It is that simple really. And something we tend to neglect or not need in the US. We pride ourselves on our individuality, our self reliance. If we can find the info ourselves, on the internet or wherever, we are happier. And for the most part, this strategy works in the west, with its heavy emphasis on standards and infrastructure. But in a place like India, that is all out the window. You MUST rely on the specific knowledge of many people along whatever journey (or task) you take.

To take a simple example, I found my bus to Pondicherry this morning by asking around, finding the bus station, then finding the buses at the station heading to my destination.  I never would have got here if it werent’t for these simple interactions. It is the same with taxis and rickshaws across the country. There are no good maps here. People rely on their knowledge of big landmarks, then when they get to the area they work down from there. Most directions are a series of larger to smaller or lesser known landmarks, each of which will be increasingly recognized only by ever more local people. All of this depends on a social contract of interaction that involves helping each other in these small but essential ways. It also leads to a greater feeling of connectedness with everyone around you (and I tend to think that a good thing, despite the occasional need for solitude).


  1. This really is the secret to everything…