Undertakers with double careers as ambulance drivers or sculptors. Wallahs
– those who make tea are chaiwallahs
; those who make dresses are dresswallahs
, and those who fix flat tires are puncturewallahs
, to name a few. The precision with which water is poured into mouths from cups held inches above parted lips. Fingertips impervious to heat that can grab a roti fresh off the fire without flinching, theatrically tossing it between their hands, or panting, “Hot! Hot! Hot!” Toenails that are filed into luxuriously painted daggers. Great teeth shown off by great smiles. Babies wearing bangles. Cardamom.
One side of entire conversations can be carried out using various intonations of Hanh
. Nai, na
? The unique Indian usage of the English language that allows for such grammatical gems as unless and until
, the salt is lesser
, the both of you all
, and wait there only
. Your name is not just your name, but your good
name. Plastic bags are called polythene. Old ladies riding sidesaddle on the backs of scooters with polythene on their heads to keep the monsoon off their well-oiled hair.
Eating with your fingers. A beefless McDonald’s that serves a McAloo Tikki Burger. Gas is passed without any
excuse or apology. Cabs turn their engine off at every red light. Unmanned metal detectors stand sentinel at every train station. Small, hand-turned Ferris wheels. Sidewalk shaves for men. Lines that move in from the sides, not the back. Satyamev Jayate
. 1.2 billion people. The constant confusion over how many zeros are in a lakh
(5), how many are in a crore
(7) and how it all translates into thousands and millions. The acceptance of life as it is.
And one final story to demonstrate why India is great... I had 72 hours left in the country, 34 of which would be spent in a train to Kolkata. Upon arriving at CST, I realized that I had lost my ticket somewhere along the way to the station. The rules are such that, even in the case of theft, one must put in a special request to the Station Master to reprint the ticket and pay half of its original cost (which is actually an example of why India isn’t so great, but that’s beside the point). I didn’t have the cash to pay the penalty and began to bemoan my fate. With few options and the minutes until my
departure quickly ticking away, the employees at the station pooled their money together until they had gathered the necessary amount, and then some. Without a word, they put the ticket and the extra cash into my hand and sent me on my way. To say that I will miss this country is an understatement.
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