Day 3: The Madness That is India

So today was the day, if everything could go wrong. It would.

Well, that’s not true. The day started off well. Breakfast was actually tasty for once and I was very much looking forward to work. Today is the day I meet my suppliers for the vague business I had been mentioning about.

The first sessions went very well. All the prep we had done paid off and I am very excited about the kinds of products we will be introducing to Malaysia.

After three hours of tea tasting, we headed off to see our second supplier. And this was when everything that could go wrong, well, did.

To save a bit of cash, we opted to take the taxi in Calcutta. I’ve taken taxis in Delhi before – how much more different could it be in Calcutta. We hoped into one of these yellow Ambassadors with the address in hand.

Taxi fares in Calcutta is easy to navigate. Double the rate on the meter and add 2 rupees, or if you are feeling generous, another 5 or 10 Rs. While figuring out the rate may be easy, the real problem comes in communicating to the taxi driver. Despite West Bengal’s policy of making English compulsory – it seems that no one here really speaks English. Communication has to be done in the form of waves and gestures and speaking English as loudly as possible. It is a well-known fact that the louder you shout at someone in a language they don’t comprehend, the more likely they will be able to understand it.

Second problem: no one in Calcutta seems to know how to get around in the city. The first driver we had when we came over last year, had plenty of problems of finding an area that we spent more time going around in circles than getting to the places we intended to.

Third problem, both my mum and my phone had no international roaming. I had a camera in the shape of an Iphone 4s, but not really a phone.

Knowing these three problems – I’m not so sure what possessed the two of us to take a taxi anyway to see our second supplier. The taxi driver did not speak any English, and when our supplier told him where the area we needed to be – he seemed as confused as ever. Not so sure why he opted to be a taxi driver as his chosen profession.

Our taxi driver – as expected, got lost and when he asked for directions from a passerby. Based on the tone and gestures of the interaction, said passerby presumably began to mock him for being such a hopeless taxi driver and getting lost. In the taxi driver’s indignation, he dropped the two of us by the side of the road telling us that he can’t help us anymore.

To be honest, at this point I was quite terrified. I’m not familiar with Calcutta. Drop me in any part of Delhi and I’ll be fine but this was a different city, with different rules and heck, a different language. We don’t have a phone.

But my mum was very insistent that we walked to find the area. I think we asked no less than 10 different people how to get to our second supplier. And I kid you not, all ten people gave different directions. We walked around the block three times, trying to find the address. We bickered with each other, threatening to call off our partnership (kinda difficult when she’s your mother).

As a rule of thumb in India, you ought to be careful if you are two foreign women walking about in unfamiliar territory. Although men who were thinking of teasing us were terrified of us since we had our bitchface on.

We finally found the address we were looking for, an unfamiliar office, very different to the one we went to. It was at this point we realized we went to the wrong address than the one we intended.


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