Saturday, March 6, 2010

This is India #1

One fun aspect of being in India is that you never know what you will find yourself discussing where.

We were visiting a couple in their 80's in a very small town called Mhow in interior central India. The talk came around to the kind of work I'd done in the past. While talking about airlines, I said that pilots are well compensated. The elderly gentleman, who'd been mostly quiet suddenly came alive. Turns out that he had been a commercial pilot, and my remark had rankled.

He started to make a case for pilots and suddenly I was on the defensive. I braced myself and heard the many familiar arguments I'd heard before. I was surprised to find myself in a small agricultural town in Madhya Pradesh, discussing crew deadheading, good and bad pairings and the assorted pilot quality of life issues.

After I managed to extricate myself reasonably, I mentioned to him that in India, I could never anticipate what I'd be discussing with whom. "Let me tell you something about India," said the ex-pilot who had warmed up by then. He went ahead and narrated the following story. It is almost surely an apocryphal tale, but it still has a lot of truth in it which is why I am sharing it here.

The ex-pilot told us about a German lady who was returning home after living in India for many years. On her last day she was asked, "Madam, after all these years, what have you learned about India?"
"I can tell you 4 things about India," she apparently said.
"Every stone is sacred." (More shrines and temples per square mile than anywhere else.)
"Everyone is a doctor." (People will always suggest home remedies no matter what the ailment.)
"Any time is tea time." (Numerous cups a day is not at all unusual.)
"And every place is the toilet." (You can see men going everywhere.)

1 comment:

  1. As always, a highly readable piece. The last one reminded me of what I was told by a senior manager many years ago. In the 70s, an American executive wanted to introduce open office system. But none of the Indian managers accepted it as each wanted a 'chamber' for himself. Finally he gave up the idea, but said in his farewell speech,' While travelling to airport, I have seen people shitting on the roads. I fail to understand Indians. They do things that should be done in the chamber in the open, but would like to do in the chamber what needs to be done in the open.'
    Parthasarathy, Chennai