Monday morning dawned like any other Monday: way too damn early. I hit snooze on my iPod alarm a couple times, got up, showered, and went to put on the kettle. It seemed like it was taking a long time for the water to boil. Oh wait, it wasn’t boiling at all. Plugged it into another outlet… still no power… finally dawned on me that it was a power outage. Usually these happen in the evenings, not the mornings. I hadn’t noticed earlier because I haven’t been sleeping with the AC on (it’s too loud, it sounds like it’s powered by 45 hamsters on individual wheels) and I shower with cold water anyway. Yeah, I’m tough like that. So no biggie, I had bread instead of toast and milk instead of tea. My driver was picking me up later than usual because I had to go to the post office first thing to GET MY CARE PACKAGE!!! My family still loves me!!!!
Of course, when my brother was shipping this parcel, he did ask them how the parcel would be handled once it was in India, because previous Fellows had said to avoid India Post at all costs. He was told it was handled by Fed Ex.
It was a lie.
So I got to the post office and walked in, wasn’t entirely sure I was in the post office because it looked a bit like a warehouse, only no one was doing anything. They told me they couldn’t do anything on account of the power outage. Considering the utter lack of computer equipment or electronic anything, this seemed dubious, but they were unhelpful and told me to go to the post office in Kalkaji (not because my parcel was there, but because they wanted to get rid of me). Obviously I didn’t go to Kalkaji, I went to work and decided to try again another time. It was then, when I opened my work emails, that I found out the power outage was affecting ALL of Northern India, 370 million people. That’s a lot of people. The trains and metros were all stopped, all lights out. Commuting in New Delhi is quite the experience to begin with, so this really added to the fun. Anyway, I was fine, we have a generator at work and power was restored by mid-day with only the usual temporary blackouts for the rest of the day. *
This morning, I went for Round Two at the post office. I wish I’d had my camera, but I’ll try to verbally paint this for you.
It was raining. Not hard, just a bit of rain to cool things down and increase the hair frizz factor. I walked into the front door, where I’d gone in yesterday. A woman was sitting on a chair by the door and told me I had to go outside and around back to go in the back door. So I did, there was a guy at the wicket who looked at my handwritten note from the postman and told me to go through the side door where I ended up in the exact same place as I had by initially walking in the front door. Then I was told to go upstairs, so I went up a couple flights to the delivery room. There may not be any babies there, but I imagine a lot of chaos is born in this place.
Picture some paper. Picture a little more paper than that. Now picture every horizontal surface – floors, tables, desks, shelves – covered in stacks of paper a couple meters high. Some of the paper looked really old, like moldy and falling apart antique paper, but then it’s incredibly humid and there’s no AC so maybe it wasn’t all that old. The tables had more recent looking paper, and by that I mean dot-matrix printer paper. I didn’t notice any particular organization of the paper, no labels or files or anything. Of course, some of those piles kinda slid over and made a big papery mess. There was a woman sewing bags shut with a big tapestry needle and a bunch of men – I think they’re the actual postal delivery men – sorting some piles of envelopes. They have desks set up down the middle of the room with cubby hatches for manual sorting and the guys were literally throwing envelopes at each other, like the way kids throw things off “their” side of the room if they have to share bedrooms with siblings. And there was the usual collection of people standing and sitting around with nothing to do. The funny thing is that no one really pays attention to you. I mean, you’re clearly not a post office employee but no one there is interested in talking to you. I was directed to someone, then someone else, but they just sort of wave vaguely in another direction without stopping what they’re doing to get rid of you. After a few minutes, my driver, probably wondering where I’d gotten lost this time, showed up. He also got sent around to a bunch of people who didn’t care about finding this package. I actually spotted it on the floor, I recognized my brother’s handwriting upside-down. Even once we’d found it, there was more milling around while they decided about maybe trying to find a paper for me to sign. I signed and dated something, they actually checked my ID, and, after about 20 minutes total in the post office, we were able to leave. My driver told me later they would have made me pay for it if I’d been alone. If I’d have been able to get it at all, since they were rather disinclined to speak with me.
But, the important thing is I have my package! The box is basically mush, it looks like it was drop kicked across the Atlantic. The homemade cookies are likewise pretty crumbly and a little dry, but they’re not moldy! Not bad considering they were made 6 weeks ago and spent almost 5 of those weeks on ocean freight.
Got my knitting, crewel work, raincoat, and hiking boots. I’m hereby ready to ride out anything this monsoon has to throw at me, like rain, mudslides, and cabin fever boredom. I shouldn’t really be bored though, considering I have only one month before my grant application assignment is due and I’m completely stuck with my sampling methodology. So I need you to send me something else: a kick in the academic pants. Address it to Melinda’s Hiney.
*update: As of Tuesday afternoon, both the Northern and Eastern grids have failed and more than half of India – 670M people – are now without power. Office generator is still going strong so far. This time the collapse happened at mid-day, and people are now stranded on trains and metros all over the country. You people at home are probably getting some interesting footage. Wonder what kind of evacuation plans they have here…?