Saturday, May 9, 2009

ME First

I grew up in the Midwest and if I may be so bold as to say so, I think I embody many classically Midwestern characteristics.  And culturally, I wonder if you could get much further from the American Midwest than urban India.  

For example, in any sort of public setting/large group/waiting-in-line scenario I'm just going to go with the assumption that it isn't my turn first.  I'll find a line and wait patiently in it. Quietly.  If there is some sort of protocol for determining who gets to have a turn when, I'm following it.   
Not so India.  Fly on a domestic Indian flight and you will witness 99% of the passengers leap up the second the plane slows to taxi-ing speed and crush toward the (still closed and locked) door.  The stewardesses will say nothing.  Wait in line at a shop and be prepared to have numerous people literally push you out of the way so they may be helped first.  This isn't considered rude.  Its just how things get done.  Really.  

So I shouldn't have been surprised today when a rickshaw wallah at the rickshaw stand ran up and hustled me into his rickshaw, in spite of the ten or so other drivers ahead of him in the queue who should rightfully have gotten passengers before him.   We took off and at the first intersection he swerved across FOUR lanes of traffic to make a right turn (right turn = left turn here, traffic wise), IN FRONT OF like 12 lanes of oncoming traffic.

Nor should it have shocked me when in a different rickshaw a few hours later the driver pulled up at a red light about 5 vehicles back from the intersection, scanned all the other roads and then swerved out around a median, into the oncoming lane and ran not one but two red lights and merged (without looking) into traffic squashing onto a narrow bridge.  

Yet somehow my meek Midwestern heart quailed.  Guess my 8+ months here haven't changed me that much after all.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember apologizing and saying excuse me all the time. And bargaining? Ugh. I felt like such a hard nose. It's amazing how polite and sweet India is and at the same time elbows it's way forward, you know?