Organized Chaos

posted by on 2007.09.08, under India, News, Shameless Plug, Travel

I have lived in Hyderabad for 10 days now and have spent a complete day just sitting in a car. 30 hours in my Tata Indica with my driver, Satyam.

I don’t think Americans will ever appreciate what the Indian driver experiences on the roads here, until seeing first hand the chaos. Uncle told me a story this morning about a US professor who came to Hyderabad to teach a course. Halfway through his stay, he admitted to his fellow colleagues that he came to India an Atheist, but will be leaving a religious man, as he found no explanation besides God on how the traffic in this city manages to work with such little casualty to civilians. I agree 100% with him, it is a perfect example of organized chaos.

Here is a video to give an example of the road rules in India.

I haven’t decided on the most efficient way to spend 3 hours of daily commuting. Most of the time is spent in a language struggle with Satyam, either trying to understand him, or trying to tell him something. Still, he probably understands me more than most people. He tried to cheer me up after the church incident, and has explained to me his philosophy on life, wealth, happiness.

When I asked him if he enjoyed living in Hyderabad, he responded to me “Sir, it is who I am.” A year ago, his wife fell ill with a disease that has had her in bed for 4 months, in and out of the hospital. He told me about past jobs that hes been at, hoping to get to a comfortable situation in life where he can work hard, but yet have no problem providing for his family. Yesterday, I realized that he had some hopes in working for me that might not have been too realistic. He clearly has no idea what my business is, but assumed I had come to start an IT company in India. He asked me for a job in in my company, saying that he could be a watchman or do work with our office building, and said he would be willing to do anything, or learn how to do anything. He is constantly trying to sell real estate to me that he doesn’t own, which is just hilarious. One time he asked I would hire him as my driver back in the US so he could immigrate to America. I responded jokingly, telling him that the US roads could not handle his driving ability.

Satyam’s son is 8 years old, speaks perfect English, and his father hopes to send him to college so that he can work in one of the large IT buildings. I recently heard that the majority of people in the city are really confused about the IT buildings in the city. They can’t understand what is being built inside them, but still continue to romanticize the thought of their children someday working inside them.

The most interesting thing of my stay so far has been trying to understand the thought process of people here. It is not my place to judge whether or not their beliefs and customs are right or wrong, but I think the first step in my understanding of them is to embrace the differences. Keeping an open mind over here is critical to any foreigners survival – I can just picture the danger of slipping up just once, and letting personal beliefs cause conflict with locals.

Uncle told me an incredible story this afternoon. We were sitting down and going through his grandson’s wedding album and he turned to a page of him and a friend blessing the married couple. He told me that it was his best friend for 60 years, who ironically has the same name. They talk everyday and I was surprised to hear about their history as social activists. He told me that early in their youth, they would have noble thoughts and one day decided to make a social statement and both get married to widowed women.

I would have thought nothing of this, but I had just read an article about the abuse and alienation widows in India can experience. Thankfully this is horrible mentality is fading away. Uncle told me that his friend and him were disgusted with how the women were shaved, deprived of good clothing and food, just because their husbands had expired. He said that his friend and him did this break a tradition that he knew were wrong. It was a touching story, which I may not done justice in trying to recap on this blog.


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