kittens, i suppose that, when you compare kolkata to where i grew up (i.e. the whitest place on earth), it may seem like i am living life dangerously on edge.
but remember, i have a safe apartment (one no more unsafe than my 120 year old house in canada that anyone just has to look at the wrong way and they can break in. please don’t rob me, ok?), 2 bathrooms for alternate usage depending on what species of wild creature is present and a tiny moustached caretaker who takes my garbage out and kills my roaches.
frankly, this is more than i expected.
when i think of what could have been (i.e being forced into bird murder just to eat or not having access to american tv, the horror.), i am honestly pleased as punch.
so here i am, all thinking i’ve got it good – like really good – only to realize that not only am i am pretty much living in squalor, but that i’m a f*&king hero for doing so.
enter, the americans.
jesus h. christ the americans are so awesome. they host fun events, they cunningly enter and exit conversations exclusively using the phrase “by the way…” and they love wine. good wine. imported wine. wine wine wine.
so anything i say about them you have to take with a grain of salt because i’m not joking when i say they are a great bunch. i may just love them a little. or maybe that’s the wine talking, who knows.
anyway, so last week, as i mentioned, miss jp drove me home after a night of making mid-week love to several pitches of sangria. (by the way, she has this awesome hunter-green ambassador car that looks like it’s straight out of castro’s personal collection circa 1953, by the way.)
here is how the conversation progressed as we turned onto my street:
miss jp: “wow, i am so impressed you know where you’re going!”
me: “yes, haha, well i don’t really have a choice. no driver!”
miss jp: “so this is where you live. huh.”
me: “yup, it’s great! it’s really safe and my neighbors are nice and oh there’s my office – see how close it is! i’m so glad i don’t have to commute and i can just roll out of bed and go to work. winning, right? hahahaahahahahaha.”
miss jp: “…wow…[awkward pause followed by a few deep breaths and what may have been a gulp]…i’ve never seen a neighborhood like this before.”
i literally was speechless. speechless on the outside, but my inside voice was screaming: “are you f&%king kidding me!”
miss jp has almost been in kolkata for a whole year. she speaks really good bengali and spends her whole day interacting with indians. it’s her job to understand their culture. all this and she can’t navigate the 3 km from my house to hers and she has never been in an upper-middle class bengali neighborhood before?
by her stunned reaction you’d think i had taken her – against her will – into the slums while i stroked my fake mustache, tipped my top hat and said “mwahahah”. gawd.
so after cracking jokes to myself at home that night, i totally wrote this off as a one time situation. she’s a really nice person.
but then, this weekend after the murder-mystery dinner party hosted by miss jp (yup, it really happened) – something magical took place as i was being driven home by mr + mrs abc.
(they’re a super sweet couple, also newlyweds, and he does a mean german-chinese-elmer fud accent, for the record.)
so the conversation went like this as we headed to my house:
mr abc: “hey, you are so good at navigating the city! i can’t believe you’ve only been here 2 months.”
me: “well it’s kind of been a necessity, you know, seeing as i would never eat if i didn’t figure things out…”
mr abc: “so how do you get around?”
me: “sometimes i take taxis, but the drivers are total bastards, so mostly i take tuk-tuks.”
mrs. abc: “wow! that’s crazy! you take taxis? we’ve only had to do that twice.”
mr. abc: “wait, by tuk-tuks, you mean those crazy three-wheeler things? woah.”
and here is where my head exploded in the back of their new car. goodbye cruel world – i’ve given you all i can!
"those three wheeler things"
so mr and mrs abc are pretty much the same story – they’ve been here six months and his primary job is to deal with indians on a daily basis…so…yeah…those three-wheeled car things, you know, that only everyone takes. right.
i guess it’s not so much that the americans avoid integration at all costs which amuses me – because i get that they have to stay pretty western-ized to do their jobs. it’s more their blatant amazement at how i am living here that i find funny as hell.
i figured that expats = adventurers, but in reality, i think their drivers, live-in security guards and budget for importing american food has warped their ability to cope.
so what i am taking away from all this is that i’m pretty much a flipping daredevil. and gosh, please feel free to address me as such from here onwards. everyone’s doing it.