Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Pick A Euphemism

Among our expat friends (others who have left their homelands to come to India) there are a few phrases that describe the kind of day I am having. India day, cultural experience, and opportunity for growth are my favorite. They all mean the same thing: Today is the day I wish I lived somewhere with DVRs and root beer. Netflix at the very least. There is no catastrophe, just several little things that are all so much easier in the US.

I noticed that there was no water upstairs, no big deal, I just headed downstairs to turn on the pump. Camla (our housekeeper) had beat me to it. Cool. So I went into the front room where there is an AC and tried to cool down. Then a few minutes later Uday came in in to get me. He wanted to show me something, but what? "No water" he said. Hmmmm. "Is there water in the underground tank?" I asked. Blink, blink. So I headed out to check the underground tank. Unfortunately there were discarded bathroom cupboards on the lid to the tank. Then Uday started gesturing towards an outlet near by. I'm not sure why, because it is not hooked to the pump and, as far as I can tell, there is no connection to water and this outlet. He started explaining in what he was sure was English, and I was equally sure was nothing close to English. Then someone on the roof started yelling something about "bani" which is water, so Uday said, "is O.K., is O.K." What's O.K., do we have water now ? I don't know and no one can explain it to me, so I smiled and went inside. Later I discovered there was still no water, so I made Mr. Smith move the cupboards and we looked in the underground tank. It is full of water, that's good news. The water's full of termites, both alive and dead, that's less good. And the pump doesn't work, bad, bad, bad.

After some phone calls a man from the office comes. I try in broken English and charades to explain that the pump isn't working correctly and that even if it were, the water is full of termites, so using it for cooking or laundry really isn't going to be a good thing. Then our guard, Kossel, comes running back and speaking to the man and gesturing to the mystery outlet again. Seriously, what is up with the outlet? No one can tell me, so, having done my part I smile and go inside. Eventually all is well, water is running. I am assured that the pump was working the whole time (this is a lie that they tell me to keep me happy) and that there was sediment (I'm guessing termite bodies, but sediment sounds nicer) in the faucet screens. The explanation seems to be over at this point, so I smile and I walk inside. As soon as I am out of sight, the man from the office starts explaining something to Uday and Kossel in a hushed voice, so just for fun I poke my head back out and sure enough, they are gathered around the damned outlet! Come on! They all look up guiltily, I still smile and I still walk back inside (what else?) but this time I roll my eyes real big while I'm walking.

After the man from the office left, I went to see Uday. He and our driver will always tell us what actually happened. Everyone else gives us the version that they think will cause them the least trouble. The pump has been fixed, and all three of our water tanks will be cleaned. Soon. And the outlet? The switch next to it turns on the hidden pump to our illegal well. Ah ha!


mr. smith's brother said...

I hear termites are a local delicacy and very high in protien. Perhaps you could start a new flavoured water craze!

Toni said...

I remember how frustrating it is to not be able to communicate in a foreign language! The smiling and walking away brought back so many fond memories. I hated that feeling of being completely oblivious to what was going on.

Have you bought a Hindi for Dummies yet? Do you need iodine tablets or chlorine? Have you set up a 3 day supply of essential water yet?

Keep the stories coming. I love them!

Aunt Carol said...

And to think I thought I had a bad day when I finally washed my car, came in the house and the neighbor desided to use his power guessed it, saw dust all over my nice clean car. To make matters worse, it rained last night. saw dust, water and the car looks just like it did on Monday.

Laughed at your story.. Say how is the chanting going next door????

Mrs. Smith said...

Why not eat them, they are huge! Nothing like the tiny things from AZ. We are hiring a Hindi tutor for the kids and for us, just soon as as I figure out how to find a tutor. As for the chanting next door, it has stopped. It turns out that it was a week long celebration/blessing on the new house. When it stopped on day eight, all my kids cheered quite loudly. I hope the neighbor didn't hear them!