I can’t get this song out of my head. Walking the streets of Udaipur I swear I’m in the middle of a Indian Doors cover band concert and this is the only song they managed to learn. Every person who sees you well yell from a shop, a fruit stand, or swerve to the side of the road in a tok-tok (cab) and say, “Hello! Hello! What is your name?! Are you English!? Hello!?!?!?” At first I tried to be courteous, I would stop walking and say Hi, try to explain where I was from and that no I did not need a ride or want to buy a metal elephant, but slowly I have turned into the girl from the song, just strutting down the street not acknowledging the hundreds of men who want my attention. I guess I know now what its like to be an attractive girl! Who would have thought that would have been one of my lessons from India? That definitely wasn’t in the internship description. This got me thinking of how I must be perceived by the general public of India, and I have come to the conclusion that they see me as three things: rich, lost, and easily tricked.
It is ironic to be seen in the eyes of India as an ATM, and yet I have only managed to find 3 in the entire country! I am glad that irony has made it to this part of the world. But then again, irony could easily have been born here. After all, this is the country where cows are prized as holy and can not be eaten, but take a look down any street and all you will see is cows being yelled at, beaten, and forced to eat trash on the side of the road. I mean becoming a happy meal is probably the best thing they can hope for at this point. I have even seen them pressing their faces on the side of McDonalds windows attempting to surrender, but this could have just been an illusion based upon my lack of protein. And for all of you vegetarians and vegans out there, I have openly mocked your lifestyle choice for my entire life (unless you do so out of dietary restrictions, I more than most understand and sympathize with all matters concerning the digestive system), and after living like one of you for almost a month I can confidently say, “I WAS RIGHT! BREAD AND VEGETABLES ALONE WILL NOT SUSTAIN YOU! PLEASE SOMEONE GO GET A STEAK TIP SUB AND MAIL IT TO ME!”
Sorry for that, but I just really miss meat. So, I am viewed as a walking ATM here. Everyone who sees me from the street kids, to the shop vendors, to the tok-tok drivers see my white skin as sparkling diamonds, and are determined to make a withdrawal. If only they knew about my NYU Loans or the fact that I am working for free, so great job Western tourists for raising the bar so high for us all. Though to be honest, sometimes when I am haggling a tok-tok driver for 5 rupees, or walking by the street kids yelling for money (or shampoo oddly) I think of all of the weekends I have spent in New York City. Just swiping my credit card for over priced drinks or ordering more appetizers for the table to try to look cool, and I think that I kind of deserve the hassel I get here. I guess this is the punishment for the gluttonous and selfish lifestyle that I have grown accustomed to, though really if any tok-tok drivers are reading this, if you see a white kid with an orange badana, don’t pull over and try to get me to jump in, I really do prefer to walk. This really only covers one or arguably two of my three things of how I am viewed here, but you can use your imagination for the others.
On a final note, if you are reading this because you are hoping to travel to India one day, here are two free tips for you:
1) If street children come up to you, they will ask for food (Kana), shampoo (I still don’t know how this picked up as a common request), and money. When they do, act like you have misunderstood and instead think that they are offering to give you money. At the least this will get them to smile and laugh. It may not feed their empty stomachs, but I have heard that laughter is the best medicine, so I am using that as my excuse for being cheap.
2) Dont go to Mcdonalds or an American Diner thinking that they will have real hamburgers. It is all a lie, they are potato based hamburgers, which is not the same thing and I want my money back.
That is all for now, take care and stay tuned!
– Evan George