des vs pardes
two weeks after my last post about the homecoming, i am having thoughts about whether it is happy at all in the long run.
do i want to stay in india and wrap myself with the sometimes-overwhelming warmth of people? i could enjoy the local train rides along with co-travellers who don’t need a subject to start a conversation. i could share my recipes and kitchen experiments with my neighbours whose naughty kids would come home to play on the computer or watch the simpsons together. i could visit any of my cousins at anytime. i could have hour-long discussions with my sister in chennai about my new chudidaar or sari, or her latest chappals (that actually fit her size-9-feet). i could haggle with shopkeepers and autowallahs, and turn my balcony into an all year-round mini amazon. i could fight with praveen for who gets to read the morning papers first, and fix up dates with friends for a play or a visit to the british library at vt. on the way back, i could indulge in bhelpuri and creamy lassi (or the rs 5-hot chocolate), and sleep all the way home in the good old ‘local’ again (more on trains here and here). when it rained i could rush to get the washed clothes inside, my excuse for soaking in the rain myself. then i could walk over to the corner farsan shop and get steaming vada pavs and moong pakoras just in time for tea with praveen. and then we could watch a movie together and act surprised to find some of our friends in the theatre as well…
or do i want to stay here in the uk and better get used to the sometimes-overwhelming lack-of-warmth of people? i could still count little joys and be happy in my three-bedroom shell, which now cannot take anymore of the india i stuff in. i could cook new recipes and be my own judge. i could wish the english neighbours were friendlier (nick, is an exception though, a friend), and chanted something else apart from ‘morning and ‘day. i could wish it wasn’t so cold outside, so i could wear whatever i wanted. i could switch on the television to find nothing i can relate to, and promptly switch it off. i could walk around the parks and wish for sounds of children playing or a familiar face, and instead find dogs leading their plastic-gloved-owners (to deposit dog-poo safely in the respective red boxes). i could call just one masi/cousin a week and find the phonecards running out of time too soon. i could open my emailbox everyday to find no letters from anyone i know. i could be happy i have all the time with praveen and he with me, and all we could discuss would be our people 5000 miles away…
how many more times, am i going to have this conversation with myself?
on a somewhat related note, movies can take a whole new meaning when you are abroad.
you enter the moviehall to watch the familiar faces of actors that belong to your country, and you get to see parts of your country too if the film has been shot there. you get to see stories and legends that have been narrated by your grandmothers years ago, when you were fighting to keep awake and hear what happens in the end.
and when a good movie like paheli or parineeta comes along, with all the colours of rangoli and sindoor, the smells and tastes of dal-baati and puchkas, the sounds of rainfall, the bangles and payals, all jingling across wide courtyards that show the richness that is india, you know you have just been home.