Living in India: my 3 biggest daily nuissances
I’ve been thinking a great deal about exasperation and the irritations of life here in India lately. Initially, when I was on my first month-long trip in the Himalayas and then lived in Visakhapatnam for four months, I was only gazing at India through love’s pink, heart-shaped goggles. Living in India could not have been more simple, easier — a paradise.
But now I’ve lived here for a year again, long-term, sharing my home and everyday life with my boyfriend. And I’m not living in my own pink and lovey-dovey bubble anymore. Now normal, mundane life seems to be a load of work, a struggle. And however embarrassing it is, I admit I still find it challenging to adapt to the way the Indian world works.
I quite often catch myself subconsciously approaching situations in a very Finnish way of thinking. And it literally gives me a headache to try and be mindful of everything, everywhere, all the time. People mostly perform everyday activities on automation, so to say, without actively thinking about it. That’s why change is hard. When most of the brain capacity goes into conscious action, it takes up a lot of energy. Feelings of exhaustion and frustration follow suit when nothing feels easy, breezy.
Since last week I’ve been feeling extra worn out and unmotivated, so much so that even writing this article has taken me several days. I’ve struggled with headaches and anxiety. I should probably get back to a disciplined yoga and meditation practise, but it feels impossible to get on my yoga mat and relax. Writing, however, always helps me in sorting out my thoughts and feelings too. So I thought that by listing down my biggest peeves about living in India, I’d be able to let go of the constant resentment eventually, or maybe even solve the issues.
I know these “problems” sound ridiculous and are minor inconveniences, but for me, they are a challenge on a daily basis. After 30 years, I’m accustomed to the ease and simplicity of life in Finland, which feels completely different from that in India. A million drops make an overflowing stream.
However overly negative I might seem, I do love India more than I don’t. So in the future, I will definitely list all the positives about life in India too! As soon as I’ve tackled this gloomy mood I’ve been in lately, I mean.
We got a maid 10 months ago when we moved in together, and for those 10 months, we’ve wondered how to fire her. She doesn’t do her job properly, but leaves as quickly as possible. Even if that means leaving food stains on the dishes, broken utensils on the shelves and dirt on the floors. As a result, I have to clean up after her very often. Or do all the cleaning myself in a hurry before the dinner preparations, if the maid shows up very late or not at all. I never know the schedule she makes. Our maid’s record is five days of no-shows without any warning! Which honestly wouldn’t be that bad, since I do clean the kitchen much better than she does. But that’s not what I’m paying her for, right?
I would think hiring a maid is supposed to make everyday life and my schedules uncomplicated and hassle-free. In India the house needs daily cleaning. And on top of that, we don’t even have a dishwasher. So doing the chores myself would leave me significantly less time for my actual work.
The maid’s job at our house only includes brooming and mopping the floors and doing the dishes — we took her off the laundry duty as soon as we got a machine for that. But rather than lightening my burden and taking tasks off my shoulders, I feel she’s just another stress-inducing part of my days and I have to work my schedule and work around hers.
And I’m paying her for that anxiety.
The More staff
I work at grocery stores in Finland, and even though it is a low-status job there too, I have plenty of professional pride. I’m great at the job and know how to do the work. And it’s definitely not the More supermarket way!
My goal is always to get out of the grocery store as fast as possible. I go about the task at full steam, my focus solely on finding everything we need at home. But the shop ladies keep following me around. They keep pushing different fruits and veggies on me and trying to take the basket off my arm for weighing, even though I need it for gathering up all the groceries, while the shopping list is clear in my head. So annoying!
And then, when I finally am ready and go stand next to the scale, I suddenly become invisible and the staff just disappears. I would gladly weigh everything myself, which is how it works in Finland. But here the scale doesn’t function in a simple, logical way, so I always have to wait for assistance.
More often than not I stand there for ten minutes waving my hand for help and the staff ignores me, only to come do their job when an Indian customer asks for help. And suddenly all the other Indian customers flock around the scale and get served before me, even though I was the first one in the queue — if you can call it ‘a queue’ in India. Even when it’s quite clear I’ve been waiting there a long time, no one is in any hurry to assist me. Eventually they slowly weigh the veggies one vegetable at a time, dropping some and not picking them up, and I have to stand there every time arguing that I don’t want any plastics. This has changed last week though and they don’t pack all the groceries in separate plastic bags anymore — I take credit!
And the same ordeal is repeated so often at the checkout too. What would otherwise take me just a few minutes turns into a 20-to-30-minute visit!
There are these customer satisfaction surveys on the cash desks with bright-coloured buttons, from a red angry face for very poor service to yellow for average and green happy face for excellence. However, I rarely get to give the feedback myself. The cashiers do it for me and always credit themselves for excellence. Almost as if they see the orange button with a sad emoji on my face.
The water guys
Now, I like the fact that hundreds of daily chores have inspired innovative services that try to make living in the chaos of India as easy as possible and also help employ the less qualified people. But when developing a service, its quality should be a key factor to consider. Easily ordered, easily delivered? Not so much.
You obviously can’t drink from the tap in India and unfortunately installing a water filter isn’t an option in our current house, so we need to have drinking water delivered in 20-litre canisters every five days or so. There is even an app for this sole purpose, which makes it unnecessary to call them every time! If the app and the service work, that is.
So when we see we’re running out of filtered water, we open the app and always book the first delivery slot for the next day. But be it for the Indian Standard Time, the nonfunctional app or whatever, the delivery never arrives on time. I have to stay waiting at home, even if I have other errands to run. There’s no chance we’d get the water on the same day if their delivery attempt failed. Once they didn’t even come knocking the whole day and when we called the customer service multiple times, they told us that the delivery boys had already left home! I guess it doesn’t matter if you serve your customers, does it?
Every time the water guys do arrive at our house, I get very uncomfortable with all the stares and the boys don’t seem to be in any hurry to leave. They always need specific instructions to carry the canisters into the kitchen and take the old ones with them and get out of the door. They have also stopped carrying change with them, which I think is just completely unimaginable in a cash business! And even though it’s not much money, I refuse to pay them extra for the poor service. Especially when the service only seems to be getting worse, while the price goes up.
Oh, how I miss the tasty, ice cold water straight from the tap in Finland!
But I guess as long as I put out the money, my complaints will never matter.