Thursday, July 31, 2008

Driving in India

Where do I start? An agent I am training told me last night, "Shelley, if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere!"
Driving in India is like nothing I have experienced, and until I figured out the biggest rule, I would continue to struggle as a new driver. So, about 2 weeks ago I got it, it just came to me, and ever since then, I've been not only confident, but have been told by a few people that I am a good driver.
The golden rule to Indian driving:

There are no rules!!!

Here are a few tidbits to help you understand Indian driving. Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best and leave the results to your insurance company.

In the form of a Q&A I'll attempt to paint you a pretty picture of what I deal with on a daily basis.
** Mom, this is not to freak you out. So please read this with an open mind, and a sense of humour.

1. Do we drive on the left or the right side of the road:
The answer is both.
Well technically, in India you drive on the left side of the road (opposite) of home. But here is the logic behind this theory. Basically you start on the left side of the road, unless that is occupied, you go to the right side of the road, and if that is occupied you just aim your vehicle straight ahead. Trust your instincts. Just remember other drivers are in the same position as you are in.

2. Pedestrians get the right away, right?
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. If you are a foreign pedestrian and you think you get the right away, because that's how it is done at home, you'll get hit by a car, a motorcycle, a scooter or a rickshaw. There will be no remorse, you got in the way. Only proceed when there is no traffic, and if there is traffic proceed through it frogger style. If you are not sure what frogger is, then clearly you have never watched Seinfeld and seen George cross the street frogger style. I thought that was hilarious until I came here, and a sitcom became my reality.

3. Are there one way streets in India?

Yes. But the signs that are put there to tell you that it is a one way street is just decoration to make it seem like there is some order. Go ahead and drive down the street in the wrong direction anyway. You'll be considered stupid if you go the 'long' way.

4. Are there designated speed limits?

HAHAHAHAHAHA! No. There aren't. There are speed bumps and traffic to make you go slow, and when those aren't there to slow you down, go as darn fast as you want.

5. Are there really cows on the road?

Yes, and no. In Hyderabad there aren't so many, but they exist. And cows don't look both ways before they cross the street.

6. What is it like to drive at night?

Have you heard of the game of Russian roulette??? Ya, kind of like that. Turning signals are optional.

7. Then how do you know someone is turning?

Well, you don't always. Most use their turn signal (if it works) and others use their arms out their window or on their motorcycle (like when you ride a bicycle). But that could be confusing too, because that could just be a physical statement of relief on a hot day.

8. Are there traffic lights?

Yes, in some places. But those are stoptional. Really, they are. I have only stopped at a red light a few times. I follow the traffic. If everyone else was going through the red light and I decided to stop, because I wanted to follow the rules, I would be severely laughed at. And I already get enough attention as a white girl on a scooter anyway.

Well I hope this paints a picture for you of what driving is like in India. I hope to take some videos to prove all this to you. But having said all this, apparently the accident rate and related deaths due to traffic accidents are less here in India than in North America. Makes you think now doesn't it? Perhaps order isn't all it's cracked up to be!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The price of things....and curries

Today I decided to check out this outdoor fruit and vegetable market. The rain had decided to stay away today and it was sunny and a gorgeous 30 degrees, so I thought let's see what kind of prices I can get. Now in Indian cooking tomatoes and onions are an every day staple. They are used to make the masala's or curries. Now the curry powder from home does NOT exist here. The curries here are made using onions (usually ground into a paste with chili's and ginger) then tomatoes are added along with chili powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander and sometimes garam masala (which translates to hot or warm spice- which is a deep brown in colour and is a mix of spices including cinnamon and cloves. There are so many variants and you can also roast mustard seeds and coriander seeds to make some nice curries too, to add to the onion to make a paste.

So I drove a few km's to the outdoor market, and wow. I will have a hard time going to an actual grocery store to buy my fruit and vegetables now. Although the prices there are still good, this was almost ridiculous. Plus buying straight from the farmer, you get much fresher produce and you are skipping the middle man, so essentially it helps the Indian farmers.

The list and prices:
1/2 kilo of onions (approx 8)- 7 rupees ($.16)
1/2 kilo potatoes (about 5)- 10 rupees
3 medium apples- 20 rupees ($.48)
1 pineapple-20 rupees
bunch of bananas (10 rupees)
2 bunches of spinach-5 rupees ($.07)
1/2 kilo tomatoes (approx 8 small ones) 5 rupees
2 handfuls green chilies (3 rupees)

Total cost: 80 rupees ($1.91CDN)

Yes, the standard of living is different here, but my point is, that you can save a lot of money, buy fresher things, support the local farmer for a much lower cost than going to a grocery store. I would pay triple that amount at the local grocery store.
If you have the chance try and do this at home too. I know Ottawa has some amazing fresh markets, so take some time out of your day drive, walk, bike, or blade to a local farmers market every once in a while and have fun buying fresh things while supporting your local farmer. Sometimes it's just worth the time, and you'll feel good about it and taste the difference in your food.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mumblings from afar......

It's been too long. And when it's been too long I have too much to write, and everything gets jumbled. So I'll focus just on a few things.

First, Congratulations to Amanda and Eric Lapierre!! They got married on Saturday in what I hear was a beautiful magical, perfect day. Amanda and I met about 4 years ago playing lacrosse after I had gone through a break-up. She really helped get me through that shitty, shitty time. We have been amazing friends ever since. She's been through thick and thin with me, through the zillions of miles away I have been, through the guys, the work crap, and everything else friends go through. I wanted to be there with her so badly, but....sometimes life just throws you some curve balls and you either have to hit them, or watch them cross the plate. I chose to hit it, and consequently I am an ocean apart. But I thought of her and wished I could have been there. So here is my salute to you Amanda. Hope your day was everything and so much more!!! Love you, love you, love you!!!

I am sure, unless you live under a rock, you have heard about the bombings in India (Bangalore and Ahmedabad). I am not going to give this more stock or time than it deserves, but where I live is a very safe place and the bombings happened very far away from me. The terrorists attacks in New York City were closer to me than what has happened here. Obviously this is the work of cowards. And so all is fine, and that is all i want to say about that. Terrorists want any and all attention they can get, so I refuse to give them that satisfaction. But I'm safe, and we are all being careful and the police are taking extra pre-cautions everywhere, so the city couldn't be safer right now.

Monsoon has hit, and is in full swing, and the weather has cooled considerably. I am embarrassed to call myself a Canadian, as I am finding myself cold, in 25 degree weather. The rain obviously doesn't help, but still. I have to go out and buy a few sweaters and a rain jacket, because admittedly I'm cold. I never thought I'd adjust to the heat. But I have,and it's glorious. Not the 46 degree weather we had a few months ago. But it's been consistently about 30-34 degrees the last month and it's so nice. It's now dark and dreary, and the city has come alive, Hyderabadi's love the rain, and i know why. It cuts down the dust, and the heat. I don't mind driving in the's not so bad.

Other than that, it's been work, work work. I am doing a lot of training and working long hours, but I love the job. A vacation is in order soon though so I am going to Goa for 4 days next month. It will be rainy season, but a beach is a beach, and we might luck out and get some sun.

Oh, and emails. Please send me updates about what is going on in your lives people! I'm an open book so indulge me please. There is email, and Facebook, and Yahoo messenger and MSN and Skype.....lots of options people, so there are no excuses.

Hope to hear from you soon.......

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pictures of Timothy's birthday and going away parties!

Timothy was supposed to leave at the end of June, and at the 12th hour, he decided to postpone his trip, literally he canceled it about an hour before he was supposed to leave for the airport. He just wasn't ready. So the last few weekends have been going away parties for him , because he was still waiting to book his flight, and it was basically a last minute booking. He found out Thursday he was leaving Monday (the one that just passed). Here are some pictures of our gang at the bar then at my place afterwards. Sorry folks no names, just initials. Check out my Facebook page for more pics!

Timothy left this Monday. H, R, P, and me drove Timothy to the Aeroexpress bus stop at about 5am. It was a tearful goodbye, as Timothy has been here for 10 months, and made a lot of amazing friends.

NB: Timothy has given me permission to use his name......

R and H! Sweet couple.

Timothy and R dancing

Me and R getting our groove on

The gang dancing with K doing his signature moves!

This is what happens in India on your birthday. Cake smearing. This is Timothy. Yes, I was the one who shoved the whole thing in T's face. Everyone else was scared of him.

J and Timothy

The guys at my place. H is too busy with his drink to look at the camera

Saying good bye. Timothy leaving for the airport.

Me and A (she is from the UK)

The gang at 4am before Timothy's flight!

Friday, July 11, 2008


The man in the white uniform and black hat waved us over while waiting at one of the very few traffic signals. I was sitting at the back of my bike, my white skin an obvious target, and he was sitting at the front, driving. We only went to pick up a few things at the market.
The policeman and he started speaking in Telegu and I knew they were discussing the fact that I had still not validated my license plates, as the papers have not yet arrived. The yellow tags on the plates gave away the secret.

I sat nervously on the back of the scooter, not sure what was happening, and he reached into his pocket and secretly gave the man in uniform a 50 rupee note, and then we were on our way. I took a breath, after not breathing for what felt like minutes. This is nothing new to him, he said.
I was quiet, and my silence was deafening . He took his hand off the brake and squeezed my leg. This is the first time you've seen this, haven't you? He asked me.
Even though he was facing the front, he knew I had nodded.
It's India, it happens here, he told me matter of factly.

I thought to myself, how bad could it be that someone could be bought for 50 rupees, an equivalent to $1.18 CDN?

For the rest of the way home, I realized how far i was away from everything I knew. I had read about the corruption, but seeing it, made it reality. Things will change in time here in India, but for now, until it does, I carry a 50 rupee note in my pocket, my white skin making me more of a target than everyone else.

Where to now? he asked
A few seconds had passed before I answered.
Let's go home. I said.
The gravel crunched under the tires of the scooter, and the left turning signal made an alarmingly loud beeping sound, or perhaps it seemed so loud through the unusually quiet Indian roads that day. And we turned off the main road and drove down the dusty path to my apartment passing children with torn clothing and dirty noses running through the streets laughing and having fun.

India isn't perfect but there are so many things that make it one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Yes. I was home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Random gibberish

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, things have just been really busy. Between jetting around on my scooter, hand making roti's (an Indian flat bread), hand washing my laundry, working and hanging out with fun people on the weekends, I just haven't had as much time to write. Oh another reason is last week we had many power outages, a few days there was no power for 4 or 5 hours. It would go back on right before I would go to work, so writing was impossible.

Things are good though, been really busy with work and have worked a few 12 hour days. But I have been moved to a Canadian portfolio, and I can't go into too much detail here, but basically I am dealing with Canadian customers, and I have to train the agents on Canadian culture. Which is so much more fun than American culture. But there is really nothing done on Canadian culture so I basically get to develop all the material from scratch, which has been fun but exhausting.

Been hanging out at a few pubs more often, and although they close at midnight here, they are quite fun and reminiscent of the pubs at home (minus the live music). After the pub we head to our favourite restaurant (OK that is a lie, it's the only place open after midnight) for a buffet Indian dinner. Yum! We all load up on chicken and mutton byriani, yummy veg curries and then Indian dessert. Because most of us work the graveyard shift we all stay up until 4 or 5 am anyway.

I've also been cooking a lot, and have now experimented with coconut prawn curry, fish curry, beef curry (i found beef at Q-mart) which is mostly a place to buy many foreign items. I found ground beef, which is difficult to come by in India. many of my friends eat beef, since they aren't Hindu but Christians. Although I have only eaten it a couple of times since I have been here, and don't really miss it all that much, it is still nice to have once in a while.

Well that is about it for now, I will be posting pictures soon of our last weekend adventure. Hope all is well back home and everyone had a great Canada Day.