Sunday, October 30, 2011


An old sweet friend wrote in response to my previous post, that if I hadn't given up quite so soon, perhaps I might possibly have found Nirvana in India.

My mother too finally said after I went on long India bashing session that perhaps her generation was more tolerant of things, more mature even. She returned from Germany many years ago and also found a ton of things unacceptable. But she stayed and she thrived.

I had to agree with her. This is where the whole spoilt brat bit comes in. I'm not very tolerant or accepting of a great many things. I may even be a malcontent. A total loser.

But I am what I am and based on that I had to decide.

Last night I watched the documentary 'Inside Job' a powerhouse expose' on the financial crisis that shook Wall Street thanks to CDOs (collateral debt obligations) and sub prime mortgages and a boat load of greed. And suddenly I was wondering about the place we had come back to. And Obama, who was the great hope for change brought back every single last one of the big wigs who were part of the financial collapse. Few of the people responsible for the mess are in power, making zillions, unscathed.

I knew all this in theory but it was all brought back to me in a capsule that was so hard hitting.

Now suddenly every investment is suspect. The rating agencies are paid by the ones they rate. Who do you believe when the entire world seems to be in the hands of a handful of immoral men? And the foolish Americans who bought more house than they could afford are claiming to be victims. How idiotic! Yes the mortgage brokers were unscrupulous but everyone should know what they are signing, shouldn't they? Everyone is so entitled here. So full of their own wants and desires. Everything is about consumerism, acquiring more, having more and more and more.

The point is...there are problems everywhere. Big, small.

Yes I might have lived in India and found happiness. And maybe even made a huge difference helping people like I wanted to do. I plan to do that still but from here. Still truth is I miss that I cannot help those people I was surrounded by who were so in need. And helping them was so easy and so fulfilling.

But the truth also is that life has to be lived every single day. Not in chunks of achievements that happen every so often. Certainly not in leaps of years and months when incidents happen that make life worthwhile--the birth of your child, gratitude, a life helped, a promotion, a new kitchen, a new car, a successful business deal--whatever.

Life is lived every single day. Every hour, every minute. The drudge of daily living, or the routine or whatever you may call it, has to be experienced at all times. It is with you all the time.

I loved the idea of India as a long term plan. The place where we stay close to our heritage, where our sons grew up with positive western influences and yet surrounded by and living in a country so rich in arts, crafts, traditions, rituals and people and food. There is vibrant brilliant color in every aspect of life there.

But I could not live in India on a daily basis. I didn't like the idea of the everyday ritual in India--I just could not adjust to it. It was a novelty for a few months at a time. But not forever.

Forever, as I said, is a very long time. In India the daily life makes my mind shut down, I don't feel free, don't feel like anything if possible.

In America, I'm not so sure about the long term. It's not a bag of nuts I fully understand with respect to bringing up children, especially. I don't know if I can protect them from the sex, drugs and too fast growing up.

But everyday, I feel charged here. Capable, free. Anything can happen is how I feel here.

And so this is what I decided to choose. Because unfortunately I'm just an ordinary person who couldn't look beyond and sacrifice the everyday for the sake of the long term. Having an unhappy mother wasn't good for kids no matter how good their surroundings was the wisdom I received from wise minds and tongues. I had to agree.

It was a revelation of my ugly weaknesses. It made me look deeper at myself than before. It wasn't a pretty sight but it was something I had to accept about myself.

Now that I know it, I just hope I can live with it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of stones and apathy

In the movie 'Outsourced', this American guy who had lived in India for a while gives advice to the new guy who has just arrived there. "Don't fight India," he says. "Let it wash over you. It's the only way to live here."

In India if you don't let things wash over you, they will hit you. Like a stone thrown in your eye. Some days it may be a pellet, on others it may be a boulder. On yet others it could be a flower. But it's always something. That is India. Now if you find a way to do a little dodging dance when you see a stone coming at you, you might be able to avoid being hit some of the times, maybe even most of the times when you get real good at it. It's an art staying for the flower, bending down and avoiding the boulder.

I wasn't able to dodge very well when I first got there. The stones hit me square in the face but then so did the flowers which felt like caresses of soft breeze. My highs were high, my lows, pitifully low. How could people be this way? How could they affect me this way....enter my life on a daily basis and affect my day this way.

Good sweet people, callous people, rude, horrid people. Why was it that in India they were able to get to me in a way I can only describe as intrusive. Completely. My life became an open house. Depending on who entered my day and did what to or for me, I was happy or sad or miserable or livid or...........enter any human emotion in the blank space.


This is good, I thought at first. Good for me as a human being to be this close to humanity--all forms of it. I tried to help the people who needed it. Some appreciated it, many didn't cooperate, others wanted more and more.

I tried to stay neutral to the people and circumstances that affected me badly. Its not a problem, I tried telling myself if I was almost run over by that guy, if the man cheated me of money, if that woman tried to sell me bad product, if the experience through security at the mall was harrowing at best. It's a good exercise learning to cope. It's good for the kids to know that there are so many different types of people in the world.

It was hard to dodge the stones that rained when we stepped out of the Hyatt after a Sunday afternoon brunch only to be confronted by a beggar woman and her three month old tied close to her chest. It became difficult when mistrust became the first emotion I began to feel while dealing with any new tradesman.

I started becoming a stranger to myself when I saw how I made appointments with people for 10:30 am and didn't think twice before staying away until 11:00 am and not calling to cancel. I had been stood up by so many people, it was no big deal to do it back. Sorry, I'd say to them. You came at 10:30? Wow really! Ok. I had to buy some eggs. Oh well, I'll see you next time. And he'd say ok, next time it is.

I had started dodging. All that dodging started making me apathetic. Apathetic slowly to that around me which would have previously made me cry, things that would have previously made me want to take a stand, make a noise. I realized that dodging was giving me more peace. I was surviving. I was making do.

The bad thing though was my apathy began to run into callousness. I became someone I didn't recognize. Mistrust took over fully. Lowered expectations became the norm. That and a sever case of disinterest in anything but that which affected me.

I had let India wash over me. I was back. I had become the survivor in India--the person who knows what cards they are dealt and learns to play only with those. I began to not care how many cards other people had. Most had less. A lot less. Some had more, a lot more. I became self absorbed only in what happened to me and mine. Kept my cards close to my chest and made the best of the hand I had.

Then it began to dawn on me that this was how I would now live forever. It was a choice I had made with much deliberation. I had persuaded my husband that it was the right choice. And now I was seeing him change too. He expected nothing and so when little he got he was happy with it. Fewer stones had to be dodged because he was already an expert at the dance. That and he stayed as cut off from society as he could.

What was pathetic was how much the few altruistic things I did made people gush on about what good people we were. If we were such good people, what did that make the rest?

Its not that people in the rest of the world are any better or worse than in India. In India as I'm sure in many other countries, various conditions of humanity are always close, always at the doorstep. You cannot glance in any direction without seeing the human condition up close and personal--be it ultra decadence or marked wretchedness. Its all there within arm's reach, sometimes closer. You can smell it, taste it, be in it. Its virtual reality extreme.

And all of it was changing me as a person. Not having lived most of my life in these typical Indian surroundings and later living in the US for fourteen years, I had thought I had lost touch with humanity, with my heritage, my people.

I wanted my boys to have a life where they could truly understand the world, truly be in touch with the human condition. And now I had it. My boys were thriving. The family--extended anyway was happy to have us back. Grandparents loved having the kids around. There were wonderful moments of joy.

But forever, I told myself is a very long time.

I came back to India for my family. If we went back to the US, away from this life in India, it would be for me.

I didn't want to change anymore. I wanted to be able to cry at the sight of a skinny, stray puppy. I wanted to feel a lump in my throat and feel the need to make a difference at the sight of a starving child. I wanted the soppy, un-cynical me back. The naive, trusting, foolish dreamer. The spoilt brat too, if one must call a spade a spade. I wanted all that back.

And so we returned. To Chicago. To the place we had once called home.

This may or may not be home. I'm not sure. I'm still torn. I miss the touch of all those human conditions sometimes. I miss India. Perhaps I miss an India I have created in my mind, an India that does not exist. Perhaps I am a big fool.

And so, I am not sure where is home or if there even is such a place for me in this world. But I plan to keep looking.