Note: India blogs is part of a travel blog that I wrote during an extended business trip to India. I spent two months in New Delhi as my employer implemented a new business unit in two of its call centers. In addition to my professional work, I took time to study Hindi, an effort that fostered greater co-operation and trust among my Indian business associates. It also helped me better understand the culture. We believe that language opens a gateway to understanding culture. These pages focus on my observations and experiences in India. While I was there, I practiced Walkabout Language Learning. See the list of "More India Stories" on this page to explore how culture and language intertwine.
India is such a different world that I can hardly believe the differences sometimes. Like when we have to stop because there are 10 cows crossing the street single file -- not that someone is leading them across; no, the cows have decided that they want to cross the street, so they do. Their owner, if they have one, is back at their house I guess. Who knows? I guess the cows know where their house is so they can go home at night. Unless they are strays, that is, and then I suppose they are homeless.
The amusing story this week—this is one of the funnier India blogs, IMHO—comes from another American: Eric Lane. He has been in India for a total of six years, and is my go-to guy when I have cross cultural questions, like when Sethi-ji, the cook at the guest house insisted that I place my sandwich in an opaque bag to carry to work. Eric came to India in college for two years, and then came back four years ago and stayed. He married an Indian woman, and in large measure adopted the culture. He works at the call center--and gets paid Indian wages, he pointed out somewhat bitterly.
We all went out for dinner: Eric, Alok--the Director of Training, Preeti, and Harvinder--the two instructional designers, and myself. Harvinder was driving, and he says that he hopes that he has enough petrol to get to the restaurant. Preeti says: "I don't understand why you only put 100 rupees of fuel in your car each time you fill up; that is so inconvenient." He starts to explain about the family budget, but before he can finish, Eric chimes in and says: "It is to teach the car a lesson. You wouldn't want the car to get spoiled, you know. If you fill it up with petrol, then it is going to expect a full tank every time, and there is nothing worse than a spoiled car ... Next thing you know, it is going to want oil and washer fluid and all those other things ... No, better to give it a little gas at a time so that it doesn't get spoiled."
We chuckled about this comment. Now to you it may not seem funny until you understand that is the type of sentiment that an Indian might express when talking about their domestic help. If you give the cleaning lady too much, she is likely to get spoiled and want all kinds of things; if you give the driver too much time off, he will probably expect more holidays.
As I write this, I am thinking that the whole story probably will grate on the American sense of "all men created equal" and in the end, you may not find the story humorous at all, but rather a little twisted. I hope not, because these stories about India are intended to illustrate the stark differences between Indian and American culture.
--Posted by Leslie, Sunday, August 31
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