Saturday, November 05, 2005

Getting out

I find that a major difference between life in India and life in the USA is the amount of time it takes you to get out of your house and enter that part of the world not contained within. In India, when my parents feel like they want to go out, it is a major event, requiring a lot of planning. They wake up early in the morning. First, they go up to the terrace and lock the terrace door from the inside. Then, they walk down to the two bedrooms on the second floor and lock the doors leading out to the balconies of both bedrooms. Then, they lock the doors to the bedrooms from outside. The reasoning being that even if thieves somehow managed to get into the bedroom through the balcony, they shouldn't manage to get into the rest of the house. Then, my folks walk down to the first floor and lock the door leading to the staircase that goes up to the second floor. All the windows are then shut and bolted. Then comes the wooden main door. It has two different locks. Outside the wooden door is an iron door. It has to be locked as well. And finally, the door into our yard, which gets locked as well. The entire process of leaving the house takes 4 hours. And then, they are free to go to the neighbourhood bakery to buy bread and come back home and unlock and reopen everything.

In the US, things are different. I don't lock my door. I have never locked my door ever since I came here. In fact, once I went out and didn't even close my door, and when I returned back home, I saw the door was open and thought that someone had broken into my apartment. But it was just me being forgetful. When I was studying in UMass, we didn't lock our doors either. In fact, every apartment in our student complex was, by an unspoken rule, a community apartment. Anyone could go into any apartment and do whatever they wanted to. Once, we had strangers we didn't even know, who entered our apartment on a friday night when we were sitting outside on our doorsteps. They went into our bathroom, constructed a bong out of a beer can, smoked it in our living room, then went back out, without us even knowing who the fuck they were.

I think along with all the material conveniences of life in the US, this is a very important unacknowledged benefit of living here. The ability to get out of the house without going through a lot of red tape.

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