Madam - Halebid Hoslur sculpturePart Three of my tales of acclimatisation in India.

One of my dear friends here often tells me that, ‘You’re not really Indian at all, are you?’

Which let’s face it is fairly obvious, as I’m not just white – I’m fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark white. I’m so white, I’m effectively transparent.

Mind you she also often says to me ‘Good God, you’re more Indian than I am’. Which seeing as she grew up in London isn’t always surprising. Though the fact she’s from a big expat Punjabi family and has raised kids here, does make it slightly more surprising.

So, in some ways I’m terribly Indian – after that year in sleepy conservative Kerala, I still feel a bit daring going out in Indian dress without a dupatta scarf with me – in other ways I’m utterly and completely the expat abroad.

For instance, the expat in my climbs to the fore every time I get exasperated at exactly the same point in buying something in shop. It’s the point where it’s become apparent that they’ve not made even the most basic attempt to even try and get small change for customers.

“Didn’t it occur to you that people might buy things from you? You are, after all, a shop”

Apparently people arriving without the exact change is a novelty to many shopkeepers in this country. A novelty which arrives day, after day, after day. Grrr.

But I digress from my main thrust – which is how many things I now simply take for granted. Like asking my sister why she didn’t get her maid to do the ironing. Which would have been fair enough, but we were in London at the time and obviously she doesn’t have a maid. She did nearly lamp me one for that.

So, more signs I’m getting used to my lovely life here:

I no longer find it odd to find people sleeping on the floor
– or indeed people sleeping anywhere

This happened very quickly to me – one of the first things I got used to. I suspect after spending extensive time in Africa, which is an all together much sleepier place than India, it just seems normal.

But I have a strong memory  from a few years back, when I lived in Kovalam. I got the train up to Kochi with two friends from London, one of whom now lives in super modern Dubai. We arrived at the station about 9.30pm and there were a lot of people who were on the station waiting for trains arriving at 3 or 4am. Not unnaturally, they’d curled up on benches or on the floor, best as they could to try and get a decent nights sleep before getting on the train.

Seemed perfectly reasonable to me as I skilfully wheeled my baggage around the sleeping groups. Only to become distantly aware that as I was marching on murmuring, ‘there’ll be a car outside for us’ – that my pals were getting further and further behind me. When I realised and turned back for them, there they stood look askance saying something on the lines of ‘why are all these people lying on the platform?’ Apparently my answer of, ‘well they’re tired’ was neither helpful nor what they were expecting.

As I said – I acclimatised early to sleeping bodies everywhere.

Come on, ladies!

Power cuts seem perfectly normal.

Endless on/off/on/off powercuts seem so standard as to no longer create any exasperation at all.

Like many places in Bangalore, we have emergency power generators at the housing complex I live in – which means if there’s a powercut you always have three in a row – one when it goes off, the switch to emergency power and then the switch to normal power. So if you have say 5 powercuts in an hour, that means you have 15 interruptions of supply.

That can be really annoying if you’re trying to microwave something in the middle of that.

Many people have uninterruptable power supplies to stop the modem from continually resetting and the like – but as we’ve got emergency power here, I don’t. Which means sometimes my modem is off and on like a flickering candle. That can be annoying if you’re trying to have a Skype conversation with a client.

For instance while I’ve been writing this post I’ve been trying to microwave my lunch – 2 minutes on high power. The power cuts are coming so thick and fast that so far taken 45 minutes and counting and I think I’m only up to 50 seconds of actual food heating. Frankly, I’m getting quite peckish.

But if anything, I’m irked it’s gone on so long. I’m no longer even slightly surprised it’s happening.

And we’ve got it lucky compared to many places. I know an Aussie woman who lives in Zanzibar – and she told me about a power cut a few years back that lasted 3 months. For the whole Island. In the hot season. Compared to that having to lurk by the microwave pressing on, every few minutes isn’t really that trying

Insects inside food no longer utterly repulses me.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it.  It’s not something I seek out. But it no longer turns my stomach the way it once would have done.

For instance – again when I lived back in Kerala, a place with a warmer climate than Bangalore and thus more insect life – there was a day after I’d been there about 9 months; I poured some pasta from a sealed jar into some boiling water. After a minute or two, I looked in the pan to discover all across the surface the bodies of flying ants bobbing to the top. Obviously I jerked the pan off the boil and tipped the water down the sink.

But, and here’s where the acclimatisation came in – just for a moment I thought, I really did, I actually thought… what if I just skimmed the creatures off and still ate the pasta? Pasta being something of a difficult thing to get in Kerala. You have to go to special shops, it’s quite expensive… and wasting it seemed a bit foolish. And I was actively quite hungry by this point.

So, I’m vegetarian, I’m from the west and it’s actually gone through my mind to think – what if I just picked them out?

Obviously I didn’t – that would be disgusting. But the immediate thought was not ‘eeew’ – but more ‘how irking’.

That’s a girl come a long, long way from food in little microwave containers in Tesco…


This is Part Three of a Three part series

Read Part One – You know you’ve acclimatised when

Read Part Two – You’re half way to being a local…