Woken up at 5:54am by the sound of POPOPOP in fast succession: Its firecracker time in India: It’s Diwali.
I’m lying in bed wondering to get up or not, and I begin to mull over my whole bank account opening issues, and realize, gee whiz B- it’s so Indian! I say this in general terms but indulge me, kind reader; I’ve lived in India enough to know that they say ‘Yes’ to see you happy, even when they mean ‘Yeah right-as if!’ If the person you’re dealing with has good experience with westerners, they won’t be so quick to say ‘Yes’, and their ‘Yeah right-as if!’ is colourful and poetic, making it less infuriating. Oh India!
Take, for instance, a banal auto rickshaw example: You want to get where you’re going, you ask the Rickie (auto rickshaw driver) and he head bobs away. Sweet. Next thing you know you’ve stopped too many times to count because actually, he doesn’t know where you want to go, but wouldn’t dare say ‘No’ to your foreign face. Now there’s Uber and Ola, options I didn’t have the last two times I lived here. But I still encounter the ‘Yes’ when they mean ‘Yeah right- as if!’
I’ve been here over three weeks, and opening a bank account has proven to be an unpleasant and drawn out ordeal. I have signed my signature soooooo many times now it’s literally a wobbly line (note to self: work on signature). I’ve had to produce document after document, and still the bank isn’t satisfied. I have a Work Permit goddamn it, in a valid passport- what the hell more do you want from me?!? The finance manager at my school told me, ‘It’ll be open at 7:30 this evening…. It’ll be open by 11pm today… it’ll be open by 5pm this evening most certainly.’ I was losing my mind. I actually believed the finance manager was just trying to get me off his back. So, I went directly to the bank but got the exact same treatment, ‘ Oh there is a scrutiny check on your account, but no tension mam, it’ll be open by 7-7:30 this evening, I will call you’. No call. I go back. ‘Oh hello mam- what a sweet dog! (Let’s talk about your dog to avoid the statement I’m about to spew out) Your account will be open surely before Diwali, no tensions, mam.’ She gets on the phone and says, ‘…a foreigner is here, sitting in front of me only, and is feeling many tensions. Hmmhmm hmmhmmm ok ok ok, thank you.’ She hangs up, assuring me that when Mumbai contacts her, she will contact me. Me: ‘You have my number, right?’ Bank woman: ‘Yes, mam’. Me: ‘Even if it’s not good news, you’ll call to let me know the status of my account, right?’ Bank woman: ‘Yes yes mam, don’t worry, I will call you, and surely your account will be open by 3-3:30 this evening.’ This bank manager has promised to call me 6 times, and not once has my phone rang.
This morning listening to the Poppoppos drowned out by my air conditioner, it dawns on me: Why resist? They (the auto rickshaw drivers, my finance manager and the Bank woman) aren’t trying to be dicks, they want to please me, and think by placating me with what I want to hear I’ll feel better (actually- if I may be honest, dear reader- in the moment of a ‘Yes’ delivery, my innocent self smiles, and I do feel better!). Sadly, it’s turns into more of a ’Don’t Cry Wolf’ scenario and my cynical west-African-experienced self should know better. Shit- I should know better!
I don’t have any alcohol at home to numb this adventure; I’m not teaching; I haven’t made any friends in Chennai and my husband hasn’t joined me yet. B U T I feel at peace here: I burn incense, stretch, and eat paneer every day; I’m with my lovely (but dirty-and-knotty-gotta-find-a-groomer-but-she’s-so-cute-looking-right-now) pup, and she opens a lot of doors that would otherwise be closed with her friendly and funny disposition. I’m in a land of dazzling fabrics, the sacred cow, ghee and daal. India: Would I have it any other way? Yeah right- as if!