The Philosophy of the Really Good Kind

Ailen VegaUniversity of California, Berkeley

“It’s a silent philosophy in India: rules are meant to be broken.” Jackpot. Finally a fellow intern seemingly put into words what I was trying to articulate for the past few days. All the unspoken rules I had lived by my whole life were scrapped even upon my very first stumble into Mumbai. So in the spirit of his truthful words and my belated realization, here is a list of the “rule-breaking moments” from my experiences in the city of Jamshedpur: 1. The maximum amount of passengers per rickshaw increases until physical movements are restricted to breathing and nothing more. 2. Power cuts are reassuring. Even when the AC stops working, those shared moments of torrential sweat amongst co-workers, friends, and strangers is beautiful. 3. Asking a stranger about their religious beliefs is okay. Questions like, “ If you don’t believe in God, then how do you think you go on living life?” can bring a warm, comforting feeling to the existential breakdowns that often follow similar inquiries. 4. Good friends (the really good kind) are abundant* It is really this last point that has stuck with me and has helped me survive my times in the Steel City. I have rarely seen strangers become my friends this fast, and I’m not talking about the kind of friends you go out to lunch with every so often and only talk about the latest weather report with. I mean “hardy” friends—the kind that will wait by your side until your stomach pains from that chilly-infested side dish are things of the past or those that will help you swish away mammoth ants with a 10-meter wingspan until only remnants of the beasts are left on the bottom of your shoe. Maybe it’s a cultural footnote to open your arms out to outsiders or maybe it’s because in Jamshedpur, Jubilee Park and the sight of the steel plant can be rather eerie without a friend. Whatever the reason, I am glad to have company by my side that teaches me to laugh at the most unexpected things and to be open to new sensations, rhythms, cow-crossings, colors, and different types of pani puri at roadside shops. Thank god for rule breaking, or else I would have suffered a Bollywood version of a rather gloomy Dostoevsky tale filled with monsoon rain. * Usually, making friends is a mythical narrative for foreigners.