Startlements from India: About the Beer

Another "startlement" from Tom, as he spends a few more days in Mumbai. . .


On Sunday, I went to the mall to buy a nail clipper (which I didn't bring because I'd assumed they were still not allowed).  I found the item at a small store in the mall, busy with weekend throngs hanging out.  I suddenly heard a voice which didn't fit, asking the shopkeeper, "Where can I find a pub?"

I turned to see someone who looked like John Goodman as he looked in The Big Lebowski:  heavy build, shorts, bandana wrapped around his forehead, dark glasses, sweaty shirt.  He'd clearly been walking around in the hot and had come looking for refreshment.

He told the shopkeeper, "I'm looking for a pub.  A bar.  I just want a beer.  Downstairs they told me to go up.  Up here they tell me to go down. . . "

The shopkeeper looked confused.

I jumped in, "I'm not sure there is a pub in this mall.  It's not like the US.  There is a social stigma associated with drinking here."

He looked stunned.  "With beer?" he asked.

"Yes."  I told him.  "There is a bar in the hotel down the street."  I gave him directions, but warned, "it's not always open.  It opens for just a few hours every day."  

"It's not like the US," I repeated.


He said he was a merchant marine and had come ashore to look around.  He told me he'd just been to Bahrain on his journey, and there was plenty of beer and prostitutes and everything there.  He thought he'd find the same in Mumbai. . . 

I wished him luck and we parted.  Not sure if he ever found a beer, though!

(Note from Kym:  When Tom returns home, he complains most about the mosquitos, the lack of fresh water, and  . . . beer!  There is beer in India.  It's just . . . very "lite."  And not always available.)



Startlements from India: Stories from the Road

"You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first... first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a... a cow... on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation."

---The Blind Seer, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I begin today's post with that rather lengthy quote from O Brother, Where Art Thou? to introduce you to a special kind of story we "save" in our family:  We call them startlements, and they are . . . things you just . . . never expected to see.

When Tom travels to India, he encounters many startlements!  I've asked him to write some of them down, and I decided to share some of them over the next few weeks.  (And since he's back in Mumbai right now, he can collect some more for future posts!)

So, here's Tom . . . with a Startlement from India.


The traffic in India is spectacularly chaotic, but somehow manages to avoid generating the amount of carnage that you'd think it should - at least based on US sensibilities.  I don't think I could survive one day driving there -- my instincts are all wrong.  Mostly, I'd be driven to a rage by the lack of apparent traffic rules and really no sense of the sacredness of lines (waiting your turn seems to carry no weight at all).


The only rule or priority is this:  Everyone goes for space when it becomes available.  Simple.  Maddening.  Usually accompanied by a cacophony of car horns.

I couldn't survive.


Here is a video taken from my hotel room on a Sunday afternoon.  Keep in mind this is not main street traffic.  This is a side street mostly used to access a popular mall.  You will see many vehicles turning into the parking garage entrance.  They are, at least in theory, driving on the left.

The video takes about 4 minutes and there are some slow spots.  But at times the congestion grows and you get a sense of how traffic (human, animal, cars) works.  (Note from Kym: My favorite thing is watching how people just . . . walk casually among the moving cars!)


Typically, there are not a lot of collisions, although on our last trip we did see a significant fender bender.  I imagine this is because it is hard to go very fast with all the . . . stuff . . . in the way.

We had a first on our last trip.  Our driver actually hit a pedestrian on the way to work.  Now, there was no severe injury, but we hit hard enough to leave a good bruise.  The driver was looking left and creeping forward, not seeing the pedestrian.  The walker was crossing in front of us, also not looking and not at all concerned with traffic.  We passengers were watching it get closer and closer, until it was beyond the normal level of "ooh, that's close!"  Then . . . BOOM.  That got everyone's attention!

No shouting.  No gestures.  No fisticuffs.  The pedestrian glared at the driver and moved to the side of the car.  The driver looked worried, but then just drove away.

No harm, no foul.  (The underlying rule of traffic in India!)