Sharing a few lessons amongst many from my brief but memorable trip to Desh, my beloved, mad, magical homeland:
- With all of the infrastructural quagmires and chaos, India is superior to any culture I’ve witnessed in the way it bestows love and honor on its elders. Whatever we may feel about our elders, most Indians will refrain from saying it to their face, and this tact too is a form of honor, one which we often forget in the west.
- To understood how lonely life in the west can be, one needs to be surrounded by their own people in the east.
- The obsession with selfies in Delhi is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and shows almost no age bias. From aunties to nieces, they have best photo angles and Snapchat filters mastered. They also new outfits with each album. I can only admire from far as this kind of drive is impossible to emulate.
- Kindness is hierarchy dependent. People are confused if you are too kind in your tone to the drivers, servants and servers.
- Most Indians still prefer giving to temples and babas than to the poor. They think the poor take advantage or it gets lost in the process. How the God men and the deities wearing gold is seen as better than the poor having better clothes is lost on me.
- Secularism is becoming a minority ideology. Either us or them, once again, is a philosophy that either here or back home is lost on me. Quite a bit is lost on me. I do realize I am an alien in my own land but a content one.
- Thanks to Facebook, Most people I meet think, that my life is filled with rich celebrity counters and trips to exotic locales. When I tell them my life is actually quite mundane, without the evidence of a selfie of me washing dishes or cooking, they refuse to believe it.
- Our people are a sentimental lot. Their love, is only slightly greater than their hurt and only slightly smaller than their expectation. But as packages go, it’s a beautiful one.
- There is no hospitality like what Delhiites bestow upon their loved ones. They put their work aside, cook or order up a storm and mean it when they say, our home is your home. The west with its individualistic culture does a lot of things well but not hospitality.
- The growing hindutva movement to me is dangerous and is not the India I grew up in.
- Nearly all relationships are power equations. The person with more money dominates the conversation and sets the narrative that everyone else follows.
- Indians don’t laugh easily in public but when they do smile easily and those smiles are my favorite vista in India.
- People know how to share their food even if they have little. Find the poorest man and sit next to him. You won’t go hungry and yes, you may end up giving him most of the money in your wallet but you won’t go hungry:).
- There is no cuisine like the Indian cuisine. It’s a metaphor for the country itself: diverse, complex and decadent and impossible to deconstruct.
I have learnt that I have a complicated relationship with my motherland. I can’t live in it, but wherever I go, it travels with me and every year, unfailingly calls me back.