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Ten lessons I learned in India (pt 2)

June 6, 2010

Back by popular demand (okay, little to none): more lessons I learned in India.

LESSON 6 – DEATH IS INEVITABLE: When people ask what was most memorable, I offer an answer and a little advice: Before stepping in a car, make peace with your Maker. As we left the Delhi airport, a sign read, “LANE DRIVING IS SANE DRIVING.” Let’s just say sane driving (or shoulder checking) has yet to catch on.

Within the confines of our various automobiles and auto-rickshaws, we witnessed accidents, had a few close calls, dents, and scrapes of our own, and even experienced a rush hour cattle crossing in the middle of Delhi (the world’s eight largest metropolis). A saving grace was that congestion means vehicles rarely travel over 60 km/hr for more than a few kilometres.

It is true, however, that drivers in India tend to pay more attention. And they’re better for it.

LESSON 7 – PUFFED WHEAT COFFEE: If you know me, you may well be aware that I am something of a coffee fan. You may not know, however, that I am also deeply passionate about those puffed wheat squares (here’s somebody’s blog post with a great pic AND a delicious-looking recipe). I have never connected these two passions — until I went to India and grabbed a cup of java. I am now coo coo for cocoa puff coffee (okay, not really).

LESSON 8 – SYMBOLS MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS IN DIFFERENT PLACES: Swastikas, hammers, and sickles abound in India. Note anything extremely unusual (to western eyes) in this image from Jew Street in Cochi, less than a hundred yards from a 450-year-old synagogue?

Unlike swastikas, hammers and sickles are not venerable religious symbols dating back thousands of years. Like swastikas, however, they are bountiful in India. The hammer and sickle has proliferated in India alongside communist and Maoist parties throughout the country. The Kerala government is Marxist, for instance. Ergo hammers and sickles and portraits of Stalin in the vegetable markets.

LESSON 9 – YES, TATA MAKES THAT: In early 2009, there was quite the hubbub for the commercial launch of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car (approximately $2500 CDN). Reports everywhere said the Nano was a game changer. Mother Nature would have to take another one for the team as every man, woman, and child in India would take to the road in cramped style.

Amazingly, I actually saw more camels than Nanos on the road, which might have something to do with the Nano’s reputation for spontaneous combustion.

Go to India, and you will discover that despite owning the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Tata is much more than the Indian equivalent of Ford. Tata manufactures trucks, buses, and cars (no camels yet), but also compact umbrellas and energy drinks. Have a cellphone? Tata’s a carrier. Drink tea? Try Tata’s blend (guess who own Tetley?).

Tata owns all. This I learned.

LESSON 10 – CLOVE-FLAVOURED TOOTHPASTE: is not as bad as it sounds. Trust me on this. But for Pete’s sake, please skip Crest Cumin.

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