Why I Love This Country

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m not even going to touch on government and politics and human rights and all that jazz. Yes we’re really fucked up in a lot of ways, I know, I’ve heard enough about it and ranted enough about it myself, but I just had a profound moment today thinking of how badly it’s going to hurt when if I leave Sri Lanka.

As you probably know if you’ve been following my blog [people subscribing to this stuff, dudes, thank you, I’m flattered, confused as to why you would want to read this on a regular basis but flattered as hell nevertheless :’)] I’m planning on moving to India to study English literature.

Why? Because I love language and writing and it’s the only thing I have not been fickle about in my whole life. And because I did London A/Ls and there are no local institutes that give GCE students a chance to study for a degree in literature. Tragic! Such is life.

Anyway, from what I heard, Delhi is the best place in India to study English. It’s close to home and cheap to live in too. But I was also told recently that the men there are ‘very lecherous’ and that ‘everyone should carry pepperspray here.’ I am now working hard to make sure my parents don’t find out about that bit.

So back to my story of why I love this country.

I was at the High Commission of India this morning, with my college application to Delhi University in hand, because for some stupid reason it asks for the signature of an official from the Indian High Commission or from the Ministry of Education.

Everyone at the Commission is indian, mind you, as far as I could tell. So I walk in and I’m very nice and sweet (because a knowledgeable friend said the people at the HC aren’t very nice unless you’re nice and sweet to them), and I ask the receptionist nicely, hey I’m applying for blah blah, can I speak to the education officer?

She says, This is a different section, go and sit.

Which really made no sense to me. What section? Anyway I ‘go and sit.’

So I sit there for fifteen minutes, lip-reading the silent version of Stuart Little playing on a little TV on the wall.
I go up to her and ask if I can meet the education officer whose room is right there. She wags her head at me.

I walk into the education officer’s room and he’s not even there.

I go and sit again.

Twenty minutes later I see a woman walking into the education officer’s room, I follow her. I ask her very nicely if she could help me.
She glances at my application form and says, I don’t know anything about this. The education officer will come in soon, you can wait.

So more going and sitting and such like.

Later I see a man walk into the education officer’s room and I think it’s him so I go in, and I’m like, dude.
And turns out that’s just some random guy.
The woman says, oh wait I’ll get him for you.
And she walks out and turns out the education officer is just sitting at the back of the receptionist cubicle, just chillin’.

The woman shows him my application form and tells him the scene, and he doesn’t even look at it. He just wags his head a bit and mumbles something dismissive. I’m right there, six feet away from the fool in his plastic chair, only glass between us and I want to smack him in the face.

Anyway, the woman turns to me and is like, yeaaah, go to the ministry of education.

‘What? I’ve been waiting here for ages. It says someone from the High Commission of India can sign this application, right there, see? Don’t you have an official for this?’

She shrugs. Ministry of higher education, ward place.

I thank her and go outside so I can yell profanities at the wall.

I take a tuk to the Ministry. I’m already pissed off so when they make me wait ten minutes, I just keep going in there and nagging them about my application till they do something about it. Even though everyone’s sort of lazy (e.g. ‘the lady responsible for setting your appointment is having tea now, madam’), people are still more smiley here. The indians were just fucking rude (#irrationalracialslur).

So finally, all smiles, a woman says, The additional secretary who can help you is at a meeting. ‘When will he be back?’ I don’t know.
‘Well that’s just awesome. What do I do?’ You can wait.
‘Can I make an appointment for another set date?’ No, madam, appointments cannot be made.
Little did I know that I had entered a realm in which the concept of appointments did not exist.
‘So what do you want me to do? Shall I sit here for the next seven hours and hope he’ll be back by then?’ I ask her sweetly.
This makes her smile sheepishly and shift uncomfortably and she turns around to discuss with her colleagues what to do to fix this problem for the nice and sweet madam sitting in the veranda who is secretly longing to murder somebody.

A man walks into the room behind me. I call the girl and ask if that’s the man and her face lights up. Woot!
I say a little prayer and walk in, expecting him to end up rudely directing me elsewhere.
On the contrary, though the man couldn’t sign my application, he ends up not only telling me where and how exactly to get it done but also all about India and Delhi and colleges and options and just being awesomely nice and informative in general, which was totally unnecessary. After being shat over by the indians (#irrationalracialslur), it was such a welcome change I wanted to just give him a big hug for all his help.

Don’t worry, I didn’t.
So I left and asked the security guys, hey man what bus do I take to go back home. And they give me detailed directions.
I get in a bus and I’m not entirely sure since I don’t usually travel around this part of Colombo. The bus conductor probably sensed the confusion, and without me asking, asked the driver which bus routes to take and then told me how exactly to get there.

Then I go home and get a meter tuk to go to the Chinese Circus with some friends. This old man in his tuk, he waits for twenty minutes for me to finish some work, before taking me to pick up friends. He takes us all to the Sugathadasa stadium where the circus is at, on the way loads of people on the road readily give us helpful directions (which is a cultural norm I think we all take for granted), and finally the meter reads 700 bucks, urgh. We find out the circus is not happening at 3.30pm today like we thought so basically we came all the way here for nothing.

Fail.

We ask the old man in his meter tuk to just drop us at McD’s closeby to drown our sorrows in ice cream. We’ll take the bus back home later cuz we are broke as fuck right now. He looks at our sad faces and says matter of factly, hey I’ll drop yall back home, you don’t have to pay the going-back money.
We’re all totally shocked. Especially when he could have just taken our money and happily gone home instead of making the effort.
‘Thank you, uncle! :-B’ I say dorkily. Have you noticed how weird it is that we call just random old people uncle and aunty in Sri Lanka? Awesomely weird.

I tell my friend, I think it’s cuz we brought your tiny nieces with us. He sympathized with the children.
We should use them more often, she says.

Anyway, long story short, I love how friendly our people are. The giving directions, the random helpfulness, the smileyness. The fact that, I swear to god, if I stood on the side of the road looking really sad and about to cry, a random stranger would be bound to come up and ask me what’s wrong in the next ten minutes at most and stand there and figure out exactly what to do to fix my situation. I bet nobody would give a crap enough to give me a second glance in a capital city elsewhere. That Ministry guy didn’t have to give me so much helpful info about my college issues when he knew he couldn’t sign the paper, that bus conductor didn’t have to help me find my way home, and that old man in a tuk could have just gone home and had a nap instead of carrying us around for free. I think we take it all for granted way too much, I know I did, till I seriously started thinking of the reality of moving to a large foreign country.

I’m going to miss this.

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Comments
  1. gutterflower says:

    Actually, not every one at the HC is Indian and talk to a guy called Kulendran – he’s usually pretty helpful

    Cheer up. People here aren’t so bad either. Yes, you do get the occasional unsavoury person – But at the same time you also get the guy who painstakingly walked half an hour with my dad and I to show us the way to a particular building (which was completely out of his way), the tuk-tuk guy who came and returned my friend’s purse when she left it in his three-wheeler and the guy at the restaurant who gave me free samples of Indian food when he saw that I was new to Indian street food.

    It takes all sorts. Just sayin’ 🙂

  2. Gehan says:

    hate to see you had such a bad experience, but it seems that there is a prerequisite for indian government positions that includes rudeness, nonchalance and a general lack of basic manners. perhaps it’s the meager pay, or all the red tape, but all high commissions, police stations, ministries of any sort in india are just horrid places to go for help.

    forget that, the trouble we used to have as students in our own university in india, just to pay some fine or collect some form, was ridiculous!

    that being said, there are the odd exceptions. like i tell everyone that says “indians are [insert random slur]”, India as a country is so ginormous that it’s not practical to stereotype them as one people. they’re just way too diverse.

    have fun in Delhi, either way! I hear it’s a city filled with culture and variety. If you need any help, i can try to call a few friends i have there. cheers!

  3. T says:

    surely you jest? every day i curse the people on the road for being utterly rude and moronic. just watch any vehicle trying to turn on to a main road or approaching a pedestrian crossing. zero sense of courtesy.

  4. I was in Delhi last week and well, if you ask for help most of them will help you. I don’t think they are the sort you can strike up a random conversation with (which is possible with Lankans) but they aren’t evil 😛
    Unlike Lankans though, they don’t smile.

  5. HASNA says:

    Woman,you are already missing Sri Lanka! Be strong ya,loads of surprises come your way.make sure you kiss the soil before take off.trust me,you’ll never regret! Home sweet home,indeed!

  6. PseudoRandom says:

    Human beings. You get nice ones and not-so-nice ones, regardless of where you are. Don’t let one negative experience colour your opinion 🙂

  7. Seesaw says:

    Awww I know, this is why I love SL too! Tuk driver recently returned my pair of sunnies when I didn’t even know where I had lost them.

  8. Jack Point says:

    Nice post, good contrast between the two cultures.

    Bureaucrats here are bad but the Indian ones seem worse but as Gehan says it takes all types.

    I have heard that the situation for women in Delhi is not good, you need to take proper precautions. I think Gutterflower lives in Delhi so she should be able to give you a few tips.

    See also

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10567761

    http://www.sify.com/news/candlelight-march-against-women-harassment-in-delhi-news-national-lcnraeibbag.html

    There are both good and bad in India, places like Ooty and Goa sound fabulous I’m sure you will enjoy yourself.

  9. dee says:

    aww i know…. in the darkest hour, some random mofo will always help you out. and ooooh GOOD LUCK! yay! Get tips from gutterflower

  10. MyAcidWords says:

    Luckily they have laws against perverts in India nah? so they can’t say a word, I found that a pleasant change the freaking sri lankan pervs.

  11. Delhi people are generally quite okay. You should be glad you aren’t going to Chennai.

    Chennai people. *shudder*

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