I sat in a friend’s apartment discussing the logistics of apartment hunting, and a number of bizarre differences in the selection process came to light. In the West, usually the higher up in the building the apartment is, the more desirable and likely more expensive it is. These higher apartments usually offer a better view and hence more prestige. In Chennai, she told me, the ground floor is the more desirable and expensive. The reasoning? Firstly, it is very hot in Chennai for most of the year, so it is cooler towards the bottom of the building. Next, because things have a way of breaking down regularly, one can’t rely on the elevators to always be working, so being towards the bottom of the building means you are not faced with an arduous climb when that inevitably happens.
Privacy does not exist in India unless an extreme amount of money changes hands, and even then, you might be lucky. In Lesson 3 we discussed the collectivist nature of Indian culture, how your life is not your own, and the nation’s insatiable penchant for gossip. If you layer the high density population over those complete lack of personal boundaries, you start to see how there could be a nation where there is no chance of personal privacy ever.
I suddenly noticed my heart racing and my breath getting away from me. I looked down at the page I was writing on, one of those things I would do to amuse myself while waiting, and it was filled with illegible scribbles, and not the fully formed words I was used to putting down. The hairs on my arms were standing at full right angles to my skin, and I thought I was most likely in a cold sweat as I was freezing to touch. Holy crap! I was having a panic attack! Me. Right now. I had a friend from high school who had them, which is the only reason I knew what was happening.