Friday, October 5, 2012

Home Away From Home

Tuesday October 2, 2012
Today is Gandhi's birthday and the very beginning of October, which means that I've been living in India for nearly three months now! And when I say "living in India" I very much mean that I'm "living" here. As in I have a residential permit with the Andra Pradesh government, which, personally, I think is petty damn cool.
However, when I say that I'm "living" in India, it could also be taken that I'm "living life to the fullest" and "living new experiences" and "finding the meaning of life." As of yet, not all of those things are particularly true. I'm still not sure what the meaning of life is... sorry. But I do feel like I'm becoming an Indian, or at least as Indian as a pale American ginger can.
I no longer have to psych myself up about leaving campus and going out into the Indian world. When I first got here, going out into India was an all day commitment. It was, and still can be, exhausting and completely over stimulating. We'd come back to Tagore dirty and irritable from being stared at all day. There would be some weekends where we just weren't up for india, so we'd stay around campus and if we went out it'd be to the more Western parts of the city.
Now I'm finding that I no longer need to be in the "right mood" to face India. I can just pop into the city or Lingampoli (the neighborhood close to campus) to run to the store or for the afternoon, and when I get back I don't feel like I'm totally drained and wiped out. Yeah, I'm still dirty and it's always annoying as fuck when people stare at me, but I've learned to deal with it. While it still bothers me, I've definitely learned to ignore it and go on my way.
In the first couple of days when we first got here one of the women at orientation told us that to properly navigate the Indian streets we needed a third "Indian eye," which Indians were born with but foreigners had to develop. While my Indian eye may not be fully developed, I think it's definitely there. I went to the grocery store in Lingampoli by myself the other day and I was effortlessly, consciencely aware of everything around me. I know how many people were walking behind me, I knew what type of vehicle was coming my way and how fast, but knowing that didn't seem to extol any extra energy. It was all just something I was aware of, as part of my environment.
Rickshaws in Lingampoli
One thing I still don't tolerate, and probably never will, is Indians taking pictures of me. I started a post about this at least a month ago but never got around to finishing it. We can be walking down the street, shopping for groceries, sitting on the train, and some Indian will pull out a phone/camera and blatantly take a picture of us. I cannot stand it. Sure, it might be different if we were living in a very small town where seeing a white person was a very new and unique thing, but we don't. We live in Hyderabad, the technical hub of all of India. Hyderabadians have seen white people. We are not a new thing.
So I just cannot understand their need to take pictures of me/us. What are they even going to do with the pictures? It's not like they know us. The only conversation they could have would be, "Hey, look at these white girls I saw riding the bus today!" And that would be it. There is literally nothing else they could say on the matter. They don't know us. They have no idea where we're from or why we're here. The only useful thing they could do with the pictures would be for he men to masturbate to them later, but that still doesn't make sense and doesn't make me feel any better about it.
When I catch people taking my picture I always say, very loudly, "HEY! No! No Picture. No," (sometimes in Hindi). Occasionally they have to audacity to pretend like they weren't actually taking our picture, even though I'm not blind and there are very few other things to do with a camera/phone when you hold it up to a subject, focus, and then press a button. At least some people ask us for pictures, usually with themselves or their family, but I still always decline. Again, what are they going to de with the picture? Hang it over their mantle? "Oh, and here are some white girls we got a picture with while they were walking down the street today!" No. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard/imagined.
Yes, I'm completely and totally aware that this is a cultural thing and I should probably learn to live with it, but I've embraced plenty of other Indian culture things. The thing about it that bothers me the most is that these people know nothing about me and they are targeting me purely because I'm white. I'm sure this would be a very eye-opening experience if back home I was racist and targeted others because of their race, but unfortunately I'm not. I have never consciencely reacted to someone differently because of their race and it just disturbs me to my core that I am not treated in that same manner.
Despite this chronic photography problem, currently the city of Hyderabad is beautiful. It's the end of monsoon season, so it no longer rains every day but all the plant life is a deep green and all the flowers are in bloom. The temperature warmed up a bit, but it's no longer as humid so I'm relishing in the change. Since campus is basically a forest, walking the 30min to class is actually really enjoyable. Currently, I'm pretty sure both of my bike tires have holes in them, but I haven't even bothered to get them fixed. I genuinely enjoy leaving Tagore a bit earlier and taking the time to spend outside to walk across campus. I am definitely not missing fall.
However, I think I will be getting a hearty dose of winter. I don't know if I've posted about this, but I was trying to work at an orphanage, either in Jaipur or Delhi, for the month we have off in December, but as it turns out I would've had to pay them over $100 a week to work there, so thats not gonna happen. Instead I think I'm just gonna tag along with my friend Terrence to go visit the Northeastern part of India. It's the least touristy part of India, so at least when people take my picture here I'll know its because they legit don't frequently see white people. However, it is going to be quite cold, which is really very unfortunate.

Saturday October 6, 2012
Being productive here is hard. I have very few things that I actually need to get done, but getting them done is always a struggle. This includes finishing blog posts.
The rest of my week went by without disturbance.
Since I wrote the beginning of this post, a whole four days ago, I've been reconsidering what to do with my Xmas break. I just don't know what I want to do with myself. Terrence has been trying to get my feedback for things to do and I haven't been very responsive. Finally I made him give me a due date to have things figured out by, but I''m no closer to knowing what I want to do. The biggest thing that I want to do here is just get back to the Himalayas, but that seems like a silly thing to do in December  considering that I cannot stand cold weather.
On Thursday during yoga, our instructor asked us to think about something that made us happy. My first thought was Chrysanthemum, but thinking of my cat in response to a question like that seemed dumb, so I chose "nature." Being outside makes me happy. I'm almost always happy when I'm outside... unless its cold. Then I am very unhappy.
Chrysanthemum in a box waiting to be mailed to me
Since I was already thinking about what I could do over break, I began to think that I should do something where I can be outside a lot. Unfortunately, my favorite environment is mountains, which, as I've already mentioned, are going to be real fucking cold in December. But then I thought, (and this was all during yoga. Clearly I have yet to learn how to "clear my mind") "well if I'm already in India why don't I just do what makes me happy and something that can push my limits?" In conclusion, I'm now considering spending Christmas in the Himalayas. Where in the Himalayas? I don't know. Will I probably have different plan next week? More than likely.
Maybe I should just fuck India and head to Thailand or something for a month. I've always wanted to go to Cambodia. Maybe Bhutan too? I don't even know whats in Bhutan, but maybe I should spend a month there? Perhaps I look into visas.
It already seems like this semester is going by so fast and I can't believe that I've got to go through another one after this! It just seems like "going home" is so far away, but also just around the corner. I'm a little surprised at how much I miss Maryville. Not the people, I miss them a hell of a lot, like I knew I would, but I actually miss my school too. I mean, I even miss Pearsons (our dining hall). The food here is consistently unpleasant.
Thats all I can really think of for now. I still haven't shaved my legs, so the hair is coming in real nicely. Its curly and blonde/ginger, so its not immediately disgusting if I decide to show my legs. Needless to say, I'm pretty happy with the results.
my leg

No comments:

Post a Comment