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Posts Tagged ‘bad people’

The roads in India are different...

Driving in India is like playing a large and very real game of chicken. The roads are full of every kind of transportation imaginable: men on foot pushing carts give way to carts being led by buffalo; small pedal bikes are skirted by whole families perched on one motorcycle; small yellow Tata Nano cars get passed by larger Innovas which honk as they go around a gargantuan colorful Goods Carrier. And when they all share a two lane highway the result is like an elaborate dance sequence, with everyone mostly knowing their part until you get to the number that’s a little too complicated and the group hasn’t practiced enough. Two dancers are bound to make a wrong step and crash into each other.

My parents had been shocked throughout their trip by the insanity of the roads. But in Aurangabad the roads were even more precarious.

One of the caves at Ellora

We were in Aurangabad to see the Ajanta and Ellora caves. They’re a full plane ride from any other place worth seeing in India and my dad had been wondering throughout the course of the trip why we were leaving Delhi in order to go see some caves. The answer is very simple: these rock-cut ‘caves’ are magnificant. They are a combination of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain structures (they would be amazing just for detailing the relgious tolerance that existed in this part of India during that period). They all are large rooms, temples, and art carved out of sheer rockface from the 2nd century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. Ajanta, the older group, is renowned for its carvings and well-preserved paintings.

One section of Kailash Temple in Ellora

But Ellora holds the masterpiece: Kailash Temple, built from approximately 600 A.D. to 900 A.D. The temple was created by vertical excavation, meaning 200,000 tons of rocks were slowly chiseled from above to build and form a temple larger than the Parthenon. There are many levels and areas but in the center stands a gargantuan and intricately carved singular temple, made from just the one piece of rock left in the middle.  It is the largest monolithic structure in the world. It would be unbelievable to create today, but to that the whole thing was carved out of a mountain from above with only a chisel and hammer is truly staggering.

One of the ancient paintings of Ajanta

Of course, to get to these staggering, incredible feats of human artistry you have to drive along some pretty small and terrible roads. It was nerve-wracking to say the least. Our driver on the first day was a man with places to go and things to see. He swerved around in his large white Innova, honking to alert everyone in his path that he was going around them. Hairpin turns or traffic jams didn’t stop him. He only slowed down for potholes and cows, deftly braking while moving around them.  On our way to Ajanta – which is a much longer trip from Aurangabad than Ellora – we were secretly quite happy at all the time we had saved.

The infamous goods carrier truck

But on the way back, as the late afternoon sun started to dip towards sunset, he clearly was in a race of his own making. At one juncture in the road we saw a huge Goods Carrier truck trying to make a three point turn. It was stuck: every little motorcycle, every small car was trying to go past it as it turned and in essence it couldn’t move.

“No one is going to let that guy go!” my dad said, as we started approaching. But there was a large gap between the cars that had just passed and our car – and there was clearly the first window for the truck to move back. But our driver decided to make a go for it.

Unfortunately, so did the other driver.

Our sad smushed car

Sitting on the drivers side of the car, I saw it coming like in slow motion. He thought he could make it. He thought he could slickly pass beyond the truck and keep going at the pace to which he was accustomed. But the truck had seen his moment and he wasn’t letting it pass. They both played chicken and they both failed.

The truck came at us with a crunch. I let out a little yelp but thankfully none of us were hurt. The driver jumped out and we rolled down our window to look at the damage. The side of the car was badly dented and it couldn’t even open.

Immediately the conversations started between the truck driver, our driver and a few other men who had materialized out of nowhere to discuss the action. The drivers traded information and then the truck driver left. But our guy kept scheming with the men on the side of the road. We sat there, watching women working in the fields and cars driving by, and it started to seem like something was up.

“Sir? What’s happening?” I asked, even thought I knew he wasn’t listening and didn’t really speak English.
“Ek minute, ek minute,” (one minute, one minute), he replied, ignoring the fact that the sun was going down and we needed to get back to the hotel.

It started to seem like we were part of a cover-up.

After a few more minutes I called my friend D and asked if she could speak with the man in Hindi and get a sense of what was happening. The cover-up became clearer – he was waiting for paint. It was kind of hilarious that he thought paint would cover the big dent in his car. We didn’t want him to lose his job (he worked for our hotel) but on the other hand we didn’t want to be standing on the side of the road in the dark.

All of us in one of the Ajanta caves

We finally convinced him to go and we piled back into the car (not using our smashed door, of course), and made our way back to civilization. It was a fitting end to our travels – my parents had seen some of India’s greatest sights, met a lot of great people, gotten a little bit of food poisoning, and now had gotten into a roadside altercation. It doesn’t beat spending a year in the place, but it certainly was a good overview!

 

We’re all back in Mumbai now and it’s going to be very difficult to watch them go, but it’s been so wonderful to have them experience India. And at the very least we all came out unscathed!

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The Cheaters

Before I moved to India, I used to take for granted that internet was an ever-present being in my life. I could sit anywhere in my apartment and be enveloped with the wireless joy of reading or watching anything at any time. I just had to look up to the corner of my screen and make sure the bars were high enough to stay connected – and they always were.

Since I moved to India, I’ve had a new relationship with the internet. It has been one of bewilderment and frustration. It was as though I’d been broken up with silently, but I still held onto hope because he called occasionally. Yes, despite hours at a time of no connectivity and workmen who said they would come but never did, I clung on, hoping I could salvage my relationship with my internet company.

But earlier this week, I finally experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. My router, once again, turned from its friendly shade of green into a menacing orange – the internet was off. So I called my internet company contact.

“It’s not working again,” I said.
“Ma’am, did you turn the router on and off?”
“Yes, I always do.”
“Did you restart your computer?”
“Yes, I always do.”
“Are you really sure it’s not working?”
“Why would I be calling you if it was working?”
“I think it is working.”
“It isn’t”
“Are you sure?”

This conversation went on for some time. Finally he agreed to come and look at it. This was at 10:30am.

At 5pm he showed up. He didn’t apologize for the lateness. He tinkered and fiddled before finally declaring that the problem was our router.

“Our router?” I said
“Yes ma’am, it is not us. It is your router. It does not work properly.”

I didn’t really believe him. But what could I say? Maybe it was the router? So, like any woman attempting a last-ditch effort to make the relationship work, I tried to be agreeable. I hesitantly bought a new router.

And, as I had sadly suspected, it changed nothing. The router was just another ploy to string me along. I was fed up – so I decided to cheat on my internet company.

I couldn’t exactly tell them I wanted to change services before I’d found a new one, so I kept my mouth shut about the router and starting asking around. Who would be a better fit for me? I finally settled on a new company – they came to discuss the terms and I agreed to the fastest plan I could find. No more slow and unreliable! Blogs could be posted! Skype calls could be had! Time could be wasted on Facebook! I was ready to start over.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The guy came to install it and my doorman wouldn’t let him up on the roof without permission from the building owner. Then once we solved that problem they couldn’t get into the building across the street where they needed to run the cable from. I was foiled again. But I was assured that it could all be solved the next morning.

Finally the installation began. I sat in my apartment, using the last of my old internet connection while my new one sneakily began moving in upstairs. I was really looking forward to calling the old company and breaking up with them. But then, they gave me the final blow.

“Madam, you have to see this–” I was getting called outside by the man installing the new internet — “Look at this wire.” I looked. It was split in two. I didn’t really understand where he was going with this.

“What’s special about the wire?”
“Oh Madam, it is really terrible. They have been using your wire here to send your electricity to the next building.”
“What do you mean?”
“They cheat you! They been cheating you! They take your electricity for some bribe probably and give to someone else.”

Now I was angry. I picked up the phone and let it rip. They didn’t have to know that I was cheating and getting a new company behind their back – but I was sure as heck going to let them know I’d figured out that they were cheating me. I think the call ended with something along the lines of “Don’t ever contact me again.”

I hung up and felt vindicated. I was starting a new relationship with the internet and this time, it would be different.

It did take five more hours to make the new internet start working. And it may not be quite as fast as it was promised. But hey, they’re not siphoning off my electricity to the highest bidder. And for now, that’s a good start.

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