We spend most of our time not having a clue what we are doing.
Would you like papdi chaat* or “something something” chaat? Here, you have several options. You can say papdi chaat because 1, you know what it is and 2, you like it. You can say “the second one” because you can’t pronounce the name of the whatever chaat they are offering but you recognize the name and you know it’s good. Or you can be brave and say “surprise me”, with a big smile. The latter has been my favorite approach. This way, if I like it, I can ask them to repeat the name, slowly, even write it down depending on the type of restaurant you’re in, and add this not only to your culinary repertoire, but also your vocabulary. Next time, you’ll know a little bit more what you’re doing.
When getting on the bus, do it as if you did it everyday. It doesn’t matter where you need to stop, just buy a day pass, even though you could ride cheaper if you knew the name of the stop. You can afford the day pass, and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing. This brings plenty of smiles from people riding with you. And when you want to get back on the bus a few hours later, stand by the side of the road and flag it down. Since he won’t believe that white people want to get on it, the driver will go on, until you start jumping up and down, wave your arms as if you’re an albatross trying to take off so you get the attention of the people already sitting on the bus, who will in turn inform the conductor that yes, those two foreigners seem to want a ride. You need to run a bit to catch it, but you’re on your way back home.
If you have to use the restroom in India, you have to plan it. Or fake it. Let me explain. As a white person, there are a lot of doors that open without much effort. Some of those include the fancy hotels in town. So when you need to go, walk into the place as if you owned it, find the restroom, and leave. It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed, they will believe that this is your hotel, and no one will ask any questions.
When you walk into some supermarkets, they want to close your purse with a plastic tie that can only be cut with scissors. This deters shoplifting, but it also forbids you from getting a tissue, your phone, your wallet or your gum. I don’t like it. So when they want to put a tie on your purse, just open your purse so they can peak inside and say no, as if you refused that everyday.
If your wife is riding the Vespa with you, and you go through the back roads, and you get lost, fake it, just fake it, even if you’re checking Google maps and say “I want to know how much farther it is”, maybe she will believe you!
All of the above happened today, just a typical day.
*chaat is a snack, usually finger food.