I realized the other day why I was so emotionally unstable and frequently upset in India. I know now what is so hard about living there (for me, anyway). It’s the lack of control. This probably won’t surprise any of you who know me as quite the control freak and I’m sure you’re all quite thrilled to hear that I am (slowly and reluctantly) learning how to cede control. Here are a few examples of the ways I’ve been frustrated with my lack of control:
-Transportation: I don’t have my own car, bike, or scooter here, so anywhere beyond walking distance, I am dependent upon finicky rickshaw drivers. Trying to negotiate a fair price, the correct route, and safe driving is not always easy considering they see me as a giant dollar sign and there is often a significant language barrier. Giving up the freedom and control of going where I want, when I want, has been a struggle.
-Language: In addition to trying to negotiate with rickshaw drivers, I need to go shopping, make negotiations, work, and generally communicate with the world around me. This becomes very difficult with I don’t speak Hindi or Telegu, and many people don’t speak English. I no longer have the power of conversation, which leads to a significant loss of control in communication.
-Appearance: I get a lot of attention in Hyderabad based on the way I look. Stares, cat-calls, and lewd comments are part of my daily life every time I leave the house. At first, I thought that this was perhaps based on the way I was dressed. I dress conservatively by American standards, but my propensity to show my ankles and upper arms is quite scandalous in India. So, I started covering up and dressing in traditional Indian attire. Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed anything. It doesn’t matter what I wear, I get the same lewd comments and inappropriate stares all the time. Unlike in America, where I blend in, I can’t control the way people see me in India. I am a white girl. Therefore I am rich and slutty in the eyes of many Indians. No matter how much I try to blend in, I can’t control the stereotype.
-Daily Hassles: I recently bought a new water filter which needed to be delivered and installed to my home. When I asked when it would be delivered and installed, I was told “tomorrow.” So, I took the day off and waited at home all day. When I called to enquire about a delivery time I was told “in about an hour” or “first thing tomorrow”. This went on for five days. My attempts at yelling at people on the phone or going to the store where I bought it were completely fruitless. It didn’t matter. They would get to it, when they got to it. In my utter frustration I complained to a friend “what is wrong with these people, do they think I have nothing better to do than sit around all day and wait for a delivery?” Their response: “Well, in India, people who have the money for appliances also have large extended families living with them. There is always someone home who could deal with the installation, so, a weeklong wait isn’t a big deal.” I can’t control the fact that I have to take a week off of work to accomplish something by myself that a large Indian family would jointly share responsibility for. Moreover, most installation technicians are not educated enough to speak English. So trying to understand how something works or what they need to install it properly is quite difficult. Again, the control of communication is lost.
So, as you can see, I’m struggling a bit with my loss of control in India. However, it’s definitely good for my control-freak self to learn how to handle losing control. I’m also on vacation in Bali at the moment, so I don’t really have much room for complaint :)