East Meets West… Sort Of…

by Pam

India is fantastic at being India. The markets are masses of ancient crazy beautiful chaos. The flowers are ubiquitous, the fruit and vegetables are fresh and bountiful, and the vendors are a blur of efficiency. But any establishment patterned after a Western model is a disastrous exercise in patience.

Every coffee shop, cellphone store, sunglasses counter etc., is staffed with roughly three times the number of staff reasonably needed for any job; however, the abundance of staff is completely offset by the inefficiency of each and every one of them. The good part is that it keeps nearly everyone employed; the bad part is that no one seems to know what they’re doing.

The seemingly simple act of buying a pastry can be an insanely convoluted process: getting close enough to the counter so people don’t have room to cut in front of you; getting the attention of one of the seven lost looking people behind the counter; and conveying your request, “I’d like the chocolate croissant please.” Having them hand you a samosa. Handing the samosa back and reiterating to them that you want a croissant, and not a samosa. Watching them painstakingly wrap the croissant in paper, tape the paper, put the paper wrapped croissant in a bag, staple the bag closed, put the bag in a box and hand it to the person standing next to them behind the counter. That person will then tell the person standing at the register that you have ordered one croissant. They will then look at the register like it is a spaceship that just landed. They will push some buttons until something makes a noise, then three more people will come over and stare at the machine, shrug, wobble their heads, talk amongst themselves, push more buttons until tape starts rolling out of the machine. At this point you will press your body against the counter, thrust a handful of rupees across the counter and say, “Can I pleeeeease just have my croissant ?”

Scenes such as this happen several times a day. No, I’m not exaggerating.

Maybe the worst part is that they don’t even pretend to know what they are doing; it’s like everyone in this country is at the very first day of their very first job. This can be funny, or this can be infuriating. Mostly it is infuriating.

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3 Responses to “East Meets West… Sort Of…”

  1. Eric says:

    OMG … too funny!

  2. lauralee says:

    …thank goodness I had just swallowed before I read the spaceship line, or I’d have snorted scotch all over my keyboard.

  3. womannextdoor says:

    I do hope that some day ‘being India’ would mean not just the charming chaos but some kind of order and efficiency too.
    It is coming, soon to a super market next to you.hehehe May be by 2025?