So I’m exactly a week into being here. India is a noisy place, seriously, it is very loud here. Stainless steel dishes clattering in the sink, that sound like piles of glass shattering, beating laundry, imagine throwing wet towels against concrete as hard as you can, then magnify it, repeatedly, and the constant honking horns. Horns, apparently, are the only form of signal I’ve seen for intersections, turning, and hey I’m coming through, watch out! Then there are all the stray dogs that during the day seem innocuous enough, but fight and run in packs after dark, barking and up to no good, usually right around 3 am….there are other noises too, homes being built, new water lines being put in. It’s quite remarkable to see a crew working with not much more than hand tools while in bare feet rip up asphalt, dig out trenches and lay new pipes then cover it back up all in one days time. No gloves, only a very rare jackhammer…truly backbreaking work. Yet they do it, and so much worse, but all without complaint, dutifully, and I think with the gratitude of being fortunate enough to have work.
Intermingled amongst beautiful homes are lots treated as garbage dumps, and pretty much right around the corner are squat houses without much too them, equivalent in size to an SUV, but hey it’s a roof, with four walls. The truly maimed or crippled sustain by living in the garages or floors of unfinished new construction, keeping watch overnight. Again it’s shelter, from the dangers of the night. The police do patrol with decent frequency in the evenings, but it would still be unwise especially for a woman to traverse alone after dark. Almost every dwelling I’ve seen has gates and walls, many with areas of barbed wire or broken sharp glass pieces embedded in the tops. All the windows are covered in bars. I’m not sure if it’s to protect against critters or other more nefarious reasons, most likely it’s for both.
I’m not very street savvy, my intellectual gifts, unfortunately are lacking in that area. Granted this is not my usual element. I can navigate around just about anywhere in New York City without any problems or fears, but let’s just say I’m developing a learning curve of stranger danger here. Thankfully I do have some friends here, that have been before, and have shown me the ropes.
Yesterday afternoon walking right in front of the Shala a van stopped filled with young Indian boys, they were gesturing to me, talking and smiling as if to ask me something. My usual polite helpful nature had kicked in and I started walking over to see what they wanted. Mercifully I was with a friend, Stan, who basically freaked on me, yelling for me to back away. I was ridiculously naive and at first didn’t understand, as these boys looked sweet and harmless, but I’m not home, I’m in India and looks are deceiving. Stan chided me as I walked back over to join the others in front of the Shala, with and incredulous expression on his face, as he said, “Didn’t anyone ever warn you not to talk to strangers?!” Alas I have a hard time remembering not everyone operates with purity in their intentions. I admit, it’s difficult for me to assume otherwise. From now on sadly if I leave to go off alone, I will take pepper spray in one hand as a talisman to remember to be wary but hopefully not ever need it. I say all this with the counterbalance of having encountered wonderful, kind people here, friendly and helpful. Being mindful accepts the unexpected, both the good and the bad, but at least now, not unanticipated.