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Answers to Questions About My Life in India #1

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11:22 pm
June 1, 2010

Sharell शारेल

Mumbai, India.


posts 894

I often get people asking me questions about my life in India, so I thought I'd begin writing separate posts to answer them. Here's a start.

1) Do you use the local trains in Mumbai? I do use the local trains when I have to go long distances from one side of town to the other, such as from Kandivali to Churchgate, and even Kandivali to Bandra. It's the quickest way to travel. I try and avoid peak hours though. However, I have been on the train a few times in peak hour as well. (Anyone who's fortunate enough not to know what that's like can have a look at this post: Inside the Mumbai Local Train). There is NO WAY I could survive a daily commute, and am so thankful that I don't have to go to an office here. Oh, and I also take visitors on the Mumbai local. Both my 60 year old mother, and my cousin have braved (and even enjoyed) it!

2) When you walk the streets how do you ignore strangers staring at you constantly? The staring is probably the most disconcerting thing about living in India. I don't like it at all and it makes me very self conscious. I have no idea why people would want to be famous! There are days that I just don't want to go outside by myself because I don't want the attention. My height combined with my unusual (by Indian standards) looks (I have blue/grey eyes, dark brown hair, and paler than normal skin) ensures I get plenty of it. I've pretty much perfected the art of sending my mind off into its own little world (which is easy for me, since I'm a big daydreamer) or I just look at the buildings and shops around me (of course without directly looking at the shopkeepers inside, who I know will be looking out at me!). If I'm in a funny mood, on the odd occasion, I will wave at people and yell "Hi, how you doing?" at them. I've also told a few people to "udhar deko" (the Indian equilavalent of "don't stare", it literally means "look there"). It usually only results in all of us (me included) laughing though.

3) How do you shop there? (We all know when a white person walks in a store the prices automatically double or quadruple). Shopping can be a challenge, especially because I'm one who likes to browse unassisted. Here, a lot of shops keep their stock behind the counter. I find this difficult, especially when shopping for clothes, because I specifically know what I want. The shop keeper doesn't. Shop keepers will usually surround me and start pulling out every different available item from their shelves, usually in bright colours that don't suit me, and which I'm not interested in. As a result, I do most of my shopping in large supermarkets and department stores, unless I'm with an Indian person to deflect the attention (my sisters-in law love it, they say they never get so much attention in shops!).

The small stores that I do shop from, I speak to them only in Hindi (it's easy for me now but I remember when I first moved here, I couldn't even get some pumpkin) and make sure I have a general idea of what the prices should be first. The local shopkeepers are all familiar with me, and have always been honest. But again, I avoid going to these shops because of the attention I get. The vegetable-wala is particularly bad because of all the Indian aunties that are also there. They hear me speak Hindi, then all start commenting on it (to themselves and the shopkeeper) as if I wasn't there. They also all turn to look at me. I get anxious, feel claustrophobic, start sweating, grab my vegetables, run out of there as fast as I can, and vow never to go back. (Fortunately, I have a husband who is sympathetic to my situation and doesn't mind getting vegetables and other grocery items).

4)So will you be living in Mumbai forever or are you guys planning settling in Calcutta in the future? We don't have any plans to go back to Calcutta to live. My husband's family are all in Mumbai, and my husband's work is here as well. So, we've settled here.

5) With your best guess how many inter-cultural couples live in Mumbai as per your estimation? There are a lot. At least 50 that I know of. The figure could easily be in the hundreds.

Any more questions, please feel free to ask!

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