Sunday, 19 June 2011

Arriving

So I finally made it to India. I've been here for two and a half days now, which has been just enough time to get an internet connection sorted and start to find my way around Defence Colony, the little, green corner of Delhi I now call home.

The beginning was not auspicious. Having slept dreadfully on the plane, I arrived at about 10.30 on Friday morning with a strong desire to check into a five star hotel, have a long bath and book a masseur. Unfortunately I had instead to go to my new apartment, which was likely to be scantily furnished if at all and which would certainly lack a masseur. However, before I could do so, I had to find it.

The Delhi street address system resembles the Seoul street address system in the following way: they are both insane. As in Seoul, Delhi neighbourhoods are divided up into sub-units, within which houses are numbered. As in Seoul, there is no discernable logic in the way in which this is done, meaning that if you don't happen to know exactly where unit C413 is, you could spend a good hour driving round before you hit upon it.

My driver did not know where unit C413 was.

Another thing about India is that if you ask someone for directions, they will give them to you whether or not they have the first clue where the place is.

My driver asked for directions about 15 times.

Altogether I was quite proud of myself for staying calm and using the time to think about how I would amusingly convey the experience in the present blog post. We made it eventually, and I was happy to find that my apartment did in fact have furniture (albeit with a touch of the 1970s about it) and functioning bathrooms (albeit with one mysteriously missing toilet seat).

It's hot. Seriously hot. It's pre-monsoon here, so the height of summer has yet to be broken by the rains (though we have had a couple of storms which in the UK would be thought significant). The problem with heat is that it slows you down, which when you have a thousand and one things to do on arriving in a new country is a bit of a problem. I've developed a pattern over the last couple of days of doing two or three things, then stopping for a juice or a coffee. Fortunately there is an excellent market near me with a couple of nice air conditioned cafes that don't object to sweaty westerners visiting every couple of hours.

So far I've done pretty well in terms of getting essentials sorted. Groceries are expensive, at least in Defence Colony, so I need to work out a better place to go shopping. And I haven't quite figure out how to attach the toilet seat (which eventually turned up) to the toilet. On the plus side, I don't need to worry about ironing, because there is a man with an ironing board who stands on the corner by my local park and does shirts for 5 rupees each (about 7 p).

Words can't really express how glad I am that this man exists.

The rhythms of Indian life are so totally different. I doubt I will ever get used to the existence of "servants" or be comfortable with the way in which such relationships are conducted here. I already knew this of course, and knew I would have to put aside my liberal prejudices and accept certain roles to which I am not accustomed. But this is going to take practice. When I leave my flat, for instance, it's quite clear that I am not to latch the gate behind me. This is one of the many diverse duties of Santosh, who is for want of a better term the security guard. Invariably as I emerge from the gate, Santosh is already trotting towards it to close it behind me. When I insisted on closing it myself my reward was a look made up of equal parts reproach and hurt.

I have not closed it myself again since.

Anyway, I don't want to start all this off with an enormous post so I will save the rest of the long, rambling discussion I have in mind for future entries. Love to all back home...

Chris

2 comments:

Sonya said...

Well Chris... WELL. This is all very exciting! I totally understand a lot of what you're experiencing now. And I know this isn't your first time ex-patting, so you are probably wiser than I was to the myriad surprises life has in store for us overseas. I think you did the right thing in the taxi in just sitting back and accepting the confusion as part of the experience. I do that a lot here. I think it may, in the long run, make me less of an obnoxiously controlling person... Congratulations on the start of your latest adventure! Much love xx

jamieonline said...

Great! You're blogging. I'll be following all the adventures. I linked through my blog 'One Life', so I hope you get more followers.
Enjoy India!!!
Jamie