I better write before I get too used to it.
The honking, the barking of the dogs at dead of night, the cooing of the dove in the hot, humid afternoon, the bells from a nearby temple, the azaan from a far-away mosque in the wee hours of dawn, the chirping of the birds all morning and periodical cawing of the crows, and the relentless pom-pom of rickshawwalas ‘playing’ with their honks…. The sounds of India are overpowering to this India-born, who has come back to inhale her motherland’s air after breathing pollution-free, crisp, wintry Canada air for five long years! What was “cacophony” all my life is now music to my ears after living in a noiseless country for five long years…. I realized, I miss these sounds, I miss the salty, humid smell of air. I miss my home.
However, here’s a kind of reality check. Let’s begin by saying though I spent 80% of my life in India, after 5 years of being in temperatures below minus 20 most of the time, I wasn’t, just wasn’t prepared for the rude rays of the sun. The rays, the heat exploded into my face as soon as I landed in Kolkata airport, like a boorish hostess, with her eyebrows crossed, asking me to go back. But, hello! Ahem! My motherland should know me by now. If I’ve come, I have come to stay! Ok ? So take up this HOT, HOT challenge if you want.
My brown skin color neatly camoflaged the fact that I was a foreigner, even before the plane landed. I was not given the Immigration slip and a callous lady at the security stood up in shock, just short of saluting me, when she saw my passport.
These apart, I was a Kolkata girl! 🙂
Or so I thought! 😦
Riding autorickshaws and rickshaws, which I rode with so much elan earlier, and which my 80-year-old father travels in in absolute ease, were first blows to my confidence. I was physically and psychologically rattled after each ride. The next blow came when these vehicles sped across the small-intestined traffic like they either couldn’t see, or they saw the lolling pedestrians and roaring brand new imported cars at the last minute. Just that its a wonder how vehicles and pedestrians slipped around each other, just managing not to touch. As though they had an invisible anti-magnetic field that did not allow collision. Of course there are no lanes… There is no need for any lanes! We have a mature-thinking set of drivers in India, who don’t need indicators to know which way the car in front will go.
My second battle was the heat. Like, now I’ve forgotten what minus 20 in Canada, my home country would fee like, similarly I had forgotten what plus 38 along with 75% humidity would feel like! I thought we “sweat” in summers in Canada, untill I came to India. Here we do not sweat, we BATHE in sweat. And I am not overreacting. A person, simply walks back home from the bus stop and his shirt is fully wet with sweat and grime. It has to be given for washing. No wonder every household in India has at least one personal washing machine!
And maids??? How can I forget the maids? I was served food on a beatiful plate, made to sit with all kinds of mouth-watering dishes around me. Of course, I’m suppossed to eat all of that, or the hosts feel bad. At least taste each kind. And then someone actually got me drinking water in a tumbler, extended a tissue (they call it napkin here) and stood around me watching me eat. After every dish you have to appreciate the cook. Who doesn’t care for any tips, but just that you appreciated your food and enjoyed the taste. In fact, in a long time I’m in a place which doesn’t appreciate money. It values ethics, relationships, appreciation, sacrifices and hospitability much, much more. I’m so proud to say I rose from here. So what if I’m such an unfit in this materialistic world!
Neverthless, I’ve stopped thinking whether switches are turned off, or turned on, when pressed down, which side of the car is the driver sitting, and it doesn’t matter which side of the road the bus comes from. You just have to make an eye contact with the driver and he is all yours! 😉
A few remarkble observation for all you foreigners out there wanting to visit India:
Hardly any pollution!
Barely any garbage strewn around, at least in the big cities.
People have become litter-conscious with several innovative-on-going anti-litter campaigns,
No cows grazing on the roads: That’s a myth now.
Barely any power cuts!!
And the most important of all: I walked around in my kepris, long skirts and light T-shirts, (with a symbolic scarf around my neck) and I wasn’t raped.
However, there are still some factors in which India will remain forever green. No-regulations is one of them. Even if I was carrying the “born-here” armor, I stumbled at every intersection trying to cope with no-regulations. That notoriousness still remains. And street-smartness, that anything is possible. Armored with corruption and a no-implemented-rule society, the street-smartAsses still run the show.
It should take another billion years for corruption to fade into glory, after which India will resemble just any other country. Till then, let the uniqueness of my motherland make me proud, as I plan to visit her again before such an accident happens…