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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

India blues

When I left India for the first time to pursue my Master's in Canada, we had an orientation program at the university for international students to get over the initial culture shock, which was quite useful because indeed my country's culture is hugely different than that of Canada. At that point I literally laughed seeing an option for students returning back to their countries to attend a workshop on what is called as Reverse Culture Shock. Ya rright! Like I need to be trained on how to feel home at home!

It has been more than 3 years since I have been living outside of my country, and I have known every single time that I come back what the term means. When you step into an unknown land you research so much and you gear up yourself for the worst scenario, but when you go back to your own home, you relax and assume things would be the same as you had last seen. You are caught completely unaware when things do not go as you plan.

Every year I look forward to December as thats when I travel home but the trip always leaves me pondering and confused to some extent. India is a chaotically progressing country. As I take the ride from the airport to my house, I see yet another fly-over construction, the tripled traffic in narrow pathways, the bizarre situation of a bullock cart, pedestrians and a Mercedes traveling on the same road where lanes are drawn out just to be criss crossed, some religious ceremonial song blasting on a loud speaker, men still urinating on walls right next to public toilets (why, why, oh why?), several big chain stores bull dozing on the smaller community markets and familiar neighborhoods gone to pave way for huge apartments. Once being a joke among friends that our neighborhood was more like a village, the progress now is to the extent that I am actually terrified of crossing the road swelling with vehicles.

As I enter our home, I do an initial inspection to see what has changed. My mom eagerly looks on and challenges me to spot the differences. As soon as I am done with that I always crack open my suitcase to show them the gifts I bought, even if it is 2:00 in the morning. As few days pass, I somehow feel sad that so much has changed without me being a part of it. The weddings I missed, the friends and family I am unable to see as they have moved elsewhere, the latest news and gossip which I am somehow unaware of, a kind of impatience with how things work very differently in India and most of all with how I always seem to fall sick when I get back home no matter how cautious I am.

Well, I have most certainly improved on preparing myself when I travel back home. I start on some of my medications right from day 1. Nobody wants to fall sick for half their vacation. I make special efforts to bug and bother all my friends and family and try my best to catch up with them. I listen more to whats going on on their side rather than going blah blah on Netherlands..:). I have realized that my city was perhaps the same even 3 years before. Mostly its my attitude and expectations that have changed.

And some things actually do get better. Home cooked heavenly food everyday, visiting favorite hang outs, watching Indian commercials (I know that sounds silly, but they are darn good), pampered by frequent visits from a chunk of family that lives 10 minutes away, friendships that get deeper and stronger, a few new ones and towards the end always the thought of never returning back. Does everything depend on the way you look at things? Then I chose to look at the beautiful marigold...:)


~Lopa said...

Your post totally reminded me of our trip back home, i could relate with almost everything you wrote about.
That is so true that we take things so much for granted, and then everytime drive from Airport to home is an eye-opening experience as we look outside, a different world than what we left behind !
When i was actually living there, i always kind of hated all NRIs with Mineral water bottle in hand and saying no we only drink mineral water, i always wondered why? You grew up here drinking this water, why cant you now? Aaah but only to learn on myself. I was very reluctant on that change, I wanted to be expactly as i was in old good days and i fell sick, for whole one week with abdomen infection, and my dad being a doctor kept advising me only to drink mineral water and when i argued what i always felt, he was laughing saying you have to understand your body, your system changes with climate adjusting to where you live over time and so it reacts to changes and you have to be cautious, so i learnt my lesson and my bro and cousins got one more thing to pull my legs...aah lopa, mineral water huh? You are no more eligible to be called "pucca Indian" now...hehe but that's fun.

Everytime when we take 3-4 week vacations, first 2 weeks goes into adjustments and as you start feeling all settled and back to known world, it's again time to leave !
I hate that feeling !

Hope you had a wonderful time back home, are you back already?

Aledys Ver said...

Wonderful post! Just like Lopa, I feel as if you were talking of my feelings exactly: the trip from the airport, the first minutes at home, noticing all that has changed and you weren't there, the latest item on the news that you don't have a clue what's all about, etc., etc.
The first one or two weeks I always look around, and spotting all the things that go wrong, I get angry and ask "why, oh why?!" When it's time to come back to Holland, I notice that those things don't bother me any more, and I am normally enjoying myself so much, especially with the people I love, that I can forgive almost everything I see going wrong. :o)

Presépio no Canal said...

What a wonderful post, Thamarai! ;)
Happy New Year!

Droomvla said...

Your post captured in words everything that I felt and went through when I went home for 10 weeks last April. I had what you called reverse culture shock. It made me sad on some level, because I felt that it was home but at the same time I didn't feel I belong there anymore because they have moved on... and yes, without me.

Thanks for sharing this! :D

thamarai said...

Lopa, soooo true! We used to tease the NRI's with bisleri bottles as well..:) Now being on the other side, I know how it feels..ya, right when things begin to settle its already time to leave..:(

I actually fell a little sick this time so had to postpone my trip by 10 still in Chennai..

Is it still very cold in NL? snow? I hope it gets better when I come back..:)

Aledys, ya the people..thats the best part..especially when you meet after such a long time there is so much to catch up on..and after all home is matter what your heart always has a special place for home..:)

Presépio no Canal, thank you so much..:) I hope the new year has been great for you so far..

Droomvla, thanks a lot for your comment..ya thats sort of how I feel sometimes too ,in the middle...!

~Lopa said...

Yep, very cold, and strangely it will is almost 1 month now with this white landscape, so not typical of NL.
I just want spring to start so that summer follows but whenever i say that, my colleagues keeps reminding, it's still January, February is also one of colder months and here whenever it does mostly it snows in Feb and March, so don't expect much, so i am crossing my fingers that as this time it snowed record break already, it should not be that cold anymore, now it has to go up and up towards the summary days...hehe yeah but who am i, i can only dream :)

As you replied late, i thought you might be flying back as what i remembered was you were coming back on 15th, so obviously you wont reply on 14th, lol

Ok so get well soon and enjoy your extended vacation :)

thamarai said...

Lopa, Oh man! So perhaps more snow when I come back..thanks for warning me before hand..stay warm and take care then..I will most definitely be looking forward to spring as well..:)

Orangesplaash said...

Excellent post..and what a perfect pic to end the post with. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it transported me back in time to my trip to India last sep.
The home coming feeling was overwhelming, meeting with family, relatives, friends and then getting to know the gossips that you have true!!
India is constantly changing at a rapid rate and so it looks new every time..have started to look forward to my trip thsi year already!!

thamarai said...

Orangesplaash, thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment..:) I think being an Indian you can even more closely relate to what I had discussed about..have a great trip this coming year..:)

~Lopa said...

It's 7 degree C today...yeyyyy :)
And all snow-cum-ice gone ! double yeyyy :)

thamarai said...

Lopa, excellent! Keep it that way please....:)

EFRUTIK said...

Thamari, I've missed you!!!!! Happy New Year I wish you all the wonderful things 2010 has to offer to you!!!!!
Excellent blog post. I really agree with you on choosing to see things in a ravishingly bright way. I had the same thought today in the shower as I did my morning routine before work. Yep, life is just like that and now especially realizing that I am a "young adult", yep there is a path forward only which I am in charge of. To make things better in life it is better to look at things in a hopeful way :)

thamarai said...

Efrutik, thanks for your wishes..:)..Well said girl! Especially at tough times I try to be happy thinking that things could have been worse!

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