India makes you lose your innocence. Doesn’t matter where you come from. You will find yourself becoming aware of things that you simply never saw before. Things that existed before your very own eyes but you never gave much thought to, or even thought important. Situations are no longer just situations. You begin to question what you know. Who you are.
I once wrote a piece on how India has changed me. Well, in retrospect, that list was very shallow, an outlook from very fresh eyes. The inner transformation is the main business that happens in India.
I was recently sharing with a friend of mine- also a foreigner- just how in India one gets to experience every single emotion known to man in very many doses, consistently. If you do immerse yourself with the people, the culture, you often get overwhelming emotions of anger, elation, despair, hope, shame, freedom, pain, joy, pride, desperation, LOVE. An awakening.
My friend who has now moved back home gushed that she could live in India forever. Forever- a term you can only make when you have had some life altering experience(s). India makes one say stuff like that. It challenges your assumptions, it solidifies your personality and values, the things you believe in. You become open. You think a lot, then some. Some overthinking.
Just when you think you have the people, place figured out, you discover that you really do not know what rhythm, what beat you are supposed to follow.
India is where I officially grew up. Where there’s a clear distinction between who I was and who I am becoming. I often wonder what I can share here on my blog with my wonderful readers and followers while maintaining balance and at the same time revealing my own truths.
I have stayed away from writing about the sexual repression I have seen in this society. The desperation of Indian girls to have their own identity, the constant reminders every day that there are the haves and the have nots. The morbid obsession with looks, skin complexion. The lack of community and heartfelt warmth of people as is in Kenya. Where we really enjoy spending time with each other, doing nothing but talk. Laughing like fools, not caring about what grade who got, or what promotion one is about to get at work. Or what your background is. No thoughts or talk about the ladders to climb and achievements to prove.
My sister on a trip to Cairo, Egypt happened to chat with a university professor. And she asked the professor what in her view is the distinction between the people, what defines the people and separates them from each other. The professor told my sister without batting an eyelid- the rich and the poor. At the University where she teaches, the students are the rich, and they know that the others, away from campus- are the poor.
I got an education on class in India. That there are different classes of people and each group is somewhat aware that it BELONGS THERE. You see the rich Indian kids and upper middle class folks and the way they talk to the waiters, the drivers, the security guards. In a tone that sounds like barking orders or scolding a little child. In the offices you see how the cleaning lady and the guys who serve lunch keep going `Yes Sir’ `No Sir’ `Yes, Madam’. You see your colleagues doing this with the boss. You see this at the cinema when they keep saying yes sir to your husband. You try your best to understand. To learn about what the caste system did to the psyche of a people. How even today saying your surname demands a certain type of treatment. Maybe a respect. Maybe a disrespect.
This is going to sound very naïve, I know, I apologise. I come from a country where there exists the rich and the poor but the lines are a little blurred. You do not have your entire family being the haves or have nots. There will be the very rich uncle or auntie and there will also be that relative who is a driver, who is a shop keeper. Things are changing quite fast actually and we are heading the India way but rich kids and middle class kids have been friends for as long as I can recall. Going to the same schools, dating and marrying across those lines.
I have been dismissed in India by people who THINK they know me because of where I come from. It used to be unsettling till you realise that in India, where you come from is everything. The Jains, the Sikhs, the Tatas, the Ambanis, and the list goes on…What is your background?
How I lost my innocence? Well, because I cannot unsee what I got exposed to. Because I am now part of that system that does it too. I can differentiate between who is travelled and open minded enough to engage in a meaningful conversation with me. And I now know who expects me to be a stereotype, a caricature of being black. Who wants me to just talk about our runners, our wildlife, our apparently terrible economies. Those who think I must come from the set of Gods must be Crazy. I can now tell which saree is more exquisite and more expensive than the next. I can tell what is gold and gold coated. I know how to laugh appropriately for which audience.
I now see how some people try to compose themselves when they learn am married to one of their own. Like, how on earth could that have possibly happened?
I try not to judge. But am an empath. I get very involved with those I surround myself with. Whether they know it or not, whether I like it or not. I am a little weary of engaging people too openly about my beleifs, my opinions because there are so many angles to my statements that I will never truly understand how they are heard.
Would I go back to not seeing the things I now see? I don’t think so. I got schooled. And you do not choose your teachers. They come for a reason and when you are ready.