Friday, August 9, 2013

A Normal Walk to the Store... In India

I wish I'd brought my camera.

Yesterday as I went grocery shopping, I was thinking of you, dear readers. It wasn't as if anything extraordinary happened, it was just India. I was wearing a kurta and churidars and weaving in and out of people, the men mainly in Western wear and the women in saris. I got sidelong glances from most people. That's one thing I still am not really used to, being noticed and stared at almost everywhere I go for being the standout white woman.

I nearly chuckled out loud, since I was thinking of how Indian my surroundings where and how I'd like to share the experience with you, when a cow passed me.
I passed it calmly, but nearly started when I weaved past a car and almost blocked the path of another cow. They both had small horns and I didn't want to be seen as an obstacle. I think maybe the females sometimes have small horns here too, I'm not sure, but I'm told you don't want to get in the way of a bull.

I passed the cow without incident however, as auto and cycle rickshaws alike passed me, mingling with the cars. The road here is semi-paved. By that I mean it's paved, but bumpy and covered in dirt so it takes you a second to realize it's paved. But you feel the difference if you pull on to actual dirt if you're in a car.

I heard the sound of someone running behind me and turned to look, startled. A teenage boy glanced at me in what was probably annoyance as he passed me. Sort of a "what, you never seen anyone run before?" look. I wondered why he was running, people don't tend to exercise on this road, and then he stopped probably twenty yards or so ahead of me. Not sure what that was about.

All around me the air buzzed with Hindi, and possibly other languages. I passed houses and gaps where there were no houses, but instead generally filled with debris and grass, perhaps a cow or two foraging in the urban landscape.

I pass two more cows that are bit unusual, one a deep black, the other a milk chocolate color. Their coats are shining. Sometimes you see skinny sad ones, just as you sometimes see skinny sad street dogs (which are also all around) but most of them are normal or even chubby here in Gurgaon. When we went to Delhi, the dogs were bones and Ryan and his friends laughed about how Gurgaon dogs are fat and lazy.... they're not totally wrong either!

As I neared my shopping center destination, I eyed the ice cream cart wallahs, thinking maybe on the way home, depending on how much change I had left over.

I steeled myself as I approached the intersection. Indian traffic is crazy, the nearest thing I've ever seen in America is coming out of the Lincoln tunnel. There's no place for the hesitancy pedestrians need to survive in America. Here, that can get you killed.

Three or four days after I arrived Ryan taught me a golden tip: be a pedestrian with confidence. And it's true. If you hesitate, the cars don't guess where you'll be and you can cause trouble. Cars assume that people will walk with a fairly consistent, confident trajectory and weave accordingly. I'm not saying you blindly jump in traffic, but if you walk at a confident, steady pace cars will eye you as they approach and drive with your projected location in mind. That being said, this intersection does have a crosswalk, but the lesson still applies.

I always feel a sense of triumph when I successfully cross a busy street in India.

I always sort of hop, a happy little "hi-YAH" when I get on to the cobblestone curb near the shopping center. Still, I have to cross the bit of parking lot, which can be just as busy as the road. I pause to let a motorcycle leave then weave between cars to find the gap in the chains up near this corner (I think to keep cows out, they're too big to pass through the gap) only to encounter that there is a large puddle. I could back out and go to a different entrance, but I decide to be silly and leap over the puddle as if I'm playing hopscotch, one foot here, one foot there, and I'm through!

I walk into the shopping plaza with familiarity and more of that "pedestrian confidence" as I try to remember where exactly in this maze is the store that sells fruits and veggies....

I wish I'd brought a camera so I could share some of this with you, but I thought I'd paint a word picture for you, so you could walk the streets of my neighborhood with me.

Love you all!


  1. Now you know why we call it "Incredible India"!

  2. Taking pics of this journey you're on would be great. but sucks you dont have one.


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