Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book of Comparisons

Well! They say comparing things makes one unhappy which to a large extent is true. However, some comparisons does make you wonder a bit and laugh a bit.

Ever since I have been living in the western world I haven't stopped comparing how things are here to how things can be back home about general stuff I see and do here. I always thought of penning down what they were as soon as I had the thought crossing my mind, never actually managed to do that, I do recollect  a few things every now and then and hence the idea came in the form of this blog.

My list of comparisons ... 

About Houses/Homes - 
The first thing one can see as a stark difference to the residential layout here are the row houses, with every house looking the same on every street. You can however make out a rich area from a poor quite easily however the houses on one particular lane always resemble each other. That's something I have never seen in any town or city in India where a row of houses all looked alike. 

Back home, the dust bin(s) are usually kept at the backyard or near a wash area away from a visitor's eye. Here, the first thing that stands out to welcome you home are 3 big bins - black, brown and green. I still find it so frustrating to see the bin placed right at the entrance of the home - such an unpleasant sight! My mind refuses to take this in. 

About Motorways and Driving-
I'm not going to talk about roads back home as its distressing.  And it of course goes without saying that the roads here are amazing. Flat roads, straight roads, well marked (sometimes too many) sign boards and most people on the roads tend to do the right thing which is quite opposite to what it is back home. 

Some things I noticed - 
No matter where you are, in whatever nook and corner of this country, how tiny a road it is and where it's leading you to, there is a signboard to state the the name/number of the road and you can immediately trace that on a map. You never have the feeling of being lost without knowing the way out or way back. 
At home, maps are a thing unknown. However, no matter how lost one may feel, in most cases you see some small corner shop or typically a few men sitting on a sill by the road who you can approach to ask for directions. It's funny how you can always somehow find that random person sitting in the middle of nowhere who can give you an idea where you are on a long lost road. 

When you're driving and try to get in front of someone  (I can't use the word overtake as that does not happen the way we know it!), there is usually a sign you make either in to the mirror or by flashing the tail lights to gesture a thank you to the other car which let you in. How often do we see that back home? People just seem to be in a hurry to get someplace or more like I found some space so I got in - survival of the fittest right?

I also find that driving here can be quite boring - at least that is what the hubby says. He complains of feeling sleepy in spite of all the banter I provide on the drive! Basically, the roads here are so mundane that there is absolutely no drama going on. There are only signs of towns, cities that we pass by but you never cut across any. There are no quick street side shops, no chance of a cow or a buffalo coming along, no encounters with a vehicle in the opposite direction right in front of you when you least expect it and of course no road side quarrels.  Basically, you get to drive and drive fast. That's it.

About Food-
The whole concept about food is termed in 2 sections - hot food and cold food. Had never heard the latter before. A meal was always hot. Why would you spend money to buy something that has gone cold? 
It's also crazy that on days when it's rainy or cold, people are happy to grab a sandwich for lunch with a juice and a pack of crisps - I was in total grief when I had to do the same the first time!

On the other hand, it's amazing how this city caters to different tastes, name the cuisine and there's a place serving it and serving it well. I can't imagine getting authentic anything back home as we love our food so much that everything is Indianized. Goes without saying that I actually like them more. 

About Public Transport-
It's great to have a system where you don't have to think too much to get from one end of the city to another. Needless to talk about the Underground in London being one of the best. It's amazing how one can get from opposite ends of the city without any hassle what so ever. Back at home it requires you to keep a day aside if you are planning to get to the other end. No guarantee with traffic, road blocks or anything and there is little alternate transport to get you there.

The public transport is efficient but not exciting. You might be doing the same journey for years on the same train at the same time with the same people but you would have never had any conversation. People just don't chat with each other, there is no talk about who you are, where you are going, where you're coming from, what you do and all the random talk that happens on buses and trains back home. 

About Greetings-

One of the first greetings you hear from another is 'You're alright' - I am still not sure if this is what they say!? Well.. for someone who was used to a simple How are you,  this greeting used to catch me off guard as I wondered whether it was a question or a statement. Like... are you asking me if I am alright or do you think by looking at me that I look alright.  I have stood and grinned like I have nothing to say on many such occasions.

I generally ask the common one which is How are you? and the standard answer I receive is 'Not too bad'. Now, this one too used to make me wonder whether that means I am doing good or I could have been worse. I someone feel that not too bad is a negative response to saying I'm doing good. IMHO. 

About Weather-
I don't remember seeing the weather forecast ever! It was generally known that the summer months are hot, the winter months are chill i.e. a small cardigan during the early hours and late evenings were good enough and the monsoon months were pure rain, especially in the evenings. 
Now, I don't remember a day when I don't come across the weather forecast in some form or the other. While at home the weather can get from hot, hotter, hottest, here it can only get cold, colder, coldest. 

I don't consider people talking about weather all the time as a huge difference in ways as I know that people back home too discuss weather - however, the only difference being that they generally talk how hot it has become and people here tend to talk how shit the weather is. 

About Maps-
The west love their maps. Every City, Town, Public Transport, Park, Museum, Tourist attraction you go to has a beautifully printed map. It's amazing how my mind is now a complete convert. If I go somewhere and I don't have a map, it feels odd! 
However, the minute I set foot in India my mind completely switches off about the world of maps. Love the fact that directions can be based on a corner mango tree, a small shop, a post box, a broken down van or just about anything. And of course, miraculously you reach the destination without any issues. 

I now wish I had taken little notes of observations I made, I bet I will come up with more such things as I go along...I just find it interesting to observe people, place, lifestyles and I don't want to conclude that one is better than the other. It just happens to work the way it is!