This picture (now lost, and replaced with something similar...), and its caption (from Kris 'n Anja's Evil Penguin in India travel journal - via the Internet Wayback Machine - damn broken links!) brought Shantaram back to mind.
|Is there anything as heartbreaking as cycle-rickshaws? No way we will let an old man cycle us around town in the 40 degree heat. Still, he's got to make a living. What can you do?|
This passage, in particular, came back to me. The protagonist is taking a train ride, and is confused by the contrast between the pushing and shoving to board and the subsequent politeness during the ride. He eventually realizes:
Now, long years and many journeys after that first ride on a crowded rural train, I know that the scrambled fighting and courteous deference were both expressions of the one philosophy: the doctrine of necessity. The amount of force and violence necessary to board the train, for example, was no less and no more than the amount of politeness and consideration necessary to ensure that the cramped journey was as pleasant as possible afterwards. What is necessary? That is the unspoken but implied and unavoidable question everywhere in India.