This describes my experiences the first day I arrived in India. It is a deliberately non-B7 piece so please read at your own risk and keep in mind that this is an exploratory exercise. If you feel inclined, any critique or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Stepping from One World into Another
The plane’s thick metal skin was the final barrier to the strange world that I knew lay on the other side. My shoulders sagged beneath the weight of work, a laptop nestled safely in a padded backpack and the daily essentials of living in the obligatory dark travel case and a purse slung bandolier-like across my chest. Tired, bleary eyed fellow passengers formed orderly lines as we waited for someone to let us out. Through the windows were tantalizing glimpses of an alien world that seemed like random images from a broken down projector.
The hatch swung open and we began filing out. I hesitated a second at the threshold, composing myself. I had been researching everything I could find out about India for weeks but those were merely facts. Was I ready for reality?
My first brave step into the alien landscape was rewarded with a tsunami-like wave of heat that almost immediately drenched my body in sweat. My second step nearly made me gag as unapologetic smells of humanity assaulted my nostrils; bodily secretions and the refuse of every day existence baking under the merciless sun. I was definitely no longer in Canada and I knew this would be an adventure that would stretch and challenge my perceptions of the world.
After long lines and seemingly endless bureaucratic details, I found myself peering through the haystack of people in the waiting area, looking for the needle with my name on a placard.
Amidst the noise of strange sounding words and signs with squiggly lines, there were comforting scatterings of English. I was hoping to learn some Tamil but it was good to know that I wouldn’t be entirely illiterate outside of the office during my stay here.
Being able to see the tops of heads was also a novelty that I hadn’t expected.
Bell was the unexpected name of the friendly driver who eagerly took my bags and led me through the maze of cars. This man would prove to be a valuable life-saver for my stay in India. He was a fountain of information and seemed to know where to find everything that I would need or want.
A sea of honking motorcycles and cars was my first glimpse of India outside of the airport. I had been warned that for the first couple of weeks, I might not want to look outside the window at the traffic. Good advice should be heeded, especially in India. Unfortunately, I’m a curious individual who doesn’t like following such nonsensical rules. After all, I have my own car and looking outside of windows is a must, not an option.
This was a big mistake. Within seconds, my hands were strangling the grip on the door and my heart was pounding. I was barely breathing as vehicle after vehicle seemed to pass within millimetres of our car. The idea of a blind spot didn’t seem to be a concept that was taught here and the only requirement for turning or changing lanes was…actually there didn’t seem to be any other than the desire to do it. The philosophy seemed to be, I’m turning, everyone get out of my way. The concept of lanes only seemed to apply when there was a physical barrier enforcing the idea. Everywhere else, the rule seemed to be, fit as many vehicles across as you could without hitting anyone, more than once. It was a good thing that the traffic moved at a slow pace.
The cacophony of horns and beeps was almost deafening. Their use seemed to have been elevated from the role of safety equipment to a form of communication and social interaction.
In the three years I lived in India, even with two of the safest drivers in the city, I was still involved in two car accidents.
Yes, I was in India for three years. It was originally to be a six-month assignment but it stretched to three years. Despite my experiences of that first day, there was a great deal about India that I learned to love. It was a valuable and enjoyable experience that changed my perspective of the world.