Miscellaneous India Notes

I always picture myself on a map, whether I’m travelling across a city or relating myself to the world. I’ve been in India long enough now that I picture myself here, and I find myself mentally centering the world map around India. For so long my mental image of a map has been centered on the US, so it’s interesting to feel the weight of the Middle East just to the west and China to the north.

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It’s very humbling to constantly encounter new things, or familiar things that work in different ways. Normal actions like standing in line need to be approached with a different attitude. There are lots of new systems to learn the rules for, and a lack of any kind of system where I’m used to having one. I’m not able to operate on auto-pilot here, I have to keep my observation skills on high alert.

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I’ve noticed that there are ads and billboards for very basic products here that I’m not used to seeing. Prime ad space is often showcasing things like cement, pipes, or steel. My in-flight magazines had a full-page ad for motors. That reminded me of the ads from the early 1900s in American where they would sell motors that you could hook up to attachments in a multi-purpose way — which was cheaper and more flexible than specific devices that only did one task. Of course there are also tons of ads for 3G cards, computers, and luxury goods.

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Apartment’s here are very modular, with very little built into the infrastructure of the building itself. There is rarely central air; each room has a separate A/C unit mounted on the wall with a remote control. Washing machines are hooked up to water, but the drain is a just a standard one in the floor that you have to put the tube into each time and remove afterwards. Cooking gas is bought in cylinders that are delivered to your house instead of a permanent gas line hookup. All of this leads to cheaper construction and the choice of not having those luxuries if you can’t afford them.

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I keep noticing people doing things in a very difficult manner because they lack the proper tool. This makes sense when people just can’t afford good equipment. There are however some everyday actions which seem unnecessarily difficult given extremely inexpensive solutions that could make them easier. One is sweeping — I see so many people hunched over sweeping with what are basically broom heads; I’ve never seen brooms with handles on them.

The second is drying clothes, which are draped over all manner of items from cars to roofs to fences. I even see people drying their clothes by just laying them on the pavement. What I rarely see is a clothes line; just a simple piece of twine or rope would seem to make the whole process much easier.

Does anyone have any cultural understanding about these two examples in particular?