Sunday, April 7, 2013

Off the Beaten Path...

Hello, hello, hello!!  The weather is turning hot, the sun is shining brightly, lawn is turning yellow, all signs that the Indian summer is upon us.  While the ceiling fans run fast and furious, the Giridhar household is seriously contemplating investing in a couple of AC units.  I do admit, all those years of cushy living in the US has made us weak.
Life for most of us is as usual.  After a brief visit to Bangalore to participate in the festivities of my young nephew's engagement, while the rest of the boys are off to school, work etc,  my days are spent overseeing dust bunnies that my maid has missed and a futile attempt to lose some extra weight before June when I will have to go back to Bangalore for a couple of weddings.  I know what you are thinking.  I have the whole day ahead of me to indulge in any kind of exercise regimen, but it does not really work like that. 

But I really wanted to share with you another phenomenon that is so typically Indian.  And I am curious to hear your comments so please be generous.  For the last few days, traders in Pune are protesting the implementation of a new Local Body Tax (LBT).  The form of protest is to keep their shutters down and not do any business hoping that when citizens start getting inconvenienced, the Government will sit up and take notice.  Of course, while I am sympathetic to their cause, I am a selfish individual and the aggravation of doing without our usual groceries was eating at my patience.  So the third day of the strike, I am determined to find a loaf of bread.  After finding the supermarket closed, I went to another local store that specialises in all things expat and found that their bread and milk shelves were totally empty.  Customers like me were foraging for food anywhere they could find. 

Well, not one to give up easily, I told my driver to take me to another medium sized supermarket.  To my chagrin, they had a 'CLOSED' sign on the main door.  I spotted workers inside, so in a desperate attempt, I ran up to the main doors, and waved frantically to catch the eye of a worker.  In sign language, I gesticulated that I needed to come inside.  He waved me around to the back.  Not seeing any way of getting to the back, I looked back helplessly and asked where I should enter.  (All in sign language, so readers, you know this was dumb charades at its finest.)

Imagine my surprise when this worker came out from inside what looked like a "pan" (see below for explanation) shop and took me down a hidden flight of steps to an equally nondescript elevator which actually worked and opened into the main store.  My joy knew no bounds as I saw juices, eggs , bread and all the things I wanted on my list, except for cornflakes stocked on the shelves.

Jubilant and ecstatic, I headed back to the elevator to make my clandestine exit.  Here lay another surprise.  Two shop girls directed me to the stairs saying the elevator did not go to the ground floor.  Thinking they were pulling a fast one, I went in anyway and frantically pushed '0'.  Nothing happened and then my knight in shining armor, the same worker who showed me the back door, came in, punched in a code number and magically, the doors closed and we were down on the ground floor.  Having thanked him profusely, I came home victorious.

Now folks, as is my wont, I like to analyze everything.  If this same situation had confronted me six months ago, my brain being lulled by existence in the most developed nation, would take the 'CLOSED' sign at face value and quietly go back.  However, now I have realized that there is no black or white in India, only several shades of grey.............Maybe the secret to why we can survive and thrive anywhere in the world.  We are genetically programmed from birth to challenge and deviate from 'Status Quo'......

(pan shop : a tiny mom & pop shop operating out of a shack)

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