Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nonsense, Smith Style

Those of you who know our family know that we have an ability to create and enjoy endless amounts of nonsense. We love nonsense. Don't knock it, nonsense appeals to us for for two big reasons. One, it's entertaining and two, it's usually free. Since we have been here rickshaws, both the auto and the bicycle versions, have been the focus of a lot of our silly jokes and crazy ideas. The following are a few of my favorites.

Pimp My Rickshaw: Much like the MTV show Pimp My Ride, Pimp My Rickshaw would surprise rickshaw drivers with tricked out versions of their old vehicles. Along with a few things that are cool and helpful would be a bunch of ridiculous things that would only manage to make the rickshaw less useful. Here is our first try. As you can see it started out extremely old and worn out. After a few days at Mumbai Auto (our garage of choice for custom jobs) it came out with a new super cool look.

True, it won't keep you dry in the rain and it won't shield you from the sun, but you will be the coolest driver on the road. If you get bored while waiting for a customer you no longer have to choose between napping and staring! You can watch a movie on one of your three fold down TV screens or play video games on the Wii system we hooked up in the trunk! (I hope the artist, Jitish Kallat, doesn't mind me using a picture of this piece.)

One Month: We would have called it 30 Days, but the very smart people at FX already thought of that for their show with Super Size Me documentary maker, Morgan Spurlock. In One Month our Number One Son would spend a month as a bicycle rickshaw driver and (here is the fun part) live off of what he makes!

Before you get upset with me and start telling me what a bad parent I am I would like to state that this was his idea. Plus, I promise not to let him starve to death. Other than that, I see this as a win win situation. First, he is out of the house for a month. Second, when he comes back he will be far more grateful to me for all the things I do for him. See? I win twice! That isn't what a win win situation is? Are you sure? Hmm.

The Price Is Right, For You: In this fun new game show, everyday we send out a first time American tourist to ride an auto rickshaw from New Friends Colony to the American Embassy. The viewers at home will text (standard text messaging rates apply) us the amount they think the passenger is going to be over charged. Then we all get to sit back and enjoy the looks of terror on the passenger's face as the auto makes it's way through Delhi. Finally, at the end of the show, when the price is announced by that day's unscrupulous driver, we will send all of the viewers who guessed correctly a toy rickshaw of their very own!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Of Flies And Fools

First, the flies. One of the hardest parts of living in India is that everything, everything is different than it is in the US. Sometimes during the first couple of months I would lay in bed in the morning and wish I could stay there because the thought of another day in a place where nothing was familiar seemed too daunting.

Within a few days of living here, we noticed that even the flies were different. Up till then all I knew about flies was that they vomited every time they landed. I had heard this in grade school and it had stuck with me. At this point I tell myself this is an urban myth, like the story about Ricky Schroeder dying when he washed his Pop Rocks down with a cola. I tell myself this because fooling myself is easier than running to a sink a scrubbing every time a fly lands on me.
Anyway, the flies in India are more sedate. They fly slower, they take off slower, they seem to do everything slower. At home when a pesky fly came around, one swish of my hand was enough to send the fly scurrying of for a couple of minutes of wild flight. Here, no such luck. When they land, they want to stay. "Go ahead and swish that hand around," they seem to say, "it's creating a refreshing breeze for me. I think I'll sit here and enjoy it." Sometimes you actually have to brush or flick them off. You know, make contact with the flies (it's an urban myth, it's an urban myth, it's an urban myth).

Then, last night I was reading the end of my latest novel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. In a passage describing a memory of the main character's father who had just immigrated to the US, it said this, "...Baba started grumbling about American flies. He'd sit at the kitchen table with his flyswatter, watch the flies darting from wall to wall, buzzing here, buzzing there, harried and rushed. 'In this country, even flies are pressed for time,' he'd groan." I had to take a minute and laugh at how differently we all perceive things.

On to the fools. I seem to have jinxed myself. Perhaps after I wrote this post about our guards, I should have knocked on some wood. A few weeks ago our driver, Kirpa Shankar, arrived at the house early in the morning and found Pushpindar bathing behind the house. Kirpa Shankar pointed out that this was not a good place for a man to wash himself because the children or I might walk out or look out our window and see him. Pushpindar was offended by this rebuke and wanted to fight. Thankfully Kirpa Shankar was mature enough to avoid fighting. This morning when Kirpa Shankar arrived at the house, he once again found Pushpindar bathing. When he reminded Pushpindar that this was a bad place to wash, the guard became very angry and threatened to find Kirpa Shankar on his way home tonight and shoot him.

I had convinced myself that what I can only think to call the "macho mentality" was not present in our employees. This idea that any disagreement is considered an insult and that it can only be resolved by asserting one's manhood through violence. I know it is prevalent here. I read about it in the newspaper daily, but I just couldn't see it in this meek seemingly kind hearted boy.
Now we are faced with the task of letting both of our guards go. They are brothers remember? I can only hope that our new guards are better, as they may actually have something to guard us from.

So, who are the fools? Pushpindar, for macho-ing himself and his newly married brother out of their jobs, and me, for fooling myself into believing I knew him.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Letters About India, Part 3

We went to a wedding this weekend. It was the wedding of Mr. Smith's unofficially adopted sister, Shashi. This was the smallest wedding that we have been to so far, but easily the most fun. I think the difference was that we finally took our kids. They walked in and saw the dance floor and knew what they wanted to do all night. The only blight on the evening was an encounter with a bad mannered guest. It was this encounter that led to the following letter. If you are sick of the letters, just scroll passed it to see the pictures.

Dear Drunk Man At The Wedding,

Fondling women that don't want to be fondled is rude! I am surprised that your mother never taught you that. I am sorry that I didn't do a better job of teaching you myself last night. Unfortunately I am naturally over polite and afraid of making a scene. I have vowed to do a better job next time, should our paths cross again.

When you first approached me I thought you were one of the many people who like to test their English skills by holding a basic yet polite conversation. This is something I generally enjoy and I often, in turn, show off the few Hindi phrases I have mastered. But it soon became clear that this was not a casual chat. You asked me to dance, I smiled and said no. You asked again and I explained that I needed to stay with my children and that I don't dance, as a general rule. You started to coax, I became insistent. You began to grab for my hand to pull me away, I began to signal to my husband. Then you casually (in an innocent way) brushed my chest. On the third pass, which was more of a poke, I gathered my children and walked away.

You, of course, followed. Lucky for me Mr. Smith was now within my reach. I quickly asked him to remove you and he did, no questions asked. See why I love him? You should learn from him. He protects women rather than harassing them. He escorted you to the dance floor in a friendly yet firm manner, then explained that you needed to find a different partner, and fast.
In a twisted way, I am glad that we met. Most of the expat women here in Delhi have a story about being groped in some way, so I knew it was coming. Now that it has happened I can quit worrying. But you should be warned, I've thought it over and decided that the next time we meet I won't be so meek.

Mrs. Smith

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Letters About India, Part 2

Dear Men In India,

I was wondering, is it possible for you to go to the bathroom somewhere besides alongside the road? I realize that there is not an indoor bathroom available at all times, but there are buildings, trees, bushes and garbage cans. Pee behind one of them. Also, if people can "hold" number two all day just to use the bathrooms in their own homes, perhaps you could time it so that you at least waited until after dark? Maybe even just walk a little further from the street?

Not only does this practice of going where ever you happen to be totally gross out my daughters and I, but I have a 5 year old son that I have to take back to live in the US someday. If for some crazy reason he decides that it is O.K. to "cop a squat" any old place, it could prove quite embarrassing.

Let's not forget the cleanliness factor. Well there really is too much to get into here on this particular issue. Let's just say there is a very high "Ick Factor" for this practice and leave it at that.

As a last ditch effort, here is an idea I had. Perhaps you and some of your friends could work together and form human walls for each other. Think of it as a team building activity. Something, anything, please.


Mrs. Smith

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Letters About India

In the comments of Mr. Smith's last post, the subject of NaBloPoMo came up. NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. Basically every month crazy people like me sign up to write a blog post everyday. That is it. You can post almost anything, as long as you post at least once a day, everyday, for the month. I signed up for April. Since the theme for April is letters, I decided to write one letter a day. Some of them are about life in India. Just for fun I think I will post the ones that deal with India here as well. If you want to read the others, follow the link on the side bar. The following letter was my post for April 7th.

Dear Crazy Crazy Landlord,

I've had a lot of landlords over the last seventeen years, but you take the cake. I mean it. I've had professional landlords, inexperienced landlords, efficient landlords, unorganized landlords, pushover landlords, no nonsense landlords, generous landlords, even a mean, greedy, dishonest, SOB of a landlord (may he rest in peace); but you, Mr. Crazy Crazy Landlord, are my first lunatic.

Let's review shall we?

  • We've come home to find you watching TV in the frontroom.
  • You've shown up unannounced time and time again.
  • You've entered our house without so much as a knock on the door.
  • You've given several guided tours of our house.
  • You almost included my bathing daughter in one of your guided tours.
  • You sent a group of 20-something year old men wearing cannabis T-shirts to tour the house.
  • You demanded we give you our oven.
  • You demanded we give you your microwave.
  • You demanded we pay additional rent for your microwave when I refused to give it to you.
  • You demanded (and took) the company's stove top.
  • You come at odd hours to check the outside lights.
  • You grill our guards at length every time you visit, in a language you know we don't speak.

Sadly, all of these seem merely quirky when compared to this evening's events. Tonight you came, once again, to check on those all important outside lights. I imagine you were quit relieved to see them burning brightly...illuminating our security our gated our gated (and guarded) community. But one wonders, Mr. Crazy Crazy Landlord, with all of these lights and gates and guards, why did you feel it necessary to bring a heavy with a shoulder holster?

Get help,

Mrs. Smith

Saturday, April 5, 2008

mr smith takes yet another turn

As mrs smith is suffering from a case of "blogger's block" combined with a little "Delhi belly", I thought I would try my hand at posting on the blog. I know I am not nearly as entertaining as she is, nor as good lookin', but bear with me...

I took a couple of days off this week to rest and relax. My job is stressful at times (as some of you know all too well) and it has been nice to turn off the "crackberry" and just hang out with the family. As we are in India for an ever-decreasing amount of time, there is a lot of pressure to go places and see things. Now any of you who have any children, not necessarily seven, know that travelling with kids is not always relaxing. Heck, sitting in the house with the kids can be stressful enough. Recognizing that this is true for them and for me, and mrs smith being ever so wise (she knows I hate to just sit around and am miserable - creating misery for others too - when I have nothing to do), we decided to go ahead and see some of the local sites. India is rich in culture and history, and Delhi itself is also full of those same things. So, being the brave adventurers we are, we decided to go to one of India's cultural symbols... The National Rail Museum!

It was so much fun. We got to ride the "Joy Train" which is a little train that runs around the museum grounds. I didn't get to sit with my family on this ride as I had met a young man named Saurav who had decided to stick to us like glue. I bought him a ticket on the Joy Train and he proceeded to guide me to a car in which we could sit. I had number one son and "Dennis the Menace" with me, but Dennis decided he trusted mom more than dad (smart kid) and bolted to her car with number one son in tow. So my new friend Saurav and I toured the grounds in the train.

The great thing about this place is that the kids could climb on the trains and explore freely. They ran everywhere and wore themselves out climbing on engines from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We also toured inside the museum, where they had models of everything, maps of India's extensive rail system and even the skull of an elephant that had been killed in a rail accident. And yes, the train won...

All in all it was a great deal of fun for everyone. And for 48 rupees admission (just over a US dollar) you can't go wrong. Unfortunately, then we decided to go to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. That was substantially more expensive, which balanced out the rail museum nicely. Plus, I got to spend enough that I felt like we went somewhere, but without all the inconvenience of a road trip.