June 18, 2017
There is an argument in Evolutionary Psychology that humor exists as encryption-decryption process. Being able to understand humor implies a similarity between individuals. The underlying idea is that there is some culture-specific implicit knowledge or “key”; without which, only surface meaning can be interpreted.
I am adjusting to life in India, but this ever-elusive key still escapes me.
As I pay the foreigner fee at tourist attractions or the auto drivers tell me the fare to work is 50 rupees (even after I’ve been paying 40 for three weeks), this dichotomy frustrates me. I am ripped off like any other American, but when the Ola driver or delivery-man need to discuss anything, I expected to act like the Indian I look like.
But contradictions more than anything seem like the norm here. Dirt, pothole- ridden roads lie below gleaming tech buildings. No one spares a glance at men holding hands, but same-sex marriage is taboo. People will argue on the streets for a difference in 10 rupees, and argue with their friends later that day for the honor of paying the 10,000 rupee bill. Beautiful, historical palaces lie in polluted water. Everyone constantly seems to be in a rush on the streets, yet no one ever is on time. Admittedly, I am victim to the IST phenomena as well.
The streets outside PHFI are bustling with activity- cars speeding by, often almost running us over. The noises of the street are a direct contrast to our office environment, where is largely quiet. The AC hums in the background, and light conversation can be sometimes heard, but it is nothing compared to the whirlwind six floors below us.
One thing that is simple, immutable: India’s love and passion for cricket.
The India-Pakistan final was yesterday, and the build-up to it was crazy to watch. Border patrol officers on TV interviews claimed we’d undoubtedly win- as we always have. WhatsApp forwards made light of the match’s scheduling on Father’s day, laughing that India’s “son”, Pakistan would lose to its father.
This confidence is something ever-present here: drivers assuredly getting lost, trying to convince you that this is indeed your location (It wasn’t, we were 45 minutes late to dinner), fellow passengers claiming that the station was actually Jaipur (it wasn’t, if another intern hadn’t messaged us right then, Nancy and I would have completely skipped our destination).
And disappointingly enough, India lost the match as well. But witnessing the hordes of strangers gathered around screens set up the streets, a city of millions (almost) quiet as they united to watch a cricket match, I experienced a part of India I never have before. Indians love their country-quirks and all.