I used to be a control freak. I was one of those people who got into a panic if they were going to be more than five minutes late. I meticulously planned my weekends, and had a social calendar that I filled up weeks in advance. If a guest was coming, I had the house spotless and ready to receive them hours early.
Fortunately, I’m happy to say that living in India has mellowed me out considerably. This country has ripped the reigns of control from my hands, and taught me to relax and stop trying to be perfect (koi baat nahi…sab chalta hai). It’s also opened me up to so many possibilities. Everyday, I feel curious about something new.
However, I’ve found myself acquiring some disturbing “Indian” habits.
- I have little regard for the time. After many frustrating episodes of arriving on time, only to find no one else there or ready, I’ve given up being punctual. These days, ten minutes turns into half and hour, and half an hour stretches into one hour. If I am late for something, I blame it on the traffic of course! It’s quite liberating. However, it’s not good when I’m meeting friends and family from home, who consider 1 o’clock to mean 1 o’clock, and keep them waiting.
- I stare at people. On a number of occasions recently, I’ve caught myself unabashedly looking at people. Anyone who interests me, I don’t hesitate to openly check them out. I guess I feel like I’ve been stared at so much in India, it’s fine for me to do likewise. Isn’t staring a normal part of human behaviour here anyway?
- I wobble my head. It would be difficult to find a foreigner who hasn’t been confused by the comical Indian head wobble. I vividly remember the time I encountered my first head wobble. I was in Pushkar and I’d asked a travel agent if I could get a bus to Jaisalmer. He wobbled at me without saying anything. What did that mean? I could get a bus? Or wasn’t he sure? Much to my consternation, I’ve now started to enjoy this gesture. Not only do I happily wobble my head at people, I also sometimes think that there’s nothing that could be more appropriate. Why speak when you can wobble and it means so much more?
- I avoid disclosing information. When I first met my husband, I used to get annoyed with him for being evasive with people or not giving them complete information. Usually, it was to do with our relationship. I remember many long distance train trips where he told nosy Indian aunties that I was a family friend. Being quite ignorant of Indian ways back then, I was a little offended. However, he assured me that it was much better to answer their questions this way, rather than deal with their responses and follow-up questions if he told them the real story! I’ve fast realised that he’s right. Being open and honest in India is not worth the hassle sometimes. Now I find myself perfecting the art of giving away as little information as possible — but just enough information to make the other person think that they’ve found out something interesting about me.
I’m also ashamed to admit that I’ve thrown rubbish on the ground. Not very often mind you. It usually only happens when I’m in one of my “I’m tired of India, and why should I do the right thing when no one else bothers” moods. I definitely don’t intend making a habit of it!