When arriving in India or Nepal or any of our neighboring countries, visitors and new arrivals quickly learn that the India Sub-continent exists in its own dimension of time. To the world IST is known as “Indian Standard Time” but when being in India (be it for a day or forever) you’ll see that it’s actually “Indian Stretched Time”. I, even though I am 100% Nepali loath running late. I hate arriving late for anything, I hate making people wait for me and I hate waiting for people. SO. My first full day in India, Buttmunch and I had scheduled our very first interview for the research which would possibly help unfold a path for the work we have following, in other words – this meeting was kind of a big deal with a person who is kind of a big deal (I’m pretty sure he has many leather bound books and his apartment smells like rich mahogany). This was one meeting we would not be late for.
Google map suggested that the time it would take from out hostel to our destination was roughly 25 minutes, but Buttmunch and I being the smart and India-savvy ladies that we are knew that we should leave our place around 1 to give ourselves plenty of time (and then some) for our 2:30 appointment (actually, the meeting was for 2:45 we were told to “check in” around 2:30). Buttmunch and I haggled some with an auto-rickshaw driver and found ourselves in front of the Ministry headquarters at about 2 with 45 minutes to spare – we were golden. To make a good impression we decided to head on over and get settled just so we could show off to the Secretary of the department we were meeting with just how organized we were. At the gate, we were asked for ID (by “we” I mean they only wanted to see Buttmunch’s ID, they were not as concerned with the brown girl along her side). We ask the security guard for said person (I’m going to dub him “Dr. P. Rajoshiri” for this blog) and were directed to “gate 5”. At gate 5 Buttmunch and I state our purpose and we mention that we have a meeting for 2:30, but that we’re early. A skeptical looking man asks for ID (again, just hers..not mine) and in hindi has a short conversation where he essential says “yah yah..some foreign girl here looking for Dr. P. Rajoshiri….plus one” (<–did you notice that?! I was just the “plus one”!!!) He then tells us that the person we’re looking for has gone to the airport but we can wait if we want to. We want to. So, slightly perturbed Buttmunch and I ask if we can just wait on the couches in the room (they said that was fine) we find ourselves seated and waiting. Another friendly old man keeps giving us side glaces and eventually picks up and the phone and mutters under his breath and then in half Hindi and half English asks us what we want, we repeatedly say “research” (which he over the phone translates into “inquiry”)and then informs us that Dr. P. Rajoshiri will not be arriving until 4 or 4:30, he’s not sure we can even meet him …but…we can wait. SO, Buttmunch and I decide maybe we should leave the letter of introduction and a business card with the receptionist. The man looks at the envelope, reads the name and department and with each word his voice gets slightly louder and more exited only to climax by telling us we were IN THE WRONG PLACE. Who would have thought.
We were given some semblance of directions and sent on our happy way. Buttmunch and I (so glad we arrived early) picked up and started walking in the direction we were told to go (which looked questionable as it seemed to lead us to shrubs and no buildings) so on the way we stopped by the in building post office to clarify directions. At the post office we were told by various individuals (again in mixed hindi and english) that we were either in the wrong ministry all together or they had no idea what we were talking about. Finally, after using some name of a building we were told to go straight and take a left. Going straight got us to the shrubs, and the left took us to a parking lot. Confused? So were were. We find a building (which just appeared to be the back side of the building at gate number 5 we were just at) and ask for directions. We were told to “go straight”. Straight led us to a building…which appeared to have no entrance and no signs…we walked around to the side and saw nothing. We walked back and over to the other side…saw nothing, we walked over and around and saw a door. After questioning some more guards we were told to go one more building over to Gate 1. We enter gate 1 and the security personnel at the door asks us who we want to meet, we give the name and then we are instructed to call and let them know we’re here so that security can give us a “slip” and allow us to enter….but, of course, Buttmunch and I have no such number and therefore no means of obtaining permission. Clever clever Buttmunch states that we have a letter…the security woman takes the envelope and decides it’s official looking enough to let us pass. Enter we do…then realize we have no idea where we’re going and the guard was just as clueless.
Lucky for us there was a huge sign with names of departments and floor numbers and wings. We get a floor and a wing number and head on up the stairs following minimal signs. We look around and are terribly confused but we some how manage to find a door that say Dr. M. Rajoshori on it (mind you, we were looking for Dr P. Rajoshori) who works in the Urban department (our Dr. Rajoshori worked in the Rural Department) but we decide to step in and ask for directions. We walked straight to find a few men seated and seeing as we made eye contact with them, we figured that was reason enough to ask them for assistance. These men look at our envelope with the name, pull out the letter, look at us, look at the letter…ask us what we’re doing and then tell us that the department we are looking for does not exist. We insist that the department does in fact exist and that we had spoken to someone who had given us this contact and so the department must be close by. They suggest that perhaps the place we meant to go to is in another part of town. Again, we insist that we are in the right place. After some more confusing conversation we are directed to another part of the building. Buttmunch and I half follow a set of directions and after asking multiple people for the department that we are looking for, we cross an overpass and end up in another building… lo and behold…directly in front of us is a sign that actually has the department we’re looking for written on the sign!! Buttmunch and I were simply OVERJOYED to find out that department did exist and that we were at the right address. We’re standing there and just as we’re about to brave the hallway that should hold the office of our dear Dr. P. Rajoshori a friendly guards strolls by..asks us what the heck we’re doing, looks at the letter…looks at us and tells us that the department doesn’t exist. Buttmunch and I look at each other, look at the sign, look at the guard and both of us are thinking “but the sign is right there“…not that that is valid. Getting really frustrated and running incredibly late, we decided to call our contact who initially set up the meeting with Dr P. Rajoshori at the Rural department only to find out that we had the information wrong and that the department he worked WAS the Urban department.
Buttmunch and I smack our foreheads when it dawns upon us that the first office we had been to was actually the right place. We figured at least we NOW had the right information and all we had to do was backtrack. In order to backtrack our path, we both knew we had to go upstairs, make a few turns, go over the overpass into the other building, take a few more turns and then we’d be there. We try to go up the stairs only to be stopped by other guards telling us that we can’t go that way. We try to explain that we had already come that way and that we (sorta) knew where we were going. This was something that was beyond comprehension so we spent about another 5-7 mins being told that we had to go back to Gate 1 (which we had used to entire the building with the correct office) to get a permission slip otherwise we couldn’t pass. More confusion. More confusion. More confusion. Somehow we finally manage to convey that although we lacked an actual slip, we had come through Gate 1 and therefore shouldn’t have to go through the entire process all over again. They exclaim “OH!!! You’ve already been to gate 1?” (yes…we told them that a while ago) “theek hai, it’s okay…you can go”. SO…Buttmunch and I run up the stairs only to realize that we have no idea where we’re going. Whoever designed the building was either a genius or a madman, anything in between is not an option. We are literally running down hallways taking corners hoping to see something that looks familiar. Finally after running around and asking several more people for directions we end up back at the office of Dr. P. Rajoshori at the Urban department. Turns out, when we first entered the office we walked straight to the men who told us the department and individual we were looking for didn’t exist when what we SHOULD have done was stepped into the office on the right hand side where we would have ended up at the office of the secretary of Dr. Rajoshori. We try to speak to the secretary who is utterly confused about who we are and what the heck we’re doing there. After a while he realizes that we do have an appointment and is kind enough to point out that we’re rather late. If only he’d seen us FORTY MINUTES AGO he would have known that we were actually on time. At last, we’re in the right place and although we ended up having to wait another 30 mins to see the guy..it ended up being a great meeting. He was even kind enough to refer us to someone who ended up being more useful. Best part of this saga?…After we spoke with the 2nd man, we walked downstairs and out of the building only to exit from GATE 5….the very first gate that we had entered hours earlier.
If you’re still reading this, let me end with a very funny story: When we were speaking with the secretary of Mr. Rajoshori, I was letting Buttmunch do the talking while I politely smiled at the man who’s desk was opposite to where I was sitting. The man was rather large and looked immensely bored and decided that this was as good a time as any to let his finger go on a little hunt up his nose. As fate would have it, I managed to look up just in time to witness the tip of his index finger slip into his nasal cavity. Upon being caught at a crucial moment like that, any other person would have pulled out the guilty finger and continued as if nothing had happened…but nooooooo in India…the man made eye contact with me…and left his finger up his nose for a full minute as if I’d be less likely to notice the action-ready finger up his nose than if he’d just pulled out. Amazing. ANYWAY. Sorry that this story took me FOREVER to type up. Buttmunch and I are now about half way through the project, lucky for us we haven’t had other days of running around and getting to our meetings 30 minutes late even though we arrived 45 minutes early.
Anyways, tomorrow Buttmunch and I are off on a 24 hour train ride to Calcutta …knowing us, next time I blog I’ll have more wonderful stories to tell 🙂