Thursday, December 15, 2011

Streets in India

Streets in India are not as crowded as I was expecting… but that doesn't mean anything. Cars, trucks, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles, and rickshaws all zoom to their destinations, some at faster speeds than others.

Crossing the street is a matter of timing, speed, and judgement. At times, one has to stop in the middle of the street with cars coming at you at high speeds, waiting for the right moment to cross the rest of the street. As you wait, people honk at you. 

As you walk, people honk at you. They honk almost continuously, sometimes just for fun, it seems.

There are almost no public bathrooms, except at the entrance to the metro, and it's not uncommon to see men standing on the sidewalk facing a wall and urinating. I'm sure that women do it too… but in a more private location.

There are bus stations every 500 meters or more, but buses don't stop unless it's to let someone off or someone from the station holds out a hand, palm down, for them to stop. (By the way, hand signals in India are COMPLETELY different from what they are in the rest of the world.) Often, people are jumping onto the bus as it moves away from the station— we have had to do it two or three times ourselves, and it's exhilarating. At times, most people have to also get off while the bus is moving.

Indians do this with grace and speed and make it look ridiculously easy, as if the bus isn't moving at all. Of course, like all pretty things, it's harder than it looks.

The culture is different too— a couple was arrested for kissing at their wedding… but men frequently hold hands while crossing the street or have their arms around each other's shoulders (even little kids— it's the cutest thing). Sometimes they have their arms hooked. They wear pink or pastels, and have no problem wearing earrings in one ear. (Incidentally, why do rings in the nose just look gang-ish in America, but look completely normal in India? It makes no sense.) 

I wish that guys in America would stop being so macho about everything (the number of times guys have not wanted to spar with me because they don't want to get beaten by a girl…) and learn some sensitivity and understanding instead of being worried about how manly they are.

Women do the same things, minus arm-around-the-shoulders, but then that's relatively normal in America and so it doesn't make such a big impression as it otherwise might.

One of the annoying things, though, is the fact that contact between men and women is frowned upon. You'll see a young or very old couple holding hands, but there are no hugs or kisses or really any contact otherwise. Since we're a very touchy family… it's hard at times to not be able to reach over and hug my dad or kiss him on the cheek (buying the saris is a good example of this.)

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