“How was India?”
“It was so great, the perfect holiday!”
“What did you do?”
Well, where do I start?
Let’s begin with the end of the journey. In India, this is when you collect your bags from the conveyer belt, and drag it onto the trolley. Because outside the airport, most likely there is someone to receive you. This someone most likely owns a car, and you are saved the hassle of taking the train. To the train, to the other train that would take you home in Deutschland. So I did collect my bags from the conveyer belt and drag it onto the trolley. And I had arrived!
It was like magic! Literally, since unlike #studentlifeInGermany, everything seemed to get done on its own. My coffee cups got picked up from all over the house, awesome food appeared on the table, my clothes washed themselves and even the groceries walked themselves into the fridge! Ok maybe someone did those things for me (thanks Mommy!), but that’s what is great about India! There’s a “wala” for everything you can think of! There’s the doodhwala – the guy who delivers fresh milk to your door every morning, the istriwala - who picks up your laundry and delivers clean, washed, ironed clothes to you the next day, the cyclewala – yes, you guessed it! He repairs your cycle or even fills air in the tires for you. Heck there’s even a wala who cleans your ears for you. (Statutory warning: I have not tried this and I would advise the less daring among you to systematically avoid doing so as well.) This is not to say Indians can’t do stuff on their own, so please don’t hastily jump to this conclusion! But, if there is someone who will do it for you, probably faster and better, for very little money, then its quite efficient (maybe even akin to Adam Smith’s theory), to let them, and earn a living while they are at it.
It is easy to assume at this point that this blog will now go on to describe all the many exciting things I had the time to now do. Unfortunately, it is not to be so. It turns out that laying in a hammock all day looking at the rain pour down and reading books, trying to digest the most recent ‘best meal of my life’ in time for the next one, can be a full time job. I did try though – to plan and do exciting things. I changed my watch to IST, and I called my friends and wrote down the dates we planned to meet in my little red diary/ planner. Aforementioned diary was the cause of quite some ridicule when I was saw people using it in Germany, before I realised its difficult to function without one. Why? Because unless you want to be an asocial loser sitting forever alone at home, you need to plan your weekends and meet-ups a few weeks ahead of time, or no one will be free at the last minute to do anything cool or otherwise with you. You also need to keep track of doctor appointments for MONTHS later (don’t ask!), confusing class schedules, work schedules fitted around class schedules, etc. One of the first things I entered into it on landing was my hairdresser appointment. I made this appointment weeks ago, entered it into my planner and was super excited about it. But, on THE DAY, I received a text saying that the salon was low on running water, and they had to cancel! We rescheduled for the next day. The next day my hairdresser had to travel unexpectedly. To rescue some wedding make-up disaster maybe? Now this is a professional, nice salon, don’t get me wrong. But its also India! The diary was so full on scratches and changes that a few days in, I realised it was dumb to try to use it! I dumped the watch and the diary, and it collected dust for a month. The next day I showed up with an hour’s notice at the parlour, and got my haircut! That’s how it works in the ‘Subcontinent’: trying to plan ahead is a waste of time. People will just call when they are free, probably a half hour or so in advance, and offer to stop by. If you are free, meet them. If not, offer to call them back when you are. If you are free but don’t really want to get out of your hammock and put on pants, lie that your relatives are visiting, and you wish you could, but you can’t!
Now a few tips for when you do decide to be social. Whether its celebrating Ganpati with your neighbours in Pune or getting ‘Kölsch’ at the ‘Oktoberfest’ in Bangalore (so wrong!), or drinking Old Monk while watching the EPL with your friends – there are no rules! Please feel free to interrupt your friends and family members mid-sentence if you have something more interesting to say. Expect your friends to not allow you to pay for anything, because you are a poor student, and you already brought them chocolates from Deutschland. Go ahead and ask your girl-friends to accompany you to the loo in that restaurant, of course it’s a social occasion! Accept that ‘Auntys’ will invite you over and try to stuff you with your favourite foods. Don’t go there and nibble at your food. Enjoy it wholeheartedly and ask for seconds, that’s the best way to make the Aunty happy.
Oh, and if you didn’t get this already, let me put it more clearly. Expect the unexpected!
Expect that substituting Parmesan with Amul cheese on the night you offered to cook Spaghetti ala Carbonara will end in disaster, to be averted only by using copious amounts of Maggi Hot and Sour tomato sauce. Ok, maybe that one was a little expected. Expect that your semi-successful swimming class will have to be shut down on Day 3 (before you collected the fees), because the Municipality finally decided to give up hope of a good monsoon and issued a closure notice for the pool. Expect that you might almost miss your return flight because it was rescheduled and they never really got down to informing you about it.
When I did rush around crazily and make it in the end, and the flight attendant offered me water, what I did not expect though, was my response,
“Mit Kohlensäure bitte.”