No problem means everything: “I need more time”, “We don’t understand one another at all”, “This isn’t going to work out”. The apartment’s caretaker would like us to get out of his no-problem zone so he can do his work. But we’re just not leaving the apartment. We take turns refalling asleep, waiting for our group of 13 to wake up from last night and get its collectivity in gear. After tons of “You Guys!” between ten women and three men, we’re finally underway.
First, I eat. Constantly. Everything vegetarian goes in my mouth. After feasting ten days in Bombay, I’m relieved to see when we get to New Delhi that there’s Indian food here too. Except that there is no such thing as Indian food, or Indian fabric, or the Indian language. This place is big, and more varied than anywhere I’ve ever been. I’m learning about a whole new cuisine, for which Devon Ave in Chicago and Jackson Hts in Queens have barely prepared me. Milk tea is a revelation--not that scented water I used to drink, but chai with condensed milk served espresso-sized.
The art museums we visit assure us that funding is not an issue. They have transcended this and are able to focus on their programs. We ask them the same trite managerial questions we’ve asked in South and North America, and we are surprised, then contemptuous, when we don’t get the answer we were taught. We know the jargon well by now, belying the fact that we’ve never actually used the concepts. And I realize that the concepts won’t help me here. I can’t merely carry my ideas over. I have to learn the place, and that’s not going to happen inside of three weeks.
Walking down the street, I nervously overtake a slow cow. She bleats some sound that blends with that of the honking scooters. A constant river of bleeps rises from the streets from sun-up until midnight. Not the passive-aggressive honking of Manhattan that expresses frustration. A happy short bleat of the tuktuks to say “I’m here”, “Move over”, “Traffic jam ahead like you wouldn’t believe”, or “Remove your veg stand from the middle of the highway”.
Lessons that cabbies the world over could learn from tuktuk drivers: 1. Why wouldn’t you split a single lane so that three vehicles can fit abreast; 2. If u-turns are not permitted because of construction, drive through the construction site to get to the opposite lane; 3. Honk fervently and everything should come out no problem.