Smoggy, Noisy, smelly and dusty.
Exactly two years and three days after swearing to myself that I wont ever come back to India (or at least not for decades), I find myself in Indra Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. I've come to visit dad and see how he lives over here.. and man, have I learnt!! Lets see, where to start....
Currently I am sitting at his laptop with only a mere 20 minutes remaining on the battery. The power has been out since 8am, and it's now 4pm.. this happens everyday, not always for this long but still. If the power hasn't gone out in a day, then consider it a very lucky day! Much in the same way, the water goes off randomly too. See dad lives in a flat and the water from the mains must be pumped to the roof of this apartment building - which we then draw upon when taking a shower. They've been having bucket showers thus far, but today Taji installed a Geiser (or something like that) which is basically a hot water heater that holds 25litres of hot water. This, I'm sure, will make for a very short shower.. but hey.. it's better than the hot metal rod in the bucket bathing.
For some of the reasons mentioned above I dont like to shave here. The major reason though, is that I like to get a shave from one of the local hobo's on the street. These guys rock!! When I went there, they were in a tiny little shack (considered very pretigeous in their trade) on the side of the road. First they started with wetting my face, then he rubbed in the shaving cream, giving my face a mini massage as he was doing it. He takes out a brand new razor blade and then starts the shaving.. I had a beard from Korea which Taji said had to go ("You look too much like a muslim"). So after that he trimmed my goatie and gave me a haircut too. After the shave he put some sort of cream on my face and rubbed it in really well.. then he sprayed some water to wash it away and repeated the process FOUR times with different creams. The last cream he left on there. All this took about 15mins. Then he asked if I wanted oil in my hair, to which I agreed. They ran out of oil so they sent a boy to get some.. while he was getting some the 'hairdresser' - and i use that term loosely - started to give me a head massage.. five minutes later the boy returns and I get a proper head massage with the oil added in. The whole process took about 25 minutes.. and the total cost?
This brings me to te cost of living in India. The haircut/shave/exfoliation/massage cost me a grand total of Rs.70 (seventy Rupees).. which in Aussie dollars today comes to exactly $1.70. Another reference would be food. We went and bought 10kg of flour, 5kg or Basmati rice, and 5kg of sugar.. the total came to Rs. 600 ($14.50 aussie). Fresh vegetables are still cheaper.. I saw a flyer in the newspaper today that showed Potatos and cabbages and tomatos all for Rs.10/kg ($0.24/kg). But what really gets me is the labour.. They have a housemaid here named Jamuna, probably around 60years old. She comes in every morning at 9am, sweeps, mops, and does whatever else needs doing and leaves within an hour.. that's 7 days a week! She gets paid $16 per month, and that's considered generous! Another simple example is the cost of a carton of beer. Over here they have tallies - 650ml at about 8% proof and 12 per case. That box of 12 cost Taji Rs 400 ($9.70).
This brings me to introducing the Indians to drinking games and well, drinking in general.. but that will have to be a story for the next post, since the battery is running out and the power still isn't back yet..