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Odd (wo)man out……

April 5, 2009

I have debated with myself whether or not to honestly share my experiences today. Partly because today was the first day that India has totally overwhelmed me and partly because I do not want to insult my Indian readers. But, it was my day and my experience and my blog, after all. I want to capture the feelings I had – so here goes – no insults intended.

Hubby had to work today. Please remember our flat is little (compared to the living space we are used to). I have 3 children who love to watch t.v. but eventually they actually do get bored by electronics. It is spring break – no school. There is a lot to see in Delhi that we have not yet seen. I needed some blog material.

I also need to remember to be careful what I ask for.

I gave the kids 3 options – the craft museum, the Red Fort, or the zoo. It was unanimous. The zoo.

Our regular driver was not working today – so we had Zaffar. He is a nice man with limited English skills. I asked to go to the zoo. He said, yes ma’am. I showed him the map that had our neighborhood and the zoo on it. Both of them were circled. We want to go from here to there. Yes. Ma’am.

Then he pulls into a gas station. That is fine. Really. I would rather him ask than just drive us around all day. But I can tell he still really is not sure. He asked me for the address. Well, the book does not list the address. There is a map, remember. But not the physical address. So, I called hubby’s assistant. She is so helpful to us. Really, I am very lucky. She explained where we wanted to go.

Ohhhhhh, the zoo? Zarraf just happens to know exactly where that is. Hmmmm. She got back on the phone with me and explained that in India they call it “the zoo”. So he did not know what I meant. Funny thing – in America we call it the “zoo” also. It must be my accent.

Anyzoo, we got there without too much trouble and I took a look around. This is what I saw.

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This picture is not worth a thousand words – because it really does not give the sense of how many people were milling about. There were hundreds of people. There were 3 lines – cubbies to store your bags, tickets, and security.

I saw women in the security line with purses, so we went straight for tickets. I was not sure if you were allowed bags or if the cubbies were just for convenience. I guessed convenience. That line was (ridiculously) long. So we moved on to tickets. There were only men in the ticket line. In the ticket line we get.

Men cut in front of us in line. They cut in line behind us too. I am not a big fan of people cutting in front of me in line. But I quickly decided to let. it. go. The line was crowded. I was (ever so slightly) outnumbered by men. I was manless (for the day). I don’t do the damsel in distress well, but I also do not invite trouble.

The man behind me explained that my children could wait out of the line for me. You know, over there. My kids looked at me and then they looked at him with their best “good luck with that dude” look. Our mom isn’t going to have us wait away from her. Even if it is over there. You’ll just have to deal for a few more minutes.

He was actually very helpful and explained where to get in. But he does not know me. The kids stayed in line with me. They were happy to do that.

So here is the sign that explains ticket prices. Once again we are paying a skin tax. Fine – it’s a whole dollar. We’ll (happily) pay it.

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My dad might laugh that I should have gotten in free – but alas, I am too smart for free admission. (Yes, I miss my dad terribly.) I think it is very nice that India gives its citizens a break on admission prices. America could never do this – it would be a paperwork nightmare. Americans are far too diverse to be able to tell who is from where just by looking. Too bad – I love a discount.

On to security.

Bear was (more than) a little concerned that he might have to go in a separate line. The lines were very long and frankly, I was a little concerned too. Many of our sightseeing adventures have had our family in separate lines – men on one side, women on the other. It is just a matter of logistics – women checking women, men checking men. But I was not going to put Bear in a very long line by himself. Whew. I did not have to.

One of the guards asked if we had any food. I said no.

Well it turns out I did have granola bars. The second security guard spotted them and asked me to take them out. Absolutely no food allowed in the zoo. Even if you promise not to eat it. Water bottles seem to be okay. I think. We did not bring water bottles – so don’t quote me on that. But I highly recommend water bottles. There are several watering holes with free water – but if you are not used to the local water – well, let’s just say there are better souvenirs than montazuma’s revenge.

Oh yes, back to the snacks. Enter language barriers and cultural differences.

We are now holding up the line. This does not make the 100 plus people behind us fans of Americans.

The guard tried to get me to open the granola bars so my children can eat them really fast. Or, I can take them back over to the line of 200 plus people and put them in a cubbie for one rupee. Yes, that is two cents. Well here is my two cents worth. This is where Americans should be embarrassed because we can be (very) wasteful. But seriously, it is just not worth the hassle. My kids don’t happen to be hungry right now. I don’t want to get in the super long line, just to get back in this super long line – just so I don’t have to lose 4 granola bars.

Please just take the granola bars to your family and enjoy them. I will buy more. Can we please just be done here?

Apparently not. Please ma’am, open them and eat them now. Sigh. No thank you. You keep them. Do with them what you will. But ma’am, I might have to throw them away. Yeah, I am good with that. Can we go in now?

Now Angel decided to bring a purse with her also. They did not look inside her purse. But she heard the rule. No food. So, bless her heart, she pulls out a granola bar and gives it to the guard.Β  Yes, I am proud of her for being honest. But seriously, where are the animals – can we just go now? Do we have to be the main attraction? Then she remembered she actually had two granola bars. You’re killing me sweetie – enough already. Are you sure there isn’t a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you want to turn in?

We finally get in the gate. The zoo is lovely – lots of space – plenty of room for all the people who are there. It does not feel as smooshed inside.

Bear gets out the map. Now, this is interesting. Normally the hubby is in charge of navigation. But here is a chance for Bear to direct traffic. I have failed him in all things Boy Scout, so bring it Bear. Get us where we want to go.

He did a great job.

We saw the giraffes and the sloth bear.

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He did a great job, that is, until he took us behind the exhibit for the sloth bear. It was a path. But it was an empty path. No one else was on it. I did say that I was concerned that no one else was there. Well, except for the two men walking out of the woods. (Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Maybe we should not be here.)

So, I am balancing encouraging Bear to navigate our way through the zoo with the fact that my scare-dar is flashing “danger, will roger, danger”. I decided to let him guide us.

Until…

Until the two men approached another man and started to harass him. I told the kids we needed to turn around and go. NOW.

I realized that we were in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. The two men started to slap the other man. There was a woman standing by with her hands cupped over her mouth.

We exited stage left. Immediately.

Angel said, I don’t think I want to go back there.

Don’t worry, Angel. You won’t be. going. back. there.

So I let Bear keep the map. And I fought every instinct I had to just go home. But I don’t want my kids to be afraid of being in India. There is safety in numbers. We’ll just stay with the crowds.

We continued on to see more animals. Lots and lots of people were watching us. I felt it more today than I ever have.

We saw this rhino trying to get out of the enclosure. I could honestly feel his pain.

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We also saw three white tigers. (Yes, you can still count – there are only two in the picture.)

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And if you know how to use your camera, you can get a great picture of the leopards.

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If you don’t know how to use your camera so well, you might get a great picture of the fence, with some cool (very blurry) leopards in the background. Isn’t this the coolest fence you have ever seen?

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Along the way, many people asked to take pictures of my girls. This is not a new thing. It happens at every tourist spot we go to. Usually they walk away disappointed when I say no. But they seem to understand.

Well today was different. A lot of people clicked pictures with cell phones. There was even one woman who seemed to follow us. It was bizarre. She would bump in to me and laugh. I did not join her in laughing. It got old quick.

Bear was still navigating and we were looking for the hippos. Bear looked at the map and looked at the path. It seemed somewhat empty. He said maybe we can see the hippos next time. Lesson learned.

We head on to see the elephants. They are amazing.

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I did not know this….

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As Flower and Angel are looking at the elephants, Bear notices that a man on the bench is taking a picture with his cell phone of my girls. Bear takes his map and blocks the phone. Honestly, I cannot believe he did it. Two things – one, great job Bear – this is exactly why I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother. Two – holy sh*t,Β  Bear. Be careful here.

Bear and I had a chat about how extremely proud I was that he was observant and protective of his sisters. And how he is to never. do. that. again. Unless they are in danger,we’ll let some things go.

We all agreed it was time to go home. This is what everyone said as we were leaving.

Bear: I guess we won’t come back here.
(I told him we would – at 9am when the zoo opens and it is less crowded and when Dad can come with us.)

Flower: I like the zoo in the U.S. better because you can drink the water there and nobody stares at us.
(Next time we will bring water bottles and when we are home in the U.S. we will visit the zoo. Maybe we’ll wear crazy clothes so we get stared at there too. Maybe not. We’ll just have to see.)

Angel: I like the zoo in the U.S. better. When can we go home.
(Sweetie, we are home – at least for now.)

So all in all, it turned out to be a good day. Bear got a chance to be in charge. I remembered that instincts kick arse. We got to see some cool animals.

But it was also overwhelming. Frankly, it was very overwhelming. I have not really felt that since I have been here. I was disappointed but it was a reality check that we are not in the U.S. and we have to remember that.

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2009 7:01 pm

    Sands:
    Okay. Point taken.

  2. April 8, 2009 11:02 am

    @Ke- I was talking about when i was in India and not US!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. April 8, 2009 10:47 am

    Can I Remain – I did not mind at all that the guards took the granola bars – really, I understood completely – but I could not explain very well that we did not mind him taking them – we did not want to eat them, we did not want to store them, he could just take them. I think Indians do a much better job of not wasting – he was trying to be very helpful he just did not understand that I really did think it was okay to throw them away. 😎

    Sands – I am sorry that happened to you.

    Deep – it was a reminder to be careful – wherever we are – I never felt in real danger – just very uncomfortable

    Loco – I will reread it again but reliving it – no thank you 😎 how was your break?

    Lola – I am not sure I would have been more comfortable with the driver there – I could not really communicate with him that well – it might have felt awkward. Now if you had been with me – hee hee

    Poupee – we just walked away (quickly) – but I do hope that young man is ok

    Arun – I didn’t take it that way at all – I felt just like you described – guilty that I could have done something – but really, there was no way I was going to get involved! Thanks for the input from your sister too – I wondered if maybe it wasn’t necessarily a middle class crowd – when I looked back on the day, I do not remember any of the women wearing western clothes at all – usually there are at least teenagers dressed in jeans or something – I think it might just have been a crowd not used to seeing someone different.

    Sharmishtha – there are places in American I wouldn’t go in the daytime either! 😎 Thanks for the comments – I love all the insights – it helps me balance out and digest my experiences here!

  4. Sharmishtha permalink
    April 8, 2009 10:25 am

    Ke, I don’t think poverty and *violent* crime are necessarily linked. When I was growing up in India, there were places in the cities that we did not go to, not because they were violent but because they were dirty, dusty and hot. There was a lot of petty crime – pickpocketing, etc. But violent crime like assassinations and gun battles seemed to be the business of mafias and had little to do with the life of ordinary people. In my college years, I discovered Delhi by taking a random bus, getting lost, taking the right connection to get back on track, etc. It was never a comfortable journey, but it was never unsafe during the daytime hours (night is a whole different story). I would never dream, for example, of taking a bus into the South Side of Chicago even during daytime hours. There is a sense of lurking violence in most inner cities in the US.
    Now India is going the same way. Earlier, the low levels of violent crime meant that India could get away with light policing (the rural north has always been more violent than most cities). These days, with random terrorist strikes and with even regular criminals carrying sophisticated weapons, I fear that there are parts of Indian cities that are becoming no-go areas. The total number of murders in 2007 was (I believe) 32,000. Now per capita (divide by population), this still is a pretty low rate but terrorism is contributing to a significant spike in the violent death numbers. The country is just crying out for more police on the streets. And yes, AR2W, I mean police who don’t just stand around and pick their noses. We are in a different era now. Sorry for taking up bandwith with a long comment. OK, that’s enough said on this topic.

  5. Arun permalink
    April 8, 2009 5:04 am

    areason2write: I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you should have intervened in the situation with the three men. As pointed out be several others, you were absolutely right in prioritizing the safety of yourself and your kids.

    I would also like to apologize to you on behalf of those who made it so difficult for you at the zoo. The other day I asked my sister (who lives in Delhi) why she didn’t take her kids out to the zoo. She replied that it wasn’t an appropriate place for middle class families! Your experience seems to confirm her notion, which is very sad. I hope that this is just an artifact of the newfound fascination of the middle class India with the malls, the multiplexes, and the amusement parks, and they will return to places like the zoo as soon as the fascination wears off.

  6. poupee97 permalink
    April 8, 2009 3:26 am

    Your zoo outing, though overwhelming, sounds like about par for the course, given everything. Kudos to you for taking it all in your stride – sort of – and resolving to go back there some day! About the three men and a woman situation – don’t feel guilty, you were absolutely right to walk away. Of course you have to think of your own safety and your kids first.

    And I don’t think there’s anything in this post for Indians to take offense at. Really.

  7. April 8, 2009 12:22 am

    Very interesting story…I love the way you tell it! Makes you want to read it again and again!

    keep up the great work!

  8. April 7, 2009 8:38 pm

    sharmishtra,

    How would you explain the low crime rate in india given it’s high population and high levels of poverty?

    Sands:
    I find it hard to believe that people in america were using their cellphones to take pictures of you and this is especially so if you live in any big city in america. America is a diverse country and people are used to seeing folks from all over the world.

  9. April 7, 2009 1:35 pm

    I’m not offended. Not in the least bit. This was a necessary post. For anyone out there who thinks India is some fairytale, it’s not, it can be brutal, lawless, and dangerous. Please please please, be very careful in this country, especially with young children, and particularly young girls. It’s not that WE have a difficult life here, but white skin makes for whole different story.

  10. April 7, 2009 12:43 pm

    Yikes! You’re telling your story, and you didn’t insult anyone, unless they choose to be insulted. I would have taken the driver with me for sure.

  11. April 7, 2009 12:20 pm

    oops, forgot to say Thanks for writing this post!!

  12. April 7, 2009 12:16 pm

    Experiences of a foreign land, no matter how good or bad it is, can never be all good or all bad. I am an Indian living in US and when I visited the zoo the last time, I was with my fiance, and 15 minutes after getting in I requested to find the exit. Why? Because I was sick of the stares and cell phones clicking pictures! So its not just the white skin!

  13. CanIRemainUnknownPl permalink
    April 7, 2009 11:50 am

    You are doing a great job in exploring an alien culture and a strange land, don’t let a bunch of morons mar your opinion about the masses. Unless you are roaming around in the busy city markets its probably a good idea to take your driver along with you,wont cost you much and he will have a thezoo day too.
    As I think of US, in your case India wont change for you so you have to adapt in order to enjoy it,be safe here, able to give kids tours etc. I will give you an example, a few years back I used to fly alot and there was a time when every single time I was ‘randomly’ selected for security check. It was disturbing enough that I started thinking of switching jobs so that I dont have to travel. But then I sat down and thought about it, by virtue of my brown skin skin I do resemble all those terrorists,I am in the same age group,have a funny name etc. and by doing this they are making me safer in the air so I should be thankful. Also in India everybody gets frisked so what the heck!!!
    In your case do you think you would feel better about the guard trying to get all your granola bars if you can point your attention to the fact that people feed animals with food meant for humans and the guard is saving the animals so that you and your family can enjoy them?
    Its your blog dont let this celebrity status strangle your creative instincts.

  14. April 6, 2009 10:59 pm

    Nancy – it would have been fun to have you with me!

    Sharmishtha – yes, it is an invasive two way street and I have been guilty of it myself. I love the people here – they look so interesting and the colors are magnificent. It just makes me uncomfortable when people try to take pictures of my girls because it usually a group of young men. And I just feel protective. I know you understand – but it is so hard to articulate – India continues to teach me that the world is simply not black and white – but infused with many, many shades of grey that stretch boundaries and challenge our thoughts and our hearts.

    Deewane – it confused Bear – he was being protective and I just want him to balance that with being safe – he apologized to me – but I told him there was absolutely no reason to apologize – he is a great kid and I was very proud of him

    Ke – I think we get far more stares in tourist places were maybe people do not live in big cities and simply do not have exposure to as many westerners. It was interesting, as I thought about it more later, I do not remember that any of the women had on jeans or western clothing – the zoo on a Sunday might just be more of a hometown crowd – it is kind of a country mouse/city mouse experience. I am sure it is not just seeing us that seems strange to those who live in remote villages but also seeing larger markets and so much traffic, and big buildings. It’s just when all eyes are on you, you can feel it. And yes, some places are better not to go out without a man. I don’t think I would venture out at night without my husband with me or at least I would want to be in a fairly decent sized group.

    Bindu – it is a very different feeling here walking without my husband – not in all places – there are places I will absolutely go without hesitation – I just think not the more crowded spots. We will remain cautious – just as we do in the U.S. – thanks!

    Sharmishtha – it is funny that you say that India is one of the least policed areas – I do see them frequently – but they are not always super busy. And I do not remember seeing them inside the zoo. I think Kiran Bedi would agree with you! THanks.

  15. Sharmishtha permalink
    April 6, 2009 7:54 pm

    I will second Bindu on some of her observations. India is one of the least policed countries in the world, and while that is generally a great compliment to the Indian people, at times like these when armed terrorists are roaming around South Asia, and even ordinary criminals carry lethal weapons and not just sticks and knives as in days gone by, the country needs far more police than is available. Just ask Kiran Bedi. Also, elections are coming up soon and elections in India…while they are a carnival, they can also be very unruly. Think the protests at the recent G-20 summit and multiply by several thousands. So, when Delhi goes to the polls, I suggest that you and your family stay close to home.

  16. Bindu permalink
    April 6, 2009 1:38 pm

    I can relate to you so much… I know exactly how you feel. I have been through some similar experiences while in India. Have I not seen such incidents in the US? Sure I have! I have lived in NYC- city the great, a world of opportunities where every dream can be fulfilled…but at the same time, there is crime, violence and hatred at every step. Anyhow, it is totally a different feeling of insecurity when I am in India. Most importantly, there is no value of human life in India. You may see a person dying on the road, no one will go near or call police for the fear of getting involved. People hang outside moving buses and trains…often hit or falling…who cares? There is no security. You are at your own risk wherever you go.Thus having a male next to you helps. So my dear blogger, please preserve caution when you are out. Avoid going to unknown places alone, try having an Indian friend along when you are visiting places. You have to protect your family and yourself.

  17. April 6, 2009 12:46 pm

    It sounds like if you are a foreign woman in India, going out without a male companion can make things much more difficult for you. True or False?

    I’m still surprised by how many stares you get for being white in India. In many parts of Africa, you wouldn’t get that many stares and people definitely would not be taking pictures of you.

    Why are Indians so in awe of white people?

    How diverse is India in terms of the number of international residents or tourists?

  18. deewane permalink
    April 6, 2009 11:39 am

    Heh! Voicing the popular opinion, just write from your heart (you already do actually :)) An oft-used “reasoning” by parents, when trying to appease a child recently told-off, is that one only gets cross with someone when you love them, because you can’t be indifferent to them!! And, well, it’s practically impossible to only have nice experiences in any place. And, it is YOUR blog after all! (But still, thank you for considering the feelings of your Indian readers, that’s so much more thoughtful than I could ever be! honest!)

  19. Sharmishtha permalink
    April 6, 2009 11:03 am

    Don’t worry about what your Indians readers might think – just write from the heart. As Indians, we are all aware of both India’s wonderful-ness as well as its…er, not so wonderful-ness. I do feel really bad for your children being badgered like that with people taking photos of them. Although it does make me think about the irony of Indians taking photos of westerners and westerners feeling wierd. I mean, don’t western tourists always take photos of random Indians, especially women, in their colorful saris and ghagaras? It’s hugely invasive on both sides. I wish I could excuse it all as just fascination with people who look different but in my value system, there is absolutely NO excuse for harrassing small children. Your son did a wonderful thing by trying to protect his sisters. He’s a great kid!

  20. Nancy permalink
    April 6, 2009 10:38 am

    Keep speaking from your heart. It’s your blog. And you go out of your way to be real and still respectful. Good for you for venturing out with the kids.

  21. April 6, 2009 9:14 am

    Vivek – welcome to you too! I do not fault Rit for the comments – I would defend America too – I am glad that Indians are proud of their country – you all should be – it is an amazing place – I just think a reread of this post might be helpful for him/her. I had no idea this post would bring out so many new commenters – see, there are upsides to everything! We are having a great stay here! Thank you!

    Settlers – Thanks – I agree – some of this could have easily happened in the U.S. – just probably not all of it together for us – this was the first time that Flower was affected by the stares – it felt heavier at the zoo. But I am serious, we will go back – I want to see the hippos. We do not at all have a sour taste in our mouth – we just have some lessons learned. 😎

  22. April 6, 2009 9:02 am

    A very good post, areason2write.

    Hey, leave alone you, if I, an Indian, would have been in that place where the 2 men were slapping the other guy, even I would have been afraid. And having three little kids with you, I can understand what you must have felt at that time. I see no insult to India ir Indians in your post. But I guess such incidents happen everywhere. Its just that you don’t witness them all the time.

    And seriously, I think what the Bear did for his sisters was phenominal. I would be really crossed if someone took pictures of my family without my/their consent. Especially my children. You never know where they may end up.

    I do hope that this incident does not leave a sour taste in your mouth. As you do know (and write about), India does have a lot of good to offer (along with the bad).

  23. Vivek permalink
    April 6, 2009 4:49 am

    @Rit….Get over it man, why do u get so defensive, its kinda like so funny when over boisterous Indian ppl try to defend the ‘aan, baan & shaan’ of their motherland ( a.k.a ‘Bharat Mata’) when each of us knows that we could write a million word essay on India and its problems and how to deal with them. Its just a matter of individual experiences, I’m sure u’ll have a whole bunch of ur own experiences too of a foreign land (at least I have mine) Its obvious there are cultural and social differences that she(the author)is trying to get comfortable with. As such, things which seem pretty normal to us may seem somewhat awkward and strange to her.
    Anyways, I love your blog and I’m seriously hooked on to it! Just keep blogging and I hope u have a great stay in India.

  24. April 6, 2009 2:22 am

    Arun – thank you for commenting – it’s always a treat to hear from someone following along! The incident in the zoo will bother me for a long time. I wanted to ask the woman if she was ok – it seemed she knew the man and was very scared for him – I wanted to tell the men to knock it off – but I was alone with my 3 kids and they are my very first responsibility. There were no police around – I probably would have pointed them in that direction if I had seen them. Later in the day I thought I saw the two men again – they were laughing and joking and they were one of the (many) people who tried to get a picture of my kids with their cell phone. It was all very upsetting. I really appreciate your support of this post – I have found India to be very hospitable – but have no fear – someone will not be happy with my description of my experience. See the comment after yours. Good luck with your visas – what a hassle! I hope it all works out soon.

    Rit – welcome – a few things – yes, I teach my children to be vigilant wherever we go – I would not have left them alone in a long line the U.S. either. I did not tell them to be afraid because we were in India – I told them that being alone on a path is not a good idea – no matter where that path is. I stayed at the zoo because, even though I was overwhelmed, I did not want to scare them. It might be helpful for you to reread my words. I think you are expecting to hear things that simply are not there – I was in fact happy to pay $1 to see the zoo. I even said that in my post. In D.C., it’s free for everyone – I was complimenting India for protecting its own. And please be fair, you have no idea how much I pay my domestic help and how generous I am to them in other ways. They could afford 50 rupees for the zoo. It is my understanding that expats pay their help much better than most Indians. Expat homes are highly sought after and I do not know of anyone who pays their full-time help only 5000 rupees. I hope you will come back and follow along with our experience – I don’t have a lot of criticism for India – this was a one-time experience. And “skin tax” is a term I learned from an Indian. It is kind of funny to me. It makes me laugh. And if you do not believe it happens, follow a westerner at any market. Our prices start much higher than anyone with darker skin. On the taxes – we are not the occasional tourist – we actually pay Indian taxes too.

    Naomi – Oy indeed!

    Tottsmom – cookies for everyone! I like that! Luckily the guy with the phone laughed. I was very proud of Bear. 😎

  25. Tottsmom permalink
    April 5, 2009 10:24 pm

    Tottsmom passes ARTW a cup of tea and a cookie. I might just have to get an attitiude ajustment before venturing to India if we get the chance. I’m not sure I would have handled it as well as you.

    Give Bear a cookie or two from me too! Great job.

    I get that feeling that eventhough we/you still consider him a kid, because he was the only male in your group, others view him as responsible.

  26. April 5, 2009 7:51 pm

    Oy.

    I’m glad you wrote .. and then hit “post”

    Isn’t it about the bad and the good? The thought provoking AND the possibly insulting? The cheers and the jeers?

    I’m sorry you had such an overwhelming day though … next time we’ll go with you for double the stares! Good for you though for taking on the challenge and going sans Hubby!

    Oh … and KUDOS to Bear! You’re my hero!

  27. Rit permalink
    April 5, 2009 4:29 pm

    I sympathise with your feeling of being overwhelmed in a foreign land. But I trust you would have explained to your children that all the events you witnessed/experienced are possible anywhere in the world, not just in India. I am sure visitors to the USA would also have felt similarly overwhelmed at some point in their visits.

    And I wish you would not refer to differential pricing as “skin tax”. Surely you would not mind paying a dollar to visit the zoo? But do you think your ‘inexpensive’ domestic help could afford paying Rs. 50, or 30% of his/her daily wage (if I estimate his/her wage to be a generous Rs. 5,000/pm) to visit the zoo?

    Furthermore, citizens pay taxes all their life to establish and maintain public facilities. So it is only fair that they are charged lower rates than the occasional tourist. The principle exists all over the world including the West – college tuition in UK is 4 times as expensive for non UK/EU citizens, even for poor students from developing countries (which is ironic given historical and present forms of economic colonialism).

  28. Arun permalink
    April 5, 2009 1:52 pm

    Ever since I saw your blog covered in the Indian Express I have been a regular follower. Sorry for “lurking” around without commenting so far :).

    Briefly about me: I grew up in India, but have been in the US for about 13 years, where I continued working after doing my PhD. I have been in New Delhi for the past few months. It was to be a short family visit, but visa complications have resulted in my toddler and wife having to return to the US, while I wait here to get my visa—apparently a common issue these days for foreign scientists and engineers returning to the US. Anyways, this is your blog, not mine, right? So, enough about me.

    The reason I want to comment today is because the little “incident” you witnessed involving three men and a woman reminds me of a similar one several years ago in the US. A friend of mine, my wife, and I were strolling toward Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, one nice summer afternoon when we passed a woman flanked by two men. The woman, who I guessed might have been in her thirties, appeared to be in a bad shape. Perhaps, drugged. She was wobbling and was virtually being dragged along by the two men who held her by her arms. We fell completely silent as we passed them. We had stepped only a few feet ahead of them when we heard a loud thud. As we turned back we saw the woman lying completely flat on her back. On the concrete sidewalk. Did she break her skull? Was she dead? Did the men do something to her? One of the men casually lifted her back to her feet, smiled at us, said something to the effect “Oh, she’s OK”, and continued as if nothing had happened. We got cold feet, said nothing and hurried away. To this day I have not been able to recover from the guilt of not having informed the cops, which would have been easy to do since there are always cops at Harvard Square.

    By the way, I don’t know what you were talking about when you said that your Indian readers might be insulted by this post. You have a great blog, and an even greater attitude. I think I am addicted to your blog :).

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