Yesterday I described one habit of Indians that especially people from other countries may find difficult to deal with: their politeness and formalities. Apart from the fact that you will find many Indians to generally be very polite, you will also find that they can get very enthusiastic about starting something new, a new project, creating something, making a change and putting their ideas into action. That is the spirit of the beginning. When you look at things a bit later, at a point where the end should be close, you will find a fully different mindset. It often feels as though their thoughts are already planning the next project. They are just not good in finishing what they started!
There are so many examples for this and it gets most obvious in buildings and construction work. The painter for example paints the walls with his small hand brush, not with a roller. He spends hours on doing it properly and neatly without painting for example on the plaster of paris at the ceiling – but then just carelessly moves his brush by the electrical switchboard, leaving a trail of paint on the side of it, catching every visitor’s eye.
The carpenter fits a custom-made cupboard on the narrow end of one room, in the corner that was made for it. It fits exactly and looks wonderful on the first look. On the second glance however you notice something that will occupy your mind whenever you look at the cupboard from that moment on: One of the handles is fixed two centimeters above the other one just next to it.
The plumber installs the sanitary equipment. To close all holes and finish it off, he uses cement. He closes the holes – but doesn’t pay attention on the surrounding where he smeared cement onto the wall and the floor where several drops of cement are then forever stuck on the marble.
Our janitor once did a temporary fix for the door closer of our office which had gotten loose and was blocking the door. He tied a string to a hook at the ceiling and to the closer, holding the closer up so that the door would open. A day later he came with the equipment to fix the closer, did it and untied the string from the closer. He was already standing on a chair but could still not reach to the hook at the ceiling to untie it from there, too. So what did he do? Of course he did not take the pains to get something bigger than a chair to reach up! He simply reached up as high as he could and pulled with a jerk – tearing the string and leaving a small rest dangling at the hook. Sitting in our office, we were staring at that small thing for weeks, wondering why he had done that until finally one of us took pity on the others and got it down.
We had a bathtub installed in a bathroom. It came in plastic wrapping, we let the workers in, they finished their job and left. The cleaning staff did a great job clearing the mess and we stood in front of a shining new bathtub – no wait, not all was shiny! They had left one sticker on the whole side of the tub, reading to everyone who came into the bathroom: ‘Attention, handle with care!’ It was a sticker but they had permanently fixed it into the bathroom along with the tub by attaching half of it with cement to the marble.
If you travel through India some day, just keep an eye open for these small pieces of imperfection. It is a characteristic that you can find all over the country and once you stop being bothered by it, you will smile and laugh about it!