Don’t Cry For Me, Pondicherry
Well, it’s Friday, the time has flown by and our one-month stay in India is up. Tonight we’ll be flying back to Singapore for the weekend, then on Monday night we are flying out to Germany to begin our three-month stay in Bonn.
For this entry, I thought I’d look back on our experiences here and list the things I will and won’t miss about India after we’ve gone. In an attempt to finish on a positive note, I’ll do the things we won’t miss first. Some of these are extremely petty, but in no particular order;
Things We Won’t Miss About India:
- Brushing our teeth with bottled water — This was more of a precautionary measure, because tap water here can make you very, very ill and we had heard of people getting sick from brushing their teeth. Just avoiding the ‘T’ Factor before it happens, but now I can go back to brushing them in the shower like any normal human being, because doing it with a bottle is a pain in the ass.
- Thinking I stepped in dog shit and being relieved to discover that it was only cow shit — Seriously, there is shit EVERYWHERE here; Dog, cow, goat, bird, horse, monkey, human… Sometimes when I’m walking I do my own version of CSI and try to work out what animal it came from.
- The siren song of the scent of urine — If you smell piss, take a look around and nine times out of ten you will see someone pissing.
- The traffic — This could be split into two segments;
1. The constant horns and honking drive you insane after a while, especially if a bus comes up behind you with air horns when you aren’t expecting it, and
2. Asian drivers are notoriously bad, but everyone here is on a suicide mission. Archimedes stated that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and Indian motorists take that to the extreme, cutting corners, going up the wrong lane, against the flow of traffic, etc. and there is absolutely NO waiting under any circumstances, even if it’s a bus load of kids getting off at a school, that’s a hornin’! Also, I’ve almost been hit by cars and motorbikes on more than one occasion here and it wasn’t always near the road.
- The lack of personal space — India has the world’s second highest population, however, Singapore has the world’s highest population density per km² (India = 397 pop. per square km, Singapore = 7301 pop. per square km.), but people here will stand right next to you in a wide open space. It’s a little unnerving at first, I need space! I’m just glad my head is above the crowd.
- The ludicrous amounts of sugar they put in drinks here — Order a tea or coffee and, even if you don’t ask for it, there are at least four teaspoons of sugar in there.
- Accidentally ending up at a place that only serves vegetarian food — I understand that vegetarian food can taste good, I had a bean curd curry that I thought was chicken, but, call it a power trip if you must, sometimes I just need to eat an animal. Also, I’ve lived in Asia long enough to understand that breakfast is generally considered no different to any other meal. When I lived in Korea, breakfast was usually meat and rice or noodles and some kimchi. I don’t usually eat breakfast, but if I did it would take me a long time to accept curry as an option for starting my day. Luckily, the staff at our resort make awesome omelets.
- Dry States — I like beer, enough said.
- Stray dogs everywhere — There are hundreds of them wandering around, elongated nipples swaying in the breeze, digging through garbage bags, looking to salvage a meal. When we stayed in Penang, an island off Malaysia, there were patrols that went around on motorbikes, shooting them. It sounds cruel, but not as cruel as the way they are left to try to survive here. Killing or neutering them would be better for the environment, safer for the people and, ultimately, better for the dogs. As long as the bodies weren’t still on the ground, rotting, three days later as they were in Penang.
- The rubbish — There aren’t really any bins around, people keep their own place spotless, but public areas are rancid. There are some areas where you could be mistaken for thinking it had snowed, only to realise that it was just plastic bags, paper and styrofoam cups on the ground. In front of a mobile phone store there were heaps of discarded phones and cases out the front, crushed into the dirt out the front and they had been there for a damn long time, too. The dogs that I mentioned compound the rubbish problem, as well, tearing open garbage bags and leaving rubbish strewn everywhere. Last night as we were going to dinner, there was a bag that had been torn open by a dog and, as a result, there was a used sanitary pad on the ground in front of us. Wasn’t really hungry after that…
The beggars — There are so many you just have to say no, but they just keep coming.
- The currency — As with a lot of countries, the numbers are too large, in my own humble opinion. The exchange rate is currently US$1.00 = ₹62.46. Eventually, those zeros start to add up, so just make the digit smaller.
- Being stared at — This happens to me pretty much anywhere I go in Asia, but here was probably the worst. Whether they were staring at my size or my tattoos (nobody has them here), there were always people looking in my direction, mouth agape. Anna got looked at as if she were a different species (in a nice way, though), so when they saw us together that was time to get photos!
- Back to traffic, cars that have a reversing warning that sounds like the song Informer by Snow — I know they’re actually playing a Tamil tune, but imagine a world where, when half of the cars reversed, you heard something similar to this:
Things We Will Miss About India
The people — Everyone here is so polite and friendly. When you’re in a restaurant or a shop, you don’t feel like a burden.
- The beach — The coast here in Pondicherry is absolutely beautiful, especially when they block off the coastal road between 6:00pm – 7:30am.
- The food — I will eat anything and, although I like Indian food, I rarely order it. Last time I came to India I was surprised at how much I liked the food and the fact I didn’t get sick. Same this time, but over a much longer period of time. Plus, this time we had the added bonus of really good French food.
- The weather — It’s perfect, about 32°C every day and about 22°C every night.
- Anna says she will miss the people at her hospital and operating every day.
- The resort we’re staying at, La Closerie — All the staff here are really cool and have looked after us so well.
- No cats wandering around everywhere.
- All of the secondhand book stores — We picked up some great stuff to read for our tour.
- Masala tea — Anna’s favourite.
- People watching — You see some pretty interesting folks here in India.
- My moustache — Of course I’ll miss my moustache, but I think the Germans would fail to see the irony in it. I’ll stick with the socks ‘n’ sandals look, I think.
Overall, we’ve had an incredible time in India, seen some amazing sights and met some great people. Anna and I would like to thank everyone here for their hospitality, especially Dr. Venkatesh, Dr. Indeevah, Dr. Prasanth, Dr. Smitha and the rest of the doctors and staff of Aravind Eye Hospital, Pondicherry, for all of the advice and surgery, we definitely won’t hesitate to come back! See you soon!
Now, on to Germany!
Hi Tim & Anna, I am loving your detailed hilarious account of your travels! It has just brought a loud chuckle while I am sitting on my own drinking a cup of coffee = wierd stares from other cafe customers.
Thanks for the laugh. Enjoy singapore for the weekend admidst the mourning of the great father, and safe flight to Germany- hopefully not on Lufthansa for its current bad press.
Cheers, I-Lynn, glad you’re enjoying it!
It would’ve been nice to have a bit longer in Singapore, we fly out about 11 tonight with SQ, so we should be fine.
I hope all is well, say hello to Stan and the family,
Tim & Anna