But for real…
I think I’ve been surrounded by homogeneity for too long. Because to me, everyone looks Indian.
Not to say that everyone looks the same. India is incredibly diverse and many take their cultural heritage by state very seriously.
When it comes to distinguishing between people from different regions of India, I know the basics. People from the Northeast have almond shaped eyes and if we want to get mildly racist look more “Asian” because they are close to the Chinese and Tibetan borders. South Indians typically have darker skin and more pronounced features. Those are gross generalizations, and obviously, not always true.
This, however, is not my problem. I look at people who are not Indian, and thinkthey are. Forget about Bangladesh and Pakistan, the fact that they aren’t India is political not ethnic. While we’re at it lets forget about Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Burma too, because they would just be too hard for me.
Let’s amend that previous statement; I look at people who are not from the Indian subcontinent, and think they are.
I’m talking Africans, Europeans, and other Americans. People who are not even kind of from India.
This should not be difficult. Africans and Indians look nothing like each other. Indians, for the most part, don’t have afros. This isn’t coming from a preferential place, it’s just a biological fact. Indian hair doesn’t curl that way. It should be a dead give away. But it’s not.
Now come to the reason why I’m writing this post, Europeans. This should be even less hard. And usually it is. I feel like my Caucasian-dar is constantly turned on, I see white people everywhere. And I stare at them. In a really serious way. In a my-eyes-are-saying-“what the hell are you doing here" way. They just look at me and smile because they are probably genuinely stoked to meet my gaze because they’re white and white people love false kinship.
But today, my Caucasian-dar was been broken. Because a white guy walked passed me, and it took me a minute to realize he wasn’t Indian.
I noticed him from way down the street as I was walking to the highway from work. Did I mention that everyday I cross a multi-lane (if that exists in Indian because all roads are basically one lane) two direction highway to catch a rickshaw home from my internship? That’s another story, that I’ve basically already told. Anyway! This guy was walking towards me, but on the opposite side of the road, and he was mega studly. Like, beautiful, not even Pune-goggles hot, but actually physically attractive.
It wasn’t until he had already passed me, 45 seconds later, that I started thinking that he looked white. He had hair-colored hair for God’s sake.
*Side-note: For those of you who aren’t me, hair-colored hair is a mix of blonde and brown, you’re not quite a brunette and not quite a blonde, you’re just hair-colored.
This is another dead giveaway, because in India there are 4 hair colors: black, white, going-white, and orange. Notice, light brown is not on there.
Maybe he slipped under my radar because my brain is getting confused and it thinks everyone around me should be from India.
Maybe it’s because he was wearing an dress shirt that was most definitely bought at a makeshift stand in an alley.
The world may never know.
- Random Kid on Two-Wheeler [after seeing me fight with an auto wala over using the meter]: Do you need somewhere to go?
- Me: I have somewhere to go.
- RKO2W: Well do you need a lift? If it's somewhere close by I can...
- Me: No, thanks. I don't know you.
- RKO2W: You don't know him either (pointing to said auto wala).
- Me [laughing]: I do not need a ride from a 15 year old on a scooter.
- RKO2W: I'm 17.
- Me [jumping in a rickshaw]: Good for you.
what are some things you wish people would have told you? (other than toilet issues I assume lol)
I was fully warned of toilet issues, so that wasn’t a problem. On the other hand, I wish people had told me to bring laxatives, because you or someone you know WILL need them. And that you really should carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer where ever you go, because TP and soap are not always provided.
Also in Pune, where I live, the dress isn’t as conservative as I was led to believe. For example, my mom said "Maggie, you can’t pack those. In India leggings are not pants." FALSE. They most definitely are pants. So pack your leggings, yoga pants or jeggings because they look great under kurtis. Just no tank tops and nothing strapless, low cut or too high above your kneecaps, because if Indians won’t silently make fun of you other Westerners will. Also, Old Navy flip-flops weren’t the best idea.
That’s all I can think of right now because I should be working. If I think of anything else I’ll post.
Don’t worry too much about the water. Just make sure not to drink glasses of tap water. But depending on where you are brushing you teeth in the sink, showering, and eating ice are usually fine because some cities filter water before it makes it to houses.
I’m having trouble reblogging myself, probably because this is a secondary page, but did you see that number?!? Cause I did. That’s right folks…only 31 days until my feet are firmly planted on US soil—give or take due to the time difference, I’ve never been that great at arithmetic.
It just occurred to me that I’ve told a grand total of 4 stories about India. So in my waking hours when my internet has run out and I don’t have to do busy work for TFI, I’ll jot some of them down. I promise. I even have pictures to jog my memory so it won’t be that difficult. If I don’t I give ever single person who reads this (which can’t be more than like…7 people) to send me really hateful, aggressive messages.
Or feel free to send me questions in my ask box.
I’ve already gotten one about my Bollywood preferences. And to be perfectly honest, I haven’t gotten that into it. Every now and then I’ll want to listen to the radio though and it’s great.
I might even start a “things I wish people had told me before I moved to India” section, because there are A LOT of things I wish people had told me before I moved to India.
So I haven’t posted in a while. But I’ve done so many cool things that I’m too lazy to actually write down. I probably will get enough motivation to upload pictures and stories from travel week and random weekend excursions…sooner or later.
Mostly because I’m not convinced that anyone actually cares about my ramblings, because I’m kind of an annoying person. Also, I know I’ll probably forget all of the things I do here so I really should write them down if not for you, my proverbial audience, then for me.
The way I see it, if I forget my trip to the Aga Khan Palace, where Mohandas Gandhi was imprisoned for months, or the conversation I had with a guy who told me that he’d give me his wares for free if I kissed him (true story), then they didn’t make an impact on me in the first place.
Aga Khan Palace…just so you know
One thing I know that I won’t forget are the 40 or so people that I’ve been spending the passed 2 and a half months with. I told Cheney (my roommate, if you didn’t read that post) today that the people involved with the Alliance are my everything.
I’m about to get really corny, but I’m not lying. These people are my friends, my entertainment, my caretakers, my news source, my family, my connection to the world…
And one day, very soon, I will not be seeing them everyday.
And every time I let myself get excited about being back in the United States and seeing my mom and my dad and my sisters and everyone else from my other life…I get depressed. Because I know that they will never be able to understand me the way that these people, who I’ll only know for about .4% of my life (presuming that I live for 80 years—let’s hope THAT doesn’t happen), do.
In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ll be able to understand the people of my American life the same way either. I’ve realized how thoughtless and easy life in America is. I feel like I’m almost starting to resent having such a simple, non-challenging upbringing.
At home, I don’t have to wake up and make sure the water is working or fill up massive buckets for when the water, inevitably, shuts off.
I can tell the barista at my favorite coffee shop that I want a large iced americano and I don’t have to say “no milk, no sugar”.
I can wear clothes where baring my knees is less scandalous than baring my midriff.
Side-note: so much of the process of asking for something or giving instructions in America are implied. Maybe it’s the language barrier, but I’ve learned to be so much more assertive and explicit about what I need, on the brink of being incredibly rude.
I can walk down the street and ignore people who have nothing, because in America homelessness is situational. It’s usually a temporary circumstance, the product of someone’s (I’m not sure whose) poor decision making. In India, homelessness is institutional, it’s not a product of bad luck or bad choices. It’s a product of society.
I can also walk down the street and be inconspicuous. People don’t notice me among the American public, I can walk through a crowd almost completely undetected. There is never a moment in my life here when someone is not looking at me. I realize they aren’t trying to be rude, but it is. Middle-aged men should know better than to stare and point at strangers. Teenage girls should have more juicy and dramatic things to talk about over coffee than that white girl sitting by the window.
When heterosexual couples see me on the road, men don’t automatically think of me as a slam-piece and women don’t automatically think I’m eye-fucking their boyfriends/husbands…just because I have blonde hair.
It’s not expected that I serve men. If I didn’t bring my dad a glass of water when he comes to visit, he’d ask to get it himself. If I didn’t bring my host mother’s cousin a glass of water when he comes to visit, he’d chastise me or Cheney until a glass of water was in his hand. That is, unless we didn’t bring it to him on a tray, then he’ll say, "what is this, an ice cream parlor? Are you a waitress?" and distainfully accept the glass. All the while I’ll think, "you know what? You’re right, I’m not a waitress. So why don’t you get your own damn water?"
No matter who at home reads this or who I tell these stories to in America, they will never know how this feels or how it has changed me as a person. They will try, and they will be sympathetic, and I will love them for it. But since they aren’t here with me, I don’t think they’ll ever really get it. Even though some of them have and will go all over, to India, and Africa, and the Middle East (the ladder two being, in all probability, more heavy on the psyche). The same way I won’t be able to fully understand their experience, they won’t be able to understand mine.
With all that being said. I have changed. Maybe for the worse in some areas, but I won’t know for sure until I go back to America.
Which I really am looking forward to.*
I love India. I think it might be my place, if that makes any sense. I could probably stay here for a lot longer than 4 months. But to take everything in, America is a great, if not perfect, palate cleanser.
Not everyone…but pretty close.
*continued…eating Mexican food, using free wifi, playing in snow, wearing tights and mini skirts, playing with my friends, and seeing my mom roll her eyes at me, asking my dad fix something, talking during movies with Katie, watching Emma grow up…so basically everything that has ever mattered to me up until this point.