Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Good, the bad, and the ugly

It's been a week of trying out different roles. It's almost as if these past few weeks here in India have been rehearsals gearing up for one ultimate performance. I feel like as every day passes I attend a new dress rehearsal- going through the costume and makeup change while someone back stage changes the set. As each day passes I find myself discovering new parts of Chennai, both in terms of new places to visit as well as the people I'm meeting. Three weeks into Chennai and I am just now becoming acquainted with yet another face of this urban life. The face that doesn't mingle (or perhaps go near) the public transport system- the face that won't be seen eating dosa off the street. The new territory which I have been recently exposed to is that of the "posh." The clean-cut, Western toilet, marble floors, imported liquor, wine n' dine kind of Chennai. My introduction to such a lifestyle occurred the other night when I attended my first ever "Chennai expat meetup."
The meetup for Chennai expats is a monthly event organized by a couple different online groups. The purpose is simple: to provide a common space and time for expats (other foreigners living abroad) to gather, mingle, and socialize. The chosen location for the event was at the Courtyard Marriott. Not quite sure if this is a 5 star hotel here in Chennai but if it's not, it's damn close. The place is polished-looking and quite lavish. The majority of the evening turned out to be a networking success- I met a good deal of interesting people from all over the world. As always with these kinds of things, I'm perpetually curious as to what brings THEM here. Me, I understand- for the time being, this is what I do, so I don't find it remotely strange to fine myself located in a South Indian city. But as far as every other foreigner goes... (the mathematics professor from Barcelona, hostess from Moscow, or the religious studies student from Norway)- I want to learn THEIR story. :)
So yes, my exposure to such 5-star hangouts will be few and far between, as they come with quite a hefty price. While the following probably doesn't deserve to be categorized as a "life lesson," I did learn one particularly valuable piece of information that night.
- Whatever you do, do not drink imported liquor. -
I suppose I was feeling all homely as I chatted it up with other foreigners that I thought it harmless to sip on some Jack Daniels. While it was indeed tasty and refreshing, my choice of imported booze was considered a luxury item, and taxed hard at 58%!! A rookie mistake. Next time, I'll opt for the local.

Before I head out, I wanted to mention a couple things that are commonplace here in India, but have struck me as peculiar. So here goes, a brief list of random things I've observed to be odd/frustrating/interesting/hilarious/etc

1. Hindi movies: saw my first one in the theater last night. Cracked up out loud at the eerie and suspenseful music that doesn't actually lead to anything eerie or suspenseful
2. Hindi movies part II: Fantastic music and dance scenes that are far from being seamlessly introduced into the movie (think James Bond with an abrupt cut during an action scene, only to show a clip from Annie...not quite so random, but you get the idea)
3. Cell phones: No matter the business meeting, the church service, the wedding proposal- cell phones will ring, and they will be answered.
4. Cell phones part II: On another note, registering a cell phone in India has been the single most frustrating experience since I've been here. I bought my phone on campus, but since then the service has been partially shut off so as to only allow incoming calls (I can't make phone calls or send texts). Every time I try to get it fixed, I'm told I need yet another piece of documentation proving that I am, indeed, living and working here. I've met with the guy five times and each time I go and bring him what he asks for, he surprises me with a new request. Ahh!!
5. The absence of black coffee/tea: In regards my inquiring about this, an equally confused man responded, "What would coffee be without milk and sugar?"

Oh, and who knew that I'd come to India and learn to...salsa? That's right. A very kind Mexican man taught me the steps last weekend.

Hopefully I'll remember some more of these observations later, as they happen on a daily basis. But as I always have to remind myself, for everything that I find "weird," I'm sure I'm found to be that much "weirder!"



Anonymous said...

You are awesome -

Smaps said...

Thanks! and you are...anonymous?? Care to leave a name? :)