Friday, July 29, 2011

so i kicked the auto...

A good Indian friend is pretty invaluable over here. Someone to help you negotiate, get directions, and tell you what food your stomach could probably handle. But when you aren't with an Indian and lack language skills it can be hard to not get frustrated with daily chores and errands here... I can't really hide the fact that I am a westerner here and as such practically have a sign on my forehead that says "Do all you can do get as much money from me as humanly possible."

It is hard in a lot of ways. The poverty here can be pretty overwhelming, so you can see where some Indians are coming from - scraping together to get by. When they see this white girl, from the States, I am sure they simultaneously see a infinitely deep wallet. From the man on the corner selling fruit convinced that I had lots of US dollars and should pay him in US dollars to the lady that used to sweep our apartment asking a roommate for food... A very different culture. It challenges my sense of fairness and my general motto "Everything comes out even in the wash."

Every morning as we've headed to training in Jubilee Hills (a fancier part of Hyderabad, about 11km away) we have to enter into half a dozen negotiations with auto rickshaw drivers. We have managed to "get meter," meaning that we pay only what the meter reads. But, those instances are few and far between. A meter price is about 60 rupess to Jubilee Hills. Each morning we might have auto drivers offer it for 300, or 150, and every where in between and around. Frustrated, we give them "C'mon" looks and usually agree on 70 - 80 rupees. We are talking at least a 15 minute process... and then you do it all over to get back to Mehdipatnam.

Same goes with a lot of things here, Westerners = exorbitant prices and at times harrassment. And two weeks into this, it can really grate on your nerves.

The other night we negotiated an 80 rupee ride home from a late dinner out around 11:30. A rickshaw full of Westerners draws a lot of attention on the road, unfortunately. Common are the guys who try to reach into your ride, or try getting your phone number, follow you on the road for a while, the list continues... By the time we reached our apartment I think we were all at the end of our ropes. Fortunately, we all know never to travel in the evenings or at night by ourselves and feel safe most of the time as we are deliberate about not putting ourselves in questionable situations.

Happy to be back we handed the driver 100 and asked for change.

He just sat there and shook his head.

We asked for 20 rupees we were owed.

And still he sat.

So we raised our voices and called him a cheater (this ride for an Indian probably would have cost closer to 50).

And still he sat, obstinately shaking his head and saying what I imagined were not nice things under his breath.

I was furious. Really, dude?

So. I kicked the auto.

Not hard, just enough with my flip flop so the driver noticed. And we walked away.

Ha. Silly decision, but it did piss him off a little bit. And that made me feel a little better, a little justified over the lost 20 rupees.

Obviously I can't go around kicking things when I reach the end of my rope. But how do you keep your cool and love your neighbors who you feel are constantly trying to rip you off? Again, I have to continue to remind myself that at the end of the day 100 rupees (2 dollars) isn't worth getting upset over, even when I am getting paid in rupees.

And the good thing about this is... I am learning more effective bartering methods. OH and how to stay cool in some ridiculous situations.

Please note, I have met a lot of wonderful Indians (including some rickshaw drivers) and expect to have some amazing friends at the school I will be working at (starting MONDAY) that will become like family. Also, great news is that the school I am at is only a 10 minute bus ride away- no haggling required.


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About Me

working to understand how to use social enterprise to improve affordable private schools who serve the underprivileged youth