Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Living the Indian Lifestyle

Before coming to India I thought about how nice it would be to not live in the American rat race. In Punjab (I'm not sure about the rest of India) getting to work on time, or even 15 minutes early, is not the norm. Going anywhere at a specific time is not the norm. When everyone is ready then they saunter out of the door. This process could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours depending on what they have to stop for, who got hungry and needed mom to cook first, etc.

Got an invitation that says a wedding starts at 8 PM? Well, it's a sure fire bet no one, including the bridal party will even be there at that time. Wait...I think the caterers might be setting up about then. Going on vacation on the 15th? Are you sure, because it's most likely going to get pushed back because someone can't get off work and you can't go without them. I think you all are getting the picture.

Life here is ultra laid back most of the time and in most ways. Before coming here people always told me I was really laid back, the most laid back person they know. So, I thought coming here would be fairly easy to deal with. Sometimes, it is.

Apparently I wasn't as laid back as everyone thought though, I was just well trained. If I needed to be at work by 9AM I was up and out of my house by 7:30 so I could go get breakfast and be at work by 8:30. That gave me my time to do the rounds, chat with my girls, start up my computer and be ready for work by 4 minutes till 9 so I could add on the max allowed time to my paycheck during the day. I didn't start my day with stress because I made time for whatever I wanted to do and whatever I had to do so there wouldn't be. As a result I started my day refreshed which was much needed in the high stress job I was working.

I rarely let things bother me, like getting cussed out by customers and missing punches on the time clock. I read the instructions each morning, noticed the changes and took note of whatever was given me about the job. I knew what had to be done and how and my work scores reflected it. I was the resident go to girl for information because no one else wanted to read that crap and I rather enjoyed the extra socialization and the compliments I got from being good at my job. I had no reason to not be laid back because I had made life in relaxed every way possible. I really work well under stress most of the time and I'm really good at keeping calm in high stress situations. I'm not sure how, but I have this instinct that kicks in and a sense of rational calm takes over and I get things done and usually in a quick and precise manner.

Now I'm here in India and some things are driving me crazy about all this being laid back. When someone says get ready so we can go, I do just that. Then I wait for them because they are never ready before I am. Sometimes they say they are going at 2PM and then we don't actually leave until around 4 or 5 because they can't all seem to be ready, even if they started around 10 AM. I just don't understand that. I'm not even sure what they are doing because there really isn't much to do here. There are computers but they aren't usually on them. There is a PS3 but they never seem to have trouble putting that down. Literally, they are walking around the house doing nothing. They talk to each other here and there, ask each other normal things like 'get that for me' or 'did you do this?' I just don't get it. But that's how it works and no one seems to be bothered but me.

Here everyone seems to do what they want, when they want for the most part. They are just sauntering through life waiting for someone to tell them they need something or want something. If they want the TV, they turn it on or take the remote, doesn't matter if someone else was watching and whoever was watching doesn't seem to be bothered. (Unless it's Do Daddy lol...u don't take his TV and that seems to be understood.) If Mummy Ji is busy it's okay to tell her to move so you can have her chair or to get up and go cook some special meal just for you because you're hungry.

I, however, can't seem to fathom this kind of life. I don't know how to be that big of an inconvenience or how to be that inconsiderate of others. Here it's not even considered negative to be that way. I'm not sure if my years of being alone and unwanted just taught me to be self sustaining and out of the way or what but this drives me a little crazy. I find myself telling my husband not to act like that and to do this, that or the other to help his mom.

Everything is also communal in a Punjabi family. Meaning if it's there and not being used then it could be moved, taken, used by anyone, etc. Even if you have it put away it could be moved somewhere else if someone thinks it would be better off somewhere else. They likely won't tell you they moved it until you go hunting for it and can't find it. There's not a lot of set organization for where things go and things just get put where they get put and half the time they remember where they put and the other half they don't. This is seen as a small thing that doesn't matter because in the end, things get found anyway.

The worst part is that they aren't doing anything wrong. It's just so radically different than I have ever dealt with. I've always been punctual. I've always had everything in it's place. I know where everything is and when I need it, I can find it. I'm not used to having anyone go through or move my stuff. It's causing quite a shock to me go and get something only to find out it's not there and I don't have the language skills to ask where it was moved to. I feel like I have to lock everything up just to make sure I can find it again.

I feel like I'm nit-picking too and I don't want to be that way but I can't help it. The frustration gets to be too much. I'm neat and organized, and no one here seems to care so things just get piled up in the closet or things are so disorganized. No one is bothered by that. I don't get it. I was a messy child, and cleaning is just not my forte, but for some reason I can't let go of the stress this lackadaisical lifestyle is causing me.

I really feel like there are double-standards at every turn and like all the odds are stacked against me. I feel like I have to change everything about me to live like they want and I'm too stubborn to do that. I want to fit in and still be me. I understand compromise. I've made many but I don't feel like I'm being met half way. I feel like I'm expected to keep making more compromises and just be happy with whatever is happening around me.

To put it lightly the Punjabi lifestyle is dysfunctional, frayed, chaotic, disorganized, and disruptive. That's too much stress for a Martha Stewart Southern Belle like me.....ugh!


  1. I know exactly what you are going through my boyfriend is the exact same way and at time it drives me insane. There are times when we have dinner plans I am always 15 min early where he is always without fail at least 15 min late. Even his mother says he will be late for his own wedding and it does not seem to bother him. I look at it as being perfectly imperfect and we just balance out. Together we are on time. :-) hang in there it takes longer to teach a old dog new tricks than a puppy.

  2. Your posts lately have been exactly what I have been feeling! I am married to a punjabi and I hate the not knowing what is going on and being stifled and treated like I am 5 years old, as well as the waiting around for hours part. So funny!

  3. Soniye Gori - I don't need him to change, I just need to relax lol. That's what I came here for but old habits seem to be dying hard. I guess I'm the old dog in this scenario hahaha. I just worry how he's going to deal with it when we do visit America and he has to bust his butt to get in the groove. That is going to be funny!

    DGD - Some of the treatment I don't mind lol. His mom won't let me do my own laundry and I'm not complaining at all. She does all the cooking which I think I'm about to complain about because that is making me really unhappy. Problem is I don't know how to work things out here yet. I'm used to that fully stocked fridge and pantry and here most of the time I don't have the basic things I need to cook so I'm stuck. A girl can't live off pasta and I wouldn't want to. All that makes me feel like I'm 3 because how is it a grown woman can't seem to take care of herself or find a way to work things out? omg...it's insane. I wrote a blog on that last month I think. It's unnerving. I knew India would be different, but I didn't think I would need to go back to Kindergarten to learn how to live here lol. Bleh. It's funny...now anyway...and frustrating at the same time.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. You know, I have written about this too - how long my husband takes to get ready, how much longer everything takes in India etc, however I think I can say that I am finally getting the hang of it, I am finally relaxing more, and not putting so much emphasis on the outings and their timing.
    In fact, I think I am becoming better at being lazy, staying home at being late than my husband is.
    I know it is much harder in India when there is not much going on and those outings are your lifeline and what makes you feel sane again, but have you thought about what you need to do to be more independent and mobile??
    Have you ever tried to catch an auto or a rikshaw on your own, or even with hubby so you know what it is about??
    Have you tried ordering foods, asking directions etc in Punjabi for practice?
    I wouldn't ask if you were there short term, but they are definitely goals to work towards if you are there longterm.
    If you go to Best Price or Hypercity in ASR, they have everything you will need to stock up on staple foods, western foods & anything else you need. Those places are just like Western shopping centres!
    Amritsar is a relatively small city, once you get a hang of how the main roads connect it is very simple & the best thing about the malls as well as shops along Lawrence Rd is that the employees speak English!!
    When I was missing home, we would make a stop in at MCDonalds or KFC or AlphaOne mall, where I was not the only gori and didn't have to wonder what was being said all the time!

    I know there are continental cooking courses going on in ASR because SIL took one before I visited!
    Get involved as much as you can - I know that MILs don't want anyone to lift a finger, but a step towards your independence within the home is a step towards further happiness for you!!

    I am very confident that your level of Punjabi is probably already enough for you to get by. Being aware of your surroundings will enhance that too!

    Western functionality can be achieved in India, it is just a matter of paisse!

  5. See...this is why I love ya'll...
    I have ordered food but I have a really thick southern US accent and the waiters have trouble with it lol. Even some of my English speaking friends find me hard to understand. I haven't ventured out on my own but I know I'm close. I was just enjoying the spoiled factor of not having to but now I need to see if I can do it.

    I frequent all the stores you mentioned as I love to shop. Hubby takes me out all the time, almost every day. I think I just really am ready and need to be sure I can do it myself. He lets me go into restaurants while he moves the bike, walk around stores alone and such. He even asks me to do some of the talking when we go to government offices and the like. I think I'm just now starting to reject the laziness and wishing I could go back to being busy with something besides all this writing and online stuff. I wanna go do something different. I even think shopping may have gotten boring and I just can't have that!

    Thanks so much Bhabi!

  6. I am glad you find me helpful and not plain irritating!!
    I get a little kick out of knowing someone else is staying in my Indian hometown!


  7. PS, I used to speak Punjabi like a gori, with that pretentious annoying way of Anglicising the words...
    After spending time in Punjab and with Punjabis, and also studying the Gurmukhi alphabet I can say words and sentences in a completely Amritsari way...
    Usually I do that by thinking what sounds completely retarded and stereotypically pindu mind you!
    With practice, you will have no troubles at all!

  8. Oh yeah lol, I do get a kick out of trying to modify my accent. I say some stuff just to be funny and can do some crazy impersonations. I just don't think to do that while I'm out because I'm almost always joking or picking when I do them. I may just have to retrain my brain a little and see if I can't muster up some 'Punjabi' lingo for the locals lol.

  9. Eek.. I left a long comment.. Did it come through.

    I will come back later.

    My favorite line was
    "I'm not even sure what they are doing because there really isn't much to do here."

    Really I laughed out loud!

  10. Sorry Jennifer the long comment didn't come through...Blogger has something against long comments I think. Yeah, life here is funny, chaotic and crazy.