to go to Prabaht Road." So off we went. Things started so well when he turned onto the shortcut lane. But then he blew past the turn, even after I told him to turn. Suddenly he acted as if he didn't understand English at all, not even the word 'left' or my rather unmistakable waving to the left. We then had to go a LONG way out of our way, up past where Chris works. Meter was running the whole way.

Then, as we were driving along 2 young-ish guys passed us on a motorcycle. The one on the back (greased hair, uber-cool sunglasses, fake-English slogan t-shirt) shouted something at me and gestured at me as they drove past. I scowled back. They then slowed way up, allowing us to pass and then sped by, giving us the finger. WHY?

Finally got home and the fare was twice what it should've been if the driver hadn't purposefully taken us the long way. I'm not stingy or prone to arguing with rickshaw wallahs, but I was pissed. I paid him the fare and he glowered when I didn't tip. As if.

After lunch and a quiet afternoon we went to the pool for Ben's swimming lesson. The past few times I swam laps while he was in lessons, but that seemed to invite trouble. One day he up and left lessons half-way through. Another day his coach alledgedly told Caitlin that if Ben was late once more he would be kicked out of lessons. (We weren't late that day, nor have we been habitually late in the past. However, Ben's coach is often late to arrive, and then doesn't change and get in the water until at least 15 min into lessons...) So today I sat with the other moms and watched.

5 minutes before the scheduled end of lessons I saw Ben talking with his coach and then Ben got out of the pool. I asked him if he was done and he said yes, the coach said he could go. Ben sat with me for 5 more minutes and warmed up. As we were getting up to go his coach looked up and started shouting at Ben, telling him not to get out of the pool without telling him. FIVE MINUTES after he got out! He didn't notice my kid was missing for FIVE freakin' minutes. That's more than enough time for a kid to get into serious trouble in the pool...

I went down to talk to the coach and he again shouted at Ben for leaving early. I stopped him and said I expected him to know where my son was at all times - instead of not noticing he was missing for 5 minutes - and that Ben thought he had been told to go. Instead of responding to me he said to Ben, "This will not happen again. Tomorrow you will not do this." I was furious and on the verge of a full scale blow up so I just herded the kids to the locker room instead.

Finally, on the walk home I noticed at least 4 men turning around and staring at me as they drove past. I know this happened all the time in Varanasi, but it hasn't been that bad in Pune, ever. These weren't skeevie young guys either - they were affluent looking middle aged men who otherwise looked like upstanding citizens. Is it that freaky for a white woman to walk down the sidewalk with her kids?

Here's hoping this evening's excursion to Bahraht Guides and dinner goes more smoothly...

Edited to Add: Guides and dinner was indeed better, even though a rickshaw wallah yelled at me. But in his place, I'm sure I would've done the same thing if hadn't suffered a massive heart attack and died first. He whipped through traffic to pick us up and stopped short at the curb. A HUGE bus was zooming along in the curb lane and had to slam on the brakes to avoid completely smushing the rickshaw. It stopped with less than a meter to spare. Thought I was going to witness my first traffice fatality and riot. Yelling at me to hurry up and get in seemed totally appropriate, given the circumstances. All's well that ends well, huh?

1 comment:

Grandpa George said...

I experienced this several times when visiting Chris in India. It is puzzling that you have this kind of behavior among some while a more civic, respectful behavior among many others. Where is this heading? Is it a function of globalization--and resentment? I wonder if there is an ethic (among some) that it is ok to steal or overcharge rich westerners because they are ripping off the developing countries.

Also, I remember asking before--and hearing your explanation--why Indians are less likely to engage in this type of behavior with upper-class Indians. Social control seems to work at some but not all levels.