Friday, April 13, 2012

So I was walking the dog the other day....

Now, before I start, I realize that in my last post I said I don't want to be one of those people who talks about their dog all the time and here I am, not one post later, talking about my dog. Quite frankly, it doesn't bode well for the future. But before I get flooded with comments saying, "Stop telling me where your dog took a crap and tell me about India!" this is a really interesting story. Er, well, maybe I mean, "This is a story." (I wish I could figure out how to do strike through on this.)

So there are many dogs in India--wild and domesticated. Since I'm in a fancier neighborhood, most of the pet dogs are pure breeds (dalmatians, pugs, labs, golden retrievers, etc.) We happen to have a rescued dog which is an Indian Native dog. She looks like a yellow lab, though, so she can pass in what I imagine are the higher doggy castes of India. But really, although she looks fancy, she is a doggy dalit.

Anyways, the street dogs are generally not very aggressive (unlike the street dogs in other countries--Bolivia, I'm looking at you!). Generally there seems to be an unspoken doggy-human social contract here where they don't bother you, and you don't hit them in the head with a giant stick. However, if you happen to be walking a puppy, then all bets are off. In fact, those street dogs will come after you with some ferocity which is why all dog owners seem to carry a special dog hitting stick when they walk their dogs. (I'm not kidding about it being a special stick. It's clearly some sort of purchased bamboo rod, not, like, some branch you break off a tree.) It's not as bad as I'm making it sound, I suppose. Usually in the middle of the day, it's too hot and the street dogs are pretty lethargic. They don't charge you with the same passion and commitment that they do when it's 6 in the morning and the streets are empty. Lazy dogs.

But I digress... the point I'm trying to make is that there are a lot of dogs here. And where you find many dogs, you also usually find a lot of dog poop. People are not in the habit of picking up after their dogs here. (Nor are they in the habit of doing that in any other country I've been too, except the US, so I'm not saying it to be judge-y or anything.) It seems to me people hire domestic staff and those people are expected to clean up around the outsides of their homes (you know, sweep the sidewalk and stuff.)

So I'm walking the dog and she poops in front of some guy's house. Now the house and small yard are enclosed with a gated fence, so it's not technically in his yard or anything. It would have been right in street in front of his driveway. Now, it's weird for me to walk a dog and let it poop and not pick it up. It just seems wrong, you know, because of social norms and mores and all that jazz that we live with in America. But, you know, if I don't have to carry around a steaming bag of poop with me as I walk through the neighborhood, I'm not going to. Plus, I'd probably be labelled as "The Weird White Lady who Carries a Bag of Poop with Her."

Anyways, the guy apparently saw us leaving this present in front of his house and so he follows me don't the street and confronts me. Now I don't deal with confrontation well, and I do feel guilty for not picking up after the dog (despite the fact that no one else here does!) So the guy is all, "Excuse me!" (in a polite way--it was actually a cordial conversation, not like I imagine the conversation would be if it were between two New Yorkers for example.) So here's the exchange:

Indian guy: Excuse me! Excuse me! Ma'am!

Me: Uh, yes?

Indian guy: Your dog just went to the bathroom in front of my house and you just left it there.

Me: Uh... yeah...

Indian guy: Where are you from?

Me: The United States...

Indian guy: Would you do that in your own country?

Me: Uh... no.

Indian guy: But you do it here in our country? (Here he gets a tad bit on the sanctimonious side.) You treat our country like this? We look up to you.

Me: Uh... I'm sorry, but there is poop everywhere here. I didn't know I was supposed to pick it up.

Indian guy: We look up to you. We go to your country and tell everybody how clean it is and how we should be that way. We want to be like you and here you are acting like us. (He gets that disappointed parental tone there.)

At this point I had several things going through my head. First, "Well, of course I'm acting more like you, I'm in India." I mean, there are lots of things I would do in America that I wouldn't do here--like wear a tank top, for example. Or take a taxi alone at night. Or wear a miniskirt or short shorts. (Okay, so I don't really do those last two things anyway, but it's the principle that I'm talking about here.)

Second, I think, "Postmodernist and critical race theorist would have a field day with this guy." You see, the whole idea of us (Americans/Westerners/white people(?)) being this paragon to aspire to, while their own culture or whatever is somehow wrong is very interesting. Like, would he have confronted an Indian person whose dog pooped in front of his house? I should start carrying around poop because I would do it at home? (I also kept thinking, "Yeah, it's also illegal in most cities to not pick up after your dog." You know, in addition to being considered incredibly rude.) Does he think that if I pick up after my dog, I'll start some new trend among all the other dog owners? (Quite frankly, I think I'll just be seen as the "Crazy Lady who Carries Poop.") Should I do it anyways because "it's the right thing to do"? I mean, there are all sorts of things that are acceptable in foreign cultures, but I wouldn't do them just because I can. Littering, for example. Or animal abuse. So many thought-provoking questions. Any thoughts, People Who Might Be Reading This?

If he had just gotten upset because the dog pooped in front of his house and he thinks that's gross, it would be one thing. But to frame it as "You should act better than we do" because, apparently, I should be better than they are, and to act disappointed that I acted in accordance to local custom... is kinda weird. I guess it's not terribly uncommon, though. It reminds me of the time in Bolivia when I was taking the bus back to my village and, as usual, the bus was running late. It was supposed to leave at 3 pm and it was around 3:15 and still being loaded. One very impatient lady kept yelling, "It's time to go! Come on!" and then looked at me and said, "This is the reason why Bolivia is not advancing! In your country the buses leave on time, right?" And I just nodded, but in my head I was thinking, There are a lot of pressing issues preventing Bolivia's growth and tardy buses does not even crack my top ten. (Though I guess it could be indicative of the larger problem.)

Anyways, so that's my story about walking the dog.


  1. Because you are in a more regal neighbordhood, i believe he woudl have yelled at someone else as well. The average person doens't have a gated home. I don't think it was him trying to put you down for being american, it was an opportunity to act like he was all that in front of you. Being Idnian, and having been there, and my parents living there 6 months out of the year... Indians are the reason India is in dissarray. If anything, he should have introduced himself and asked how you like it so far. ugh. My family would have invited you for tea.

    1. Thanks for your perspective, Rina! I appreciate your insider knowledge, because I really had no idea. Where do your parents live when then are in India? If you happen to be on the subcontinent in the next 2 years, stop by New Delhi. We can hang out and reminisce about the good old days (you know, the 90s.)

  2. this is my 3rd time to respond so I will make it short and sweet. If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?
    I would pick up the poop like a responsible dog owner. maybe you will change the habits of the people and make it a better atmosphere.
    miss you. AS

    1. For what it's worth, I disagree with AS and have always disliked the old adage about everyone jumping off a bridge... could we think of something short of suicide that "everyone" might be doing that would tempt us to join them? And I'm fairly certain you're not going to start a poop-collecting revolution. I do think you could start a revolution if you trained your dog to use the toilet. You'd probably be on Indian TV.

      It was a good story. :-)

  3. you crack me up dear, I love when you tell me what goes on in your head, if is very funny

  4. just so you know Ashley, it is not that easy to make a comment, I had to sign up for something, I had wrote a comment on your previous post about the cheapskates, but after I relayed my past experience with this issue, and I hit publish, it wanted me to take a further step and I was in a hurry so I didn't I just exited, I just thought you should know as you are taunting people to comment. Love mom

    1. Not trying to taunt anyone. Apologies to all 5 readers. ;)