Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

There I was, carrying a big stack of books, my backpack, and a flip chart board. My cell phone was ringing from within a plastic paper container that I had balanced on the stack of books. That’s about the time I reached my apartment door… and discovered that it was unlocked and half-open. Crap. Jann is in Darjeeling and there is no one else here while she’s gone.

I poke my head in and see that all the lights are on in the apartment. All the doors are open (normally they are closed to keep cockroaches and rats contained). Double crap. This doesn’t look good. And, someone might still be in there. I yell “hello” and there’s no answer. It’s not the cleaning lady or the man who delivers eggs, butter and bread at really odd times.

I turn around and head to the security desk to talk to the man who is supposed to be watching the apartments. He’s not there. I wander around a bit and find him having a chat with his friends in the block across the pathway. “The door to my apartment is open,” I say without much ceremony. I already know that this isn’t going to be good. “No mam, No mam,” he says. It looks like he doesn’t know what to do because he doesn’t speak English. I gesture for him to follow me and he and all his friends follow. I show them the open door.

“Keys. Keys.” He says and I hand over my keys. He fiddles with the lock for a while and gets it to lock. He steps back and smiles. This is when I realize that I’m going to have to play charades. I hate playing charades and make a mental note to start learning more useful Hindi words like: burglar, the electricity in my apartment isn’t working, and when is happy hour? Instead of: I speak English, is that a cashew, and, did you eat my parathas?

I start with a mosey up to the door and give an exclaimed it’s open gesture with my hands. That didn’t work. They just look at me with a blank stare and call over a few more friends.

Let’s try the hurried walk to the door and an exaggerated look of surprise with hands-on head to discover it open. They exchange puzzled looks and then two of them rush away. They’ve either figured out what I’m saying, or they’re going to get more friends to watch the crazy girl play charades.

This time I walk over to the door and open it all the way. I point at one of the guys and gesture for him to go in and check the apartment. I think he’s figuring it out.

He looks at me and does a but you’re much bigger than me kind of hand sweep. Riiiight. You’re 5’0 and I’m 5’8. I see your point. But I’m not wearing the badge, the fancy hat, or holding a radio. He gives me a scared look.

Fine. I’ll check my own apartment. As I walk through the apartment I feel like the three bears returning to find their house visited by Goldilocks… someone’s been looking under my bed (the mozzie net is up on one side), someone’s been going through the cupboards (toilet paper and water are missing), and someone’s been rooting through the kitchen (could be rats). I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that no one has touched the Kentucky Bourbon. However, I’m a little upset that the Campari is still there.

Luckily everything else is locked up.

By the time I return to the front door again a large party of security guards had gathered. Now, what do I say? One of them speaks broken English. He understands words like: fear, door open, why, toilet paper, and bottled water. He sends one of the boys off to find toilet paper…

Shortly after a really wicked thunderstorm starts. The guards all rush off because this signals a long night of power outages, people being stuck in the elevators, and leaky ceilings. For me, I’m wondering who was in my apartment and why the heck they left all the lights on and cupboards/doors open. I’ll probably never know.

7 comments on “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…Add yours →

  1. One has to ask a few questions here. Who else besides yourself has a key to the room? Perhaps someone who needs some toilet paper and is thirsty. Why is the door still open and the lights on? Perhaps the perpetrator was distracted by something, like some friends or the approach of the occupant and is still nearby. Why did the security guard look so scared? Why?

  2. They’re there to open the door of course.

    These issues are now being handled by work. It really is just a cultural difference. Sharing is more important than ownership of stuff and westerners are seen as rich so we can afford to replace anything that is taken. At least that’s how it was explained to me today.

  3. Ok — so I’ve had some interesting cultural learnings about this episode.

    When I talk to India employees they say: “It’s India. It happens.” It seems to not be that big of a deal. However, when I talk to Westerners they either become very protective or start explaining how we view space and property is not the same as it is in Indian culture.

    The stories are interesting: for example, one thief had an obsession with one of my female co-worker’s underwear and would steal them periodically from her apartment. People have had lots of problems with food disappearing — but this is because in India sharing is viewed differently from the west; if it’s there then it’s to be shared,

    Since this episode more has happened in our apartment. Someone broke the doors on Jann’s cabinets to get at the contents (they were relatively empty because she was traveling) but took nothing. On Saturday morning at least two people came into the apartment while I was trying to sleep.

    On the third episode of someone wandering through the apartment I went mental because I couldn’t handle having men just wandering in and out while I was trying to sleep (half naked I should add). I’m trying to be understanding and culturally aware… I really am. But sometimes my Irish blood just takes over…

  4. I find it difficult to understand that concept. For me it’s break, enter, and theft and invasion of privacy. Everywhere one goes in this world, people justify there actions with culture, religion, or otherwise.

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