Monday, July 13, 2009

Spit, meet baling wire

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; I've had a busy couple of weeks.

Also, I want to note that a lot of this blog will be generalizations (i.e. stereotypes) about Indian culture. It's not my intent to be racist or to make baseless generalizations. Rather, I am adjusting to a new culture, and the way to adjust to a new culture is to learn the rules of that culture--that is, how most people of that culture act in a given situation. In other words, you come up with behavioral rules that allow you to fit in better by acting the way most Indians act; I'm sharing the rules that I have come up with.

Anyway, today I'm going to write about a joke I have made a couple times with my parents, which is that a lot of India seems to be held together with duct tape. I make this joke because I frequently encounter wacky repair jobs and strange design decisions that remind me of Home Inspection Nightmares or There, I Fixed It! (take a look at both those links if you aren't familiar with them). I run into stuff like this in the US as well, but creative repairs seem to be more common here, perhaps because Indians are more likely to repair something than throw it out. Since I'm new here, I'm also hyper-sensitive to things that aren't as I expect them to be, so maybe I'm also surprised by some things that I wouldn't think twice about if I had grown up here.

Some examples, both funny, and not-so-funny:

  • IMG_4209.JPG
    This is a voltage stabilizer. It's a device that keeps anything hooked up to it from being fried by the power fluctuations here (I would argue that decentralizing the task of creating steady power is itself a kludge). I now have one of these hooked up to my laptop after the power adapter got fried (twice in two weeks. Yay warranties). This one, however, is connected to our air conditioner, and it did a great job--until one day it belched a cloud of black smoke out the back and caught on fire. As you can see, it hasn't been replaced. The landlord got his handyman (who appears to be a 15-year-old kid) to open it up and repair it by cutting off the burnt parts of the internal wiring, and splicing everything back together. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with doing that, so long as you do it right.

  • IMG_4206.JPG
    This, however, is a picture of what happened to the previous splicing job my landlord did. Good thing our curtains are apparently flame-retardant. I really hope this isn't how they fixed the voltage stabilizer.

  • When I was signing up for internet, the sales representative asked for a copy of our rental agreement. I had been told he would ask that, so I had already had a copy made. He looked at it and said "This needs to be notarized." I hadn't known that, so I apologized, and told him I didn't have a notarized copy. He said "Okay, no problem," and proceeded to sign me up for internet anyway.

  • My bathroom has a sliding door which, when opened, is in front of the light switch for the bathroom light. You must remember to turn on the light in the bathroom before opening the door, otherwise you have to close the door, turn on the light, and open the door again. That same switch plate also has an extra switch that does nothing. In fact, most rooms have at least one or two extra light switches that aren't hooked up to anything. The ones that are hooked up to things have to be labeled with what they control, because they all look identical and there is no consistent method of ordering them.

  • My bathroom also has a hole in the wall that, when the proper combination of valves is turned, shoots a stream of water in the direction of the sink. This is in addition to the shower head. I have no idea what anyone would ever use that stream of water for.

  • There are no street addresses like I'm used to; neighborhoods are divided into blocks, and each house on a block is given a number. Individual buildings are numbered sequentially within a block, but there doesn't seem to be any system for how blocks are arranged within a neighborhood (other than that they are adjacent to one another). It's basically impossible to find a building in a given neighborhood without knowing where its block is; you have to stop and ask for directions every couple hundred feet. I received a piece of mail for a previous tenant today; one of the lines of the address was "Near Eros Cinema," which is a nearby landmark. How crazy is it that someone felt it was necessary to give the post office landmarks so that they could find a house? Here's a map of my neighborhood--see if you can figure out the system.

I don't want to give the impression that I dislike India because of these things or think it's backward; most of the weird quirks I've encountered have been harmless (except the ones that threatened to set me on fire), and as the links I provided show, stuff like this can be found anywhere. I find quirky things amusing wherever I see them, so this is just to pass along a few that I found especially interesting.

No comments: