Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I've often wondered about India and what it means. How do you define a country with a gazillion languages that come from 4. FOUR. language families, over a billion people with all kinds of races, with varying skin colours, hair types, eye hues, leg shapes, living over a mass of land that has all kindsa terrain, from snow-throughout-the-year to blazing-hot deserts complete with baked bits of land and colorful tribes with cracked lips?? HOW HOW HOW??

Wondering why I would even bother to define India? I have this overwhelming need to box things/people/ideas/concepts to begin to understand them. Yea, they can meander into deeper meaninglessness later on, but to BEGIN with, I need a basic definition to comprehend it, picture it in my mind.

But with India, as time passes, the picture only gets murkier, more amorphous. My Personal India has evolved and even de-volved, got oversimplified on the rare occasions that it was IN MY FACE in a nasty, ugly way. I'm sure everyone whoz ever even spent a weekend in this country knows what I'm talking about it. India is just like that. Some generalizations fit all the time and still manage to have exceptions all the time too!!?? I can only attempt to break it into pieces and collect as many as I can, stick 'em together and try to look for a coherent image, something WHOLE through these broken bits. I've tried it. But you know, its just like a mirror. When you look at broken pieces stuck together, they dont give you just one reflection. You end up looking at multiple bewildered faces reflecting your own questions, magnifying the uncertainty and chaos.

I've been going back and forth between umpteen different kinds of Indias for over a decade now. I guess my stint outside the country jarred me out of my narrow view of existence. The superimposition of my US years on my puberty is a sick cosmic joke...like I wasn't maladjusted enough in my own sphere of life, as if the hormonal shit wasn't confusing in itself!!! When I was away, I was more Indian than I've ever been my entire life...the good little silent wallflower. And ever since I've been back, I've had this overwhelming urge to be as badass as possible to make up for those lost years. Overcompensating? You betcha! I'm so much more "American" now. I cannot relate to my own parents. Okay, maybe thatz the generation gap. Fine, I dont relate to a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOT of my peers. I dont watch reality TV....lately, I just dont watch TV. I often used to have to pretend humming along to the popular tune of the day. I absolutely never knew which movie, which singer, who the actors were! I actually really do want the life of an average sitcom character (yea, deluded, I know). Recently, when I got excited that my parents were leaving me alone at home (finally!) for a few days, the girls in my office gave me really strange looks. When I half-jokingly said, "I dont even KNOW if I should get married," they winced and tried to hush me down. What, you cant see the scary part of it?? REALLY?? How do I relate to that?

And dont even get me started on the kind of "corporate" India I saw. Its mostly just a lot of young people with too much money at their disposal, working insane hours and partying everyday--can u call it partying if you do it everyday?--and calculatingly making and breaking relationships, seemingly hopping from one air-kissing friend to another. I dont get that crowd either and so many other crowds and so many other Indias...of a BILLION people!

This is the first time I've lived outside my home state of Andhra Pradesh...and let me tell you, its almost like living in another country sometimes. At work, I am again the butt of the translation jokes; I am often just either completely spaced out or end up with springwork-neck that has to move from one person to the other...in an attempt to decipher the expressions and guess at the context. Did u just call me 'bug'?? Oh...ur asking me to 'look'...RIGHHHHHTT (bagh=look in Marathi). What? Udaya(=tomorrow) is NOT morning?? Have I totally misconstrued everything in our conversations? Well, shit. And no, its not limited to the language, of course. There is sooooooo much more than just grammar and vocab that I am clueless about. Its often a whole different culture.

While all this was trying to bubble up to the surface for a long time now, I found fellow wonderers, questioners at HCU who've been just as confused exploring identities and evolving selves and shifting absolutes. And today, it gushed out because I revisited the words of one of my favorite people and her glimpses of India. When I read her words, I've often found myself yelling, "What the hell are you talking about?" or "I cant believe THAT is what you noticed. I've NEVER looked at it AT ALL." although there are many many "True dats" as well ;) It feels as if I'm reading about an India I've hardly ever seen; yet, I recognize the images. Its not my India...its the India of a woman who has set out to "see" India as only an outsider can...someone who has, in the process, become more Indian than us 06HEMAs at least. As greedy as I am for experience, albeit vicarious, can I even begin to imagine all the Indias out there?

The only comfort in this, sometimes, is the hilarity of things lost in translation. Sometimes, it's better when you share a momentary confusion with a fellow lost-soul. On rare occasions, it is amazing because you end up creating new definitions for your particular bits of India, coz it HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA ONLY TO YOU! :)


  1. Ah, the doctor diagnoses an acute case of verbal diarrhea.
    All said and done, we Indians are akin to frogs in a billion different wells.

  2. I can see you sleepin in ur armchair!


  3. I'm beginning to feel that way too, but about Hyderabad! You think you know some place, and then you start seeing it through someone else's eyes and start wondering how it could be so SO different. Ever since mom and dad came here, I've been experiencing a new Hyderabad. Starts with the different mode of transport (makes me actually long for those days of cramped shared autos). Mom wants to go to Lifestyle and all I can think is "go to lingampally and take a train..." And things that I thought were nearby (by shared auto) are suddenly not (by car). Technically living 3 km from the University, getting there is unbelievably complicated. The kind of stores I go to, the kind of people I meet... And that started me thinking of the kind of Hyderabad I experienced during BA... different people, different location, different perspective, same city. So many faces of just one city! And of course there are all those that I don't know about!

  4. Many refer to India as a huge melting pot of cultures and languages and what not. But to me, India is like a thali meal. The dishes and curries and sweets might not agree or compliment with the other. But to have the feeling of a good repast, a wonderful meal...each one has to be there. India is just like that!

  5. @Aneesh: I like the frog-well image...thatz another way of putting it, I guess :)

    @Sumanth: Yep...thatz me thinking way too much, going round and round in my head.

    @Swati: Its really strange how one small thing, like mode of transportation as u said, changes the way you look at things, huh? I used to LOVE travelling in autos, but now I positively hate 'em since I've gotten a bike...hehe. But yes, when the different faces of things r not confusing the bejeesus out of you, its a real wonderful feeling sometimes when you see an entirely new side of it.

    @Arun: Ohmigod, YES! The food angle...one of my FAVORITES :D:D:D I guess I'll look at thalis in a completely different way now. How much of history, region, weather and so much else we try and cram into one plate, huh?