A Cultural Blunder (of a unique sort)


Well we were warned as Fellows that cultural blunders would happen, and I’m sure there will be more to come … Mine involved my first late night at the 1298 Dial for Ambulance office In Mumbai. This time of year it gets dark around 6pm and not many lights were on in the office. Now you must understand that since I have been in India very helpful staff, office boys, shop keepers, drivers etc. have been doing most everything for me, so I recall thinking that I am more than capable of turning on a few extra lights for myself. I get up and walk over to the incredibly complex lighting system that exists in India. For those of you who have not been here each light has its own individual switch and they are usually not marked – creating a myriad of options – my office has 24 switches alone on one main wall. This is to conserve energy I’m sure, which is a good thing, but makes it complicated to simply switch on a light. So I turn a whole row on, just like that – ah the power of not feeling helpless! – and immediately all the office computers go dark and the hum of activity stops. Hmmm this is not good, everyone turns to look at the fool who turned on all the lights at once at the expense of the PCs. Worse yet we have our ambulance call center on-site 24/7 – yikes! Lucky for us there was no emergency call during the 2 mins or so that it took to get power back up and running. We have excellent IT support here thank goodness.

I did learn my lesson however, the simple one is that you can have good lighting or functioning PCs – but not necessarily both in India. And the more important one is that while in Mumbai I need to learn to be patient, to take things one step at a time and to understand consequences before forging ahead. Easier said than done, I think.

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