Archive for the ‘Same Same But Different’ Category

I woke up twice last night, it was raining that heavily.

With a month delay, winning once again against global warming, the monsoon is back in town. Exotic, wonderful. And discomforting.

When I woke up this morning, late because of the dark sky outside, it was raining inside my bathroom too. The ceiling failed once again.

It happened last year as well, and although I paid for it to be fixed, six months ago, I wasn’t really expecting the ceiling were going to make it through the monsoon. It’s one of the first things I learned here: you must try to get things fixed – because you must – but you also must not expect that they will be – fixed.

A year ago the first sight of a ceiling shower in my bathroom caused me a mix of distress, anger, sense of impotence and a tiny bit of incredulous amusement.

Today I emptied the bathroom, locked the door, and almost seamlessly proceeded to my morning tea routine.

Roads in Delhi become rivers after fifteen minutes of regular rain. Monsoon showers are just too much for the city’s poor drainage system.

For days, after the rain you’ll see papers, chairs, tables, computers covered in mud and water emerging from flooded basements, carried in the sun by people who don’t really hope to save anything, but are simply following the rule: you must try to get things fixed, because you must, but you also must not expect that they will be – fixed.

In my block. It took three days to empty the basement.

Drenched paper always breaks my heart

Walking out of your home is out of question. Well, unless someone you know and trust talks you into a walk in the rain in shorts and slippers, but that is a whole different story (and one whose memory will have the power to disgust you for years to come).

Anyway today was no day for adventures, nor for auto-rickshaw rides. So I called the taxi stand to learn that “Today is very jam day, sorry”.

No taxis. Again, what would have made me angry and restless a few moths ago didn’t really hit me much. I hung out in my living room, enjoying the unusual fresh air that was coming in from the balcony.

When I finally – not too long later – got into a cab,  it wasn’t for a smooth ride. Traffic was blocked. Broken cars would jam the roads.

Broken, yes. Cars, even expensive imported German cars, break here, when it rains. That is a mystery I will never be able to solve, and a reality I will never believe.

Slowly, I made it to the office. Past pools of mud and rain in which half naked children were -my goodness- playing. Past goats, and cows and calves (cows always seem to multiply, during the monsoon). Past the stray dogs. Past crowds of people seeking shelter under bus stops. And past all the street people that were, instead, just staying there, under the rain that no longer that heavy. Getting wet. With their polyester pants. And their polyester bright saaris.

My drive was like a slow-motion tour of the chaos. Dreadful but somewhat wonderful.

It made me remember something I was told about India, way before I moved here: “There’s so much life, there. So much. Most of times, there isn’t much more than that – a lot of life. And it’s beautiful”.

And it is – beautiful. In the only way I have ever experienced in which beautiful has nothing – nothing at all – to do with pretty.


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Behind this.

The India Tube

The India Tube

Part magazine, part community, part media gallery, The India Tube is a space for everything that’s incredible about India. With its daily updates, it’s the directory for the inspiring and the unbelievable, the cutting edge and the bizarre. We have new stories and pictures every day, go check it out!

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This story begins in Paris, Rue des Cinqs Diamants. There’s a restaurant there, yes, probably the one you are thinking about, and in that restaurant worked as a waiter a guy with the most theatrical face I have ever seen. That guy often wore a t-shirt that read Same Same But Different. For months, watching him passing by with hot dishes (“Chaud, chaud!”), I wondered what that meant.

Then I traveled to India, and I found that t-shirt in several shops.

And the same sentence was written on hotel, restaurants, shop signs. A leitmotif, which the more time I spend here the more makes sense.

Same Same But Different is a commentary on life in India. It is life in India. I look around me and everything is almost the same, but it isn’t. In a way you cannot explain, as if everything existing was only defined by the connections it has with the contest, and somehow things managed to work according to the equation Western-Things: West=Indian-Things: India.  While you are here, in the not-so-micro cosmos that stretches as a triangle south of the Himalayas, everything feels almost familiar, as if you had once known something different, but you forgot. Seen from outside, everything is just different, in degrees that go from slightly to tremendously, inconceivably, impossibly.

Anyways I am starting a list of things that are Same Same But Different. I’ll keep updating it, maybe adding pictures (if I remember taking them, otherwise you just have to believe me). So here begins the collection:

#1. Bedsheets  – You know how usually bedsheets come in couples, one “with angles” to go underneath and one without to go on top. You sleep between the two, then add blankets if needed. Here, I don’t know if it’s because it’s normally to hot to sleep even with a cotton bedsheet, you only get the top part, with no angle, that you use for the bottom. And the pillow case. Then you can get a bed cover, but that’s it. I tried several market before giving up, and still my bed seems somewhat unaccomplished.

#2. Mattress – It is still quite easy to find hand-made mattresses here, way less expensive than the imported spring ones, and, according to someone (someone who’s not me), quite comfortable. They are filled with cotton and tend to become quite flat after a while, but the good thing is you get to chose the fabric you want to be filled and become our mattress. Result: you might have uncomfortable nights but at least you know that the mattress that’s killing your back looks good. Which is something.

#3. Shower – The shower in both the bathroom of my house consists in a shower head hanging from the wall. No shower plate. No shower cabin. Not even a curtain. We put a curtain in one of the two bathroom, then the ceiling started leaking and the fun was over. But I guess it’d be the claustrophobic person’s dream to take a shower with the whole bathroom as a cabin.

#4. Handles – I saw a few closets, windows and double doors in which the handles of the two shutters were not aligned. I have nothing more to say about this stylish choice.

#5. Cars’ wing mirrors – One day I was stuck in traffic and I did a quick count. About 2/3 of cars, here don’t have a left wing mirror (they drive on the right). Those who have it keep it flicked inside, because it might get damaged in traffic (I imagine that’s why). All the cars have a rigth wing mirror. About 2/3 of them keep it flicked inside: why would you protect the left wing one and not the other? (Again: I am imagining). After that day I understood clearly why everyone keeps little statues or images of at least one of the gods in the car.

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