I’m walking down the street in the process of running away from school for a year. The street is like any other street in Pune, India. Filled with motorcycles, rickshaws, 3 cows, and a guy called Jai who decided that this is the perfect day for a mid afternoon stroll with a complete lack of clothing. You go Glen Coco.
This wonderful view clearly calls for some music. Couple clicks and you’re there, headphones in, music bumping, “College Dropout” by Kanye (Don’t worry Mum, this is not a subliminal message). You feel good. Queue mental high-five. But just like in Avatar: The last Airbender, it all goes downhill when the fire album starts to play. Downhill is a good way of wording a largely uncoordinated trip over a brilliantly placed brick and the following fall from grace into a shoe cleaner. A shoe cleaner, who, until that point today was just wondering why his neighbor Jai had disregarded his shoes (and everything else) on his usual shoe polish day.
I turn around, half expecting the shoe cleaner to be judging harder than Simon Cowell but I realize to the joy of my ego that I am neither interesting nor uncoordinated enough to grasp this man’s attention.
“Why didn’t you have his attention Jordan?”
Great question reader. Because the donkey being held on the back of the motorcycle driving by was much more interesting. It’s in this moment. Covered in shoe polish, a naked man walking by, and donkey on a 2 wheeler that I realized a fundamental truth. India’s crazy. But the rest of us are a lot crazier.
Granted I’ve seen some crazy stuff everywhere I’ve been. The UK and the US hold their fair share of WTF moments. But, I think there’s a difference in our cultures that manifests in the reactions to these moments. These differing reactions tell a pretty interesting story about how both our cultures operate.
At first I thought India was crazy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was completely lacking control in each and every moment I spent here. Whether it was the badly timed cow crossing the street, the badly placed bacteria in that street food you just ate, or the badly placed you when someone just threw trash out their window. No matter how hard you tried you couldn’t control it.
It. /ɪt/ Noun (I know, it’s a pronoun, but you can’t control it). People, places, and things that make up your immediate and effectible world
But of course, in the US and the UK, I can totally control it. The external events of it are just the terms and conditions of the decisions I’ve made. At every moment, I can and should be able to respond with calm proficiency. I can and should always be competent.
And this is why, like Alice in Wonderland, we’re all entirely bonkers. It took me three months to look at a donkey on a motorcycle and not have the word “crazy” pop into my head. I didn’t stop thinking that word because I got used to the situation, I stopped thinking it was crazy because I realized that, in all it’s wonder, it is crazy. We hide it’s craziness in the US. In India it is on full display
I’ve lived most of my life hiding my worries, doubts, and panics created by a crazy world. I ran around with a mask that screamed, “I’m in control of it”. I spent 19 years chatting with people whose masks were yelling back at me that they too were in control. In India you learn pretty quick you aren’t in control. I haven’t been able to find a mask at a market in India yet. And I think that’s pretty crazy.