Sunday, 28 October 2012

Myth Buster

Having been here for a few days there are a couple of myths that I had heard about India that I would like to confirm or dispel:

1. India is very dirty : I think this is a generalization that may apply to other parts of India. South Delhi is quite clean (by Kenyan standards) and would compare well to Nairobi. If you go to where the poor people live, of course the conditions are different but I would say that the places I have been to in South Delhi are more or less okay. However, I hear Southern Delhi alone is as big as Nairobi, so we have probably visited a very small part of it.

2. India Smells: This I must say is quite accurate. There is definitely a whiff of something in the air , no matter where you go. I have tried to put a word to the smell but was not able to until I opened a packet of "mixture" - what we call "chevra" back in Nairobi and encountered the same smell only more overpowering. I have therefore concluded that South Delhi smells of "curry".

3. All Indian food has chilli: This is 'Yes' and 'No'. If your idea of chilli is that sharp taste on the tongue that seems to grab you in the throat and cause you to choke while it just sticks there and refuses to go away like a dog on a bone.... then the answer is 'Yes'. If you are an Indian, chilli is those green or red peppers that we like to call 'pilipili', so the answer is "No". In other words, to an Indian there is a distinct difference between chilli and curry. So, all Indian food has curry, but not all Indian food has chilli. Therefore, the next time you are at an Indian restaurant and you ask, " please don't put chilli in the food, because of the children" and the food comes 'hot' with that grip to the throat, it may be just because you did not communicate appropriately. You should have said "please do not put chilli or curry in the food, because of the children" in which case you will have wasted your money because you will not be eating Indian food.

4. India has rats crawling all over the place: I have not seen a single rat. This is not to say that there are no rats. All I am saying is that in this part where we are staying, I am yet to see a rat. Maybe in the Monsoon season they might crawl out of their hide outs, so lets wait and see.

5. India is full of creepy, crawlies: This may be true but there is no need to carry an assortment of insecticides. There are plenty of insecticides in the shops here. Only dilemma is that we don't know which one is the most powerful. We have discovered some tiny black mosquitos... or is it that they have discovered us.... and they are causing us to contort at night to reach many areas simultaneously. Otherwise, roaches and house flies are not as common here in our house. Cats are also a bit rare.

6. Delhi belly is the result of having a rich culinary experience: this may or may not be true. I hope that I don't get to confirm this myth. Everywhere you go, there is food being cooked especially on the streets. This is not the roast maize, occasional roast cassava or boiled maize you will find in Nairobi. I am talking whole meals with dal (ndengu), puri ( something that looks like small mandazi), paratha (chapati) and some humongous mandazi. Only problem is, 'the kitchen' makes my stomach turn just passing by it. The other day, I watched someone making some parathas. He was using a long metal rod to reach into a deep jiko where the parathas were cooking down below. He was also using what looked like a small cushion to 'spin' the parathas down in the jiko. My only issue was that the small cushion looked like it was once white but was now black in most areas. The guy would also occasionally use the metal rod to smack his friend on the bottom as he waited for the next paratha to cook. Delhi Belly..... please Lord just preserve us. On the same issue, I think the Government of India has gone to extreme levels to keep the incidences of Delhi belly down. The tap water here tastes like swimming pool water and when you boil it and let it cool it has some white powder at the bottom.

7. Clothes in India are cheap : This one caused a mini - riot in my house when I decided that I will not take time to verify this myth. I therefore cannot comment as of this moment due to the prevailing micro-economic climate in my household. Anything I say on this issue should be regarded as hearsay. Having said that, there seems to be a trend towards more affordable clothing but since I have not tested this theory, I cannot comment on the quality of the clothes so as to give a comprehensive assessment. However, my colleague at the hospital once told me that the branded clothes (Tommy Hilfiger, Lee, Marks and Spencer etc) are cheaper than in Europe but they are Indian quality ..... don't ask!

8. Delhi has bad drivers: This is an understatement. A matatu driver from Nairobi's Eastlands would be a novice when compared to a newly qualified Delhi driver. You need compound eyes to see all the traffic around you which includes buses, trucks, 3 wheelers and 2 wheelers. In addition, you need compound ears ( do these exist) to know when a particular hoot refers to you or to the vehicle next to you. In fact, the vehicles here have signs like 'Please hoot' painted on them. At first, I thought that the owner was challenged in English and meant to say 'please no hooting', until I discovered that it is practically impossible to drive without using your car horn and using it often. You also need nerves of steel even as a passenger in a 3 wheeler. It is not uncommon to see a three wheeler cut in front of an oncoming bus as if the driver had a death wish.

9. India is cheap to live in: Maybe other parts of India but not South Delhi. In my opinion, the rental rates are prohibitive when compared to the quality of the premises. The locals complain that electricity is expensive and we are yet to find out. On the brighter side, cooking gas is regulated by Goverment so a 15kg cylinder is 400 Rupees to refill (approx. 640Kshs). Vegetables are more affordable while in my opinion, other foods are just slightly cheaper than in Nairobi. Public transport is affordable and well organised. Everything else is almost the same price as Nairobi. One nice thing is that you can have a McDonald meal with kshs 800 for 3 people and for those with a sweet tooth ice cream prices at McDonalds start at Kshs 16 for very nice ice cream. So after paying my rent, I will go chill my raging emotions.

10. The head nod: before I came to india, i was told that indians shake their head sideways when they mean 'Yes' and they shake up and down when they mean 'No'. However, I have discovered that this is not entirely true. I have discovered that they will do a hybrid of up-down movement and sideways movement when they mean 'Yes' and when they mean 'No'. It all depends on the context of the conversation. Sometimes it may just mean...nothing.... For example , a simple question like " Is your name Deepak?" can easily be answered with the head nod.... depending on how he looks at you while nodding, you will know whether its a Yes or No. Sometimes he may go like  "Sir" (head nod) in answer to the query then you will know its a yes.

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