Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where are you going?

Don't worry - this isn't one of my deep rambling posts that descend into some sort of discussion on existentialism (had to check spelling on that one - right first time, phew!). No, I'd like to describe one of the more bizarre behaviours I've seen out here in India....

Imagine the scene: you're walking along, minding your own business, down the road. Coming from the opposite direction is a moped or motorbike. This isn't unusual - you're in India after all. It's got somewhere between two and ninety-seven (roughly) people crammed onto it. Again, not unusual. You don't know a single person on the bike....in fact, it's so completely regular that you've hardly even noticed it.

"Where are you going?"

You hear someone shout. It's in English, which means it's probably aimed at you. You look up, in the direction of the shout. Except there's no-one there. Not any more anyway. That's the funny thing about motorbikes, they tend to not defy the law of physics and stop the instant they pass an Englishman. Generally, most people agree this is not a design flaw.

Which makes me wonder - why do so many people yell this question at me as they drive past at speeds of 20mph or more....?

Firstly, I have absolutely no chance of answering in time. I should point out that the shout never happens before they get to me. It's always as they pass me. So you have to add in my time to hear the shout, realise it's aimed at me, look around, turn behind me and see the bike. It's now 10-15 metres at least down the road. Shouting "The office", or "Home" at a random stranger on a bike as it drives away from me isn't currently one of my past-times in India (you can see my actual list of past-times here).

Secondly, do they really care? I mean really? No-one ever turns around to come back and get the answer. Which makes me wonder if they ever really wanted the answer in the first place.... Frankly I'm beginning to wonder if all they teach people in English classes in India is "Where are you going?", which, let's face it, is going to have limited use in most everyday situations. If that's the case, then I can kind of understand people's excitement at having a valid opportunity to use it.

I'd love to be able to tell you that this frankly bizarre behaviour is limited to people on bikes. Potentially indicating a lack of blood-flow to the brain from excessively tight helmets. This theory would obviously fall down due to the lack of said helmets, but regardless. It is obviously wrong as people ask me on foot as well. What's more - they ask me when it is perfectly obvious where I'm going!!!

If you bumped into me at home on my road, with some groceries in a bag, roughly 10 metres from my house, walking in the direction of my house, I'm pretty sure your thought process would be fairly similar to the following:

"I wonder where Tim is going, maybe I should ask him"
"Whoa there, let's not rush - see if we can work it out first...."
"Ok, well he's got some groceries in his bag"
"Hmmmm.....probably been to the shops"
"And he's roughly 10m from his house"
"Likely to be either coming or going, at a guess"
"Well he's walking towards it"
"Maybe, and I'm just putting it out there, he's been to the shops and is taking his groceries home?"
"Excellent Holmes, you're a genius!"
"Elementary dear Watson....."

I guess Arthur Conan Doyle just isn't that big in India.....

1 comment:

  1. oft quoted but non canonical ;) Your Holmes quote, of course.... - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes#Fan_speculation - Where are you going anyway? hee hee.....