Friday, January 28, 2011

Not Looking Both Ways When We Cross the Road

I've thought a lot about having children in Chennai and what it will be like for them to hop back and forth between India and Indiana. I realized that the biggest adjustment for them will probably be crossing the street--and me hoping that they don't get hit. And no, I'm not talking about India....

Here's the deal. Jaywalking is an everyday occurrence here. Shoppers, bicyclists, dogs, cows...everybody does it. If you don't, you wouldn't ever get anywhere. Sounds scary to American ears, right? Except that drivers expect it. Along with dodging other cars, buses, lorries, and motorcycles, drivers are 100% prepared to dodge the everyday pedestrian.

When we first moved here, traffic seemed like one big ball of chaotic, unorganized petrol. We were wrong. We now see that there are rules of traffic here, they just aren't the same as the ones followed in the States. One of those rules is being prepared to happily dodge the jaywalker. So, when I cross the street, I take a quick glance to make sure I'm not stepping directly in front of oncoming traffic and if I'm not, I walk confidently into the road knowing that the traffic will simply change pattern for a moment to let me pass. It's brilliant really. It's almost like the city operates on roundabouts, except that they appear and disappear in a matter of seconds. If we had traffic lights at every intersection, no one would ever get anywhere.

And so, our kids will be jaywalkers. Don't be perplexed when we come home and step confidently into traffic. I'm sure after the first encounter with an angry driver, we'll learn our lesson. Hopefully it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

This is obviously a VERY low traffic time on the outskirts of Chennai. Regardless, the bicyclist gives a good picture of what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cheering when Sachin scores a century

We're starting a new blog series, focusing on the ways that we've grown in our "Indian-ness" now that we've been here for a year.

First, let me focus on cricket - a source of much mystery to Americans. Cricket is often likened to baseball. Which it is - except the batter gets a bat about 3 times as big and he only has to run to one base to score a run. Truly it is a game of skill, but it is heavily weighted on the side of the batter. Test matches (a form of the game that lasts 5 days) often see scores in the 500s.

Nothing is as popular in India as cricket. If there is any flat, open space to be found (streets, beaches, parking lots, fields), you will undoubtedly find a group of guys wailing away on a tennis ball.

When it comes to the best cricket player in the world, there is no debating. Sachin Tendulkar holds all the major batting records that have ever been conceived. In ability, he easily falls into the category of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Wayne Gretzky. He is small (only 5'5"), but has managed to become the most respected player in the cricket world.

So usually with all "great ones" there is that moment when you realize their personal life is not quite on par with their sporting life, most recently demonstrated by Mr. Woods. But with Sachin, he has been faithfully married to his wife for 15 years, and regularly adores her in public. He takes time off of traveling with the team so he can be home with his children. He acts well on the field and doesn't argue with the officials. He's not movie-star good looking, and doesn't seem to mind it. Basically he's the kind of guy you wish we had in the States for kids to look up to.

One more thing is that he has a fiercely loyal following. I had one trainee that found a way to include him in nearly every speaking activity she did. A century is when a batsmen scores 100 in a single game. And now, when we see him get a century (which he's done over 50 times in his career, recently got a 200 as well), we feel like getting up and cheering alongside the rest of the country.