A Travellerspoint blog

You Can’t Always Get What You Wa-ant.

Being understood (or not)

It is very fortunate for us that English is an official language in India, since our Hindi is poor. As is our Bengali, Konkani, Punjabi, Assamese… It is because there are so many languages spoken across the regions that English is used as a link language and so Indians from different areas often use English to speak to each other.

Even so, what with the language and cultural differences (often our accents and ways are not understood) we have had some comedy experiences when we have thought we have asked for simple things! Here are some examples:

Tea Break
During one of the long jeep journeys there was a stop at a tiny village in the hills for food/drinks and while some local boys washed the jeep. We didn’t want any lunch but went into a small café hut for a drink and to enjoy the scenery. We asked for one tea and a bottle of Minute Maid. The juice we got straight away from the fridge then sat down, 5 minutes later we were asked: “Did you want two chai?”
“No, just one please”
“Ah ok”
Five minutes more and the owner (who speaks great English and had been chatting to us about Nepal) asked: “Are you waiting for 2 teas?”
“No, just one”
“Ah ok. Did you want sugar?”
“No thanks”, it was nice though unusual to be asked as by standard chai here is served sweet…
So 2 minutes later, we were served two sweet teas. Ah well.

“I’m sorry, we’re out of cake”
It’s not unusual for places to lack a number of items from their menu. Now of course we wouldn’t expect everything to be available at all times, even at home, but here you might as well ask what they do have before looking at the menu, as even when you have decided on 4 possible options it is still likely that none will be available. I know we are in a developing country but if there are 5 fruit juices on your menu, it would be good to actually have at least one of them. Rachel fancied a guava juice for breakfast one day, but would’ve made do with mango, apple, orange or mixed, or even a lassi, all of which were listed. Having verified that they did not in fact have any juice and could not make a lassi, she asked what drinks they did have and was told tea, so she had tea…

Sometimes it is more surprising than others, for example we have visited two branches of a stylish western-style coffee bar chain (all air-conditioned, posh coffee, snazzy red leather seating, MTV showing on flat screen tvs…) In the first they had no cream, meaning over half of their drinks and sweet snack items could not be served. They also had no veg snack items (we didn’t want meat, just a veg pastry type thing as it was breakfast time), we were offered a chicken burger (?!) This happened again in the 2nd outlet we visited, there we ended up sharing a toasted veg sandwich as there was only one, very odd. The coffees were good though, a real treat, when they finally arrived (you can’t be in a hurry in India…)

This morning in our lovely jungle retreat resort, Tess read the menu and asked for scrambled eggs on toast, only to be told “Scrambled eggs, we no have. Would you like omelette or boiled egg?” Oh, so you can’t scramble an egg but you can make an omelette? But it is easier not to ask these questions, so she had an omelette.

Sweet shop
Another example of not really getting what we asked for even though the request was very simple: We went to a sweet shop in Siliguri for a sweet Indian breakfast. There were lots of sweets on display so we asked for 2 each of these, these and those plus 1 of that one, pointing at each type as we went along the selection. So the guy gives us 7 of one and a random combination of the others. Again, it is just simpler to go with it, as often when challenged they just stare back at you with blank expressions!

So in general, we tend to get fed, but it's frequently not what we were expecting to get!

Posted by TessAndRach 05:21

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Hi tess n rach. Am loving following your adventures and really admire your spirit. Keep it up.

by George(forum)

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