I travelled India for a few weeks in late 2012, after having grown up there in the 1990s. Here are some things I’d forgotten about India.
The hawks, eagles, buzzards, kites (and some other birds like storks)
The bird life in India is sweeping in its variety.
How readily people break into song
No, I don’t mean a Bollywood-style song-and-dance routine. I mean an audible song during times of quiet, such as in transit on a bus or auto.
People asking me for the time
Not everyone has or can afford watches.
The commonality of spitting (even passengers in buses)
The lack of footpaths/sidewalks
How bus conductors hold money notes between their fingers in that peculiar fashion
Tickets are actually purchased from a person on a bus who sells tickets. Donning a khaki outfit, he or she constantly moves around in the bus selling tickets to new passengers and also whistles (or shouts) to instruct the bus driver to start and stop the vehicle.
Such conductors typically carry notes in a fan-like arrangement in between their fingers, such that it’s almost like Wolverine’s claws — except it’s with brown Rupees instead of adamantium projections.
The dirt and smog
Dust will be kicked up everytime a lorry passed by. There’ll be noxious smoke filtering through as a pile of rubbish is burnt (used as method of disposal).
Street dogs lying about
You’ll witness clothes being bashed into cleanliness on stones especially designed for laundry.
Paying for the refrigeration of milk
Milk is commonly sold in packets, rather than cartons or bottles. You’ll often find that milk purchased later in the day is slightly more expensive than when purchased early in the day. The claim that shopkeepers make is that it costs money for the refridgeration.
The prevalence of shirts and formal trousers (slacks)
In non-posh areas like buses and public spaces, men tend to wear full-sleeve or half-sleeve shirts. Only some younger men tend to wear t-shirts. Similarly, there is tendency to wear pressed, and possibly cuffed, pants.
Lack of shorts being worn (except by kids and occasionally for casual physical activity)
Even when ridiculously hot, virtually no one wears shorts.
Interestingly though, many wear open footwear like sandals rather than shoes. I’d guess it’s for the convenience and comfort (but that doesn’t quite explain the lack of shorts).
The disappearance of the ‘squish’ horn in auto-rickshaws
Many of the squishy horns on autorickshaws that make noise by squishing air have been replaced of electronic equivalents. I kind of miss these guys and their cheerful ‘pom-poms’.
You can see the horn in action in this video:
The new Rupee symbol
Prior to this new rupee symbol in 2010, the abbreviation ‘Rs.’ was used. Having grown up in India in the 1990s, it took some time to adjust to the alien sign.
The prevalance of ads and Western corporations (e.g. KFC)
You can be in the remotest village, but you’ll still see a ‘Coca-Cola’ advertisement handpainteed on a wall. You’ll know it’s handpainted because it’s not quite proportional and the finish is imperfect (but often still beautiful).
Every so often, someone or something decides to the cut the power. Lifts stop working, fans cease into a standstill, dinner is delayed, mosquitoes attack (seizing this opportunity presented as electricity powered mosquito repellants require…umm…electricity to operate) and candles are brought out. I’m certainly glad that my phone has a flashlight feature.
How old-fashioned tech like stone grinders and mortar-pestles are still around
Even in brownouts, these things can still be operated!
The lack of prams/strollers
Babies and children have to be carried. You don’t realise how big of a task this is until you walk around bearing the weight of a baby for an hour (I’ve done this).
The amount of and attitude towards rubbish
There is so much trash everywhere. People litter without much concern. Garbage disposal sometimes means just throwing it outside. Some burn their trash. Seeing stray dogs, pigs, chickens and even people wandering through trash piles is not an uncommon sight.
The hustle of disabled and impaired people
It’s incredible to witness how disabled/impaired have adapted to the Indian environment. I saw a visually impaired couple board a bus together and negotiate the unruly Indian urban environment. Truly humbling. I have enough difficulty navigating India even with my lack of impairment!