Here is a piece I wrote moments before I caught my plane back home. As I pen this piece, I actually have less than two hours to head to Bangalore international airport where I will catch my plane back to Kenya. I have been here for exactly one and half months but it looks like a whole eternity because of the special connection that I have developed to this place. The Southern India experience has been absolutely amazing in spite of the fact that I have spent half of my time here in hospital and the rest recovering from a major spinal surgery.

This place will forever remain imprinted in my memory and I will always want to come back again. In this land, two major things happened in my life. Not only did I undergo a successful spinal surgery that rid me of a tumor,which had brought devastating effects to my legs and untold suffering over a long period of time, but God decided to perform a radical surgery on my soul too. It is here that I fully gave my life to Jesus and started a completely new amazing chapter of my life. But that is a subject for another day.

Today I would like to give you a brief glimpse of the unique Indian experience. I have to acknowledge that Indians ,especially in Bangalore, are very hospitable and respectful people who never miss to use the words sir or madam whenever they address you. This is right from the cab drivers to the nurses in hospitals. The standard query after saying hi here is: Have you had your breakfast, lunch or dinner? depending on the time of day. At first I thought it was only the nurses who might have been trained to ask such courteous questions till I found out that this was the question everyone asked after greetings.

During our first week here, before I was admitted in hospital, we had this small problem with food and communication. Most of the people here will not tell you that they don’t understand what you are saying. But they will use the words YES and NO as many times as possible. For instance you ask somebody, “Is this the road to Baptist hospital?” instead of one telling you that he doesn’t understand what you are saying, he will just say NO! Maybe meaning,”I don’t understand you” When it came to the food, we came to understand that the ritual of cooking is never complete until hot pepper is thrown into the mix. However much we tried to remind the cooks not to add the stuff to our food, somehow along the process of cooking, their hands automatically found their way to the hot pepper Container and scooped a “little” of it into the food. My bro Julius made several trips to McDonald’s and KFC for subs and other fast food stuffs till we realized that if you can’t beat them you must join them.

As I write this I am now contemplating starting a small hot pepper garden outside my house when I get back to Kenya because, I swear any food without pepper will taste so plain to me. Perhaps the most amazing and unique thing about Indians is how they manage to shake their heads several hundred times a day and end up not getting a serious headache at the end of the day. They have this way of tilting their heads from side to side in quick succession when they are expressing themselves. At first I found it so rude because you could for instance ask for some water then the nurse shakes her head in this funny way while smiling,of course meaning yes. I came to discover that this is just an expression of courtesy. Up to the moment, I can’t help laughing whenever they do it. Some overdo it making it look so funny, you might think they are sizing you up whenever they speak.

The courtesy completely evaporates into thin air the moment they hit the road. The scene on the roads is ever chaotic and you may want to know that keeping lanes is an alien concept here. With so many two wheeler,three wheelers and four wheelers on the roads, the scene can be best described as a moving mass of chaos. Funny enough this mass finds some harmony as it flows seamlessly. It is like people here drive more with their instincts rather than their sense of sight. It is not uncommon to see a mother carrying a family of four on a motor cycle perform a diagonal dare devil acrobatic move from one far end lane of the road to the other far end lane, in front of fast moving cars! Yet I rarely see any accident on this roads!

One more interesting thing about this place is that, any man who respects himself spots a moustache and dresses formally. This includes cab drivers. But it was sad to note that gender equity is far from being realized here. I discovered that women have little say when my cab driver who is a high school drop out, told me that he made his wife, a university graduate, to stop working and stay at home! All in all,this is a very interesting place with many nice people and a very rich culture. One can’t help but miss it especially when you are about to catch your flight back home like me. Honestly, this is one place that I will always remember with a lot of nostalgia and one day I will surely write about it.


Add yours

  1. Awesome piece Gilbert 🙂 I enjoyed your observations about the culture in India. I hope I will have a chance to visit India one day and see for myself some of the things you describe.


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