~By Anu. For anyone who thinks doing business in India is getting easy, here's a vignette of my week:
1. Walked through dog piss, man piss, beggars, drunks, over a series of deathly open manholes and through traffic to see my friend's local mall in Saket. There was a yellow Lamborghini inside on a car-sized turntable.... and many many women in tight jeans and high heels trying on lipstick at Lancome. "This rail-y makes my lips look purple, don't you think?" said one pouting and turning from side to side in the mirror. She eventually bought two at $40 each, smiling as she handed over crisp thousand rupee notes. I happened to see her later outside the mall haggling with an autorickshaw driver in a threadbare shirt. "No, no! I will only pay you twenty rupees! Come on."
2. I still don't know where to pay the water bill despite asking my landlady and several people in the neighborhood. So far, I've been told to go the petrol station, the post office and the local water authority - but no one's quite sure where that is. The newspapers report that at least half of Delhi's water supply is stolen.
3. Our landlady, who is extremely nice, tried to get me to oversee major plumbing work (half the building doesn't get water as some complete numbskull cemented over the outlet pipe and valve attached to the overhead tank). I'm flattered that she has such confidence in me... but not vain enough to fall for such a thankless task.
4. Got 3 extra keys made. The man used two files, a pair of pliers, a hammer, calipers and some spit to do it. It cost me $3.
5. The garbage man comes everyday wearing white ipod-like earphones. He doesn't speak. He won't take newspapers, bags of dirt or old flower pots. I put the newspapers out for the recycling merchants who pass by all day on their bicycles calling out for customers. It rained.
6. We bought a washing machine -- to my great relief -- as we'd run out of clean clothes and were recycling dirty socks and underwear at an alarming rate. The shop said someone from the company would come and install the machine. Four days passed. I called the company, which sounded very hi-tech. All my details had been dutifully entered into their computer system. But, as with most things in India, the veneer of modernity ended at the call center.
The man on the phone apologized and said someone would come that day. No one came. I called back and was told, 'yes, yes, someone is coming.' Half a day passed with me imprisoned at home, waiting. I called again and was told my order had been emailed to the concerned person. Sensing a ruse, I insisted on speaking to the actual man who was actually going to come to my door to install the machine and was finally given a mobile number. I called it, and man on the other end had never heard of me. Still, he assured me he'd get the job done, though he couldn't really say when... and kept repeating my address wrongly... not bothering to write it down. A day later, having got another mobile number for another actual guy who would actually really come to my door.... a young man fresh out of ninth grade rang our bell. His name was Vijay and he wore large, shiny black shoes and carried a leather briefcase, of which he was obviously very proud. Vijay diligently looked over the machine, removed the transit bolts that held the washing machine's drum in place, and hooked it up to a tap.
He then proceeded to deliver a pre-rehearsed speech:
The machine was for washing clothes only and I should not wash utensils or dishes in it.
The heavy cycle is for REALLY dirty clothes.
The normal cycle is for ordinary dirty clothes.
The Quick Wash cycle is for clothes that just got a bit sweaty.
We should not lift the machine on our backs.
We should not wash the washing machine.
We should not try to open it while it is spinning.
I really appreciated Vijay's advice.