I never quite understood so well what it meant to be an Indian.To live in India.Not until I went away,only to return 2 years and too many perspectives later.Firstly I think,wholely my opinion,that being an Indian is not the same as living in India.The two do not evoke the same feelings in me.Secondly, I think I am able to understand the deeper significance that being an India has in my thinking,my life and the patterns that are forming in my life.
I earlier took everything for granted.I never knew of the existence of a different world,so for me this was always my reality,and an unquestioned one.The traffic never was beyond ‘irritating’ and I was perhaps one of those millions of nosey two wheeler drivers who would butt in their tiny vehicles in every possible space they could find at the risk of displeasing others and violating rules.The roads never bothered the hell out of me,they were just bad and it was fine to live with it.Festivals never had a special meaning,we have a large number of them and in my family we have never been too keen to celebrate in the authentic Indian way,so I have not felt specially festive on any occasion.I was never quite aggressive and aggressive and over-agitated people always scared me.Scared because it seemed to me like I always had to be the first in the line,always board the bus first,always have to be ahead of the pack.And the sea of crazy humanity made me feel incapable of being the go-getter survivalist.I am so not in a hurry to be anywhere and never felt that I have to ,have to be first to get something that probably everyone would get even if they got second in line.
America has plenty of extras as give-aways,no one is in a hurry ever.They know they will get that coveted give-away even if they reached last.Supplies never get over.But Indians know better.We are trained from an early age the art of survival ,be it the numerous tests in school,the hundreds of entrance examinations,the pressure to please everyone but yourself,the pressure to perform and give and not expect a lot.So coming back of course and observing is making a lot more sense to me.I know my fellow Indian who is scurrying away to catch that bus,even though he is the only passenger and even though the bus is waiting for him patiently,has the pressure of an entire family weighing on his worn down shoulders.He is running so that he feels he won it, he did it.He has to go work,make some money to feed the hungry mouths in his family,he is the hope of a lot of people,he is doing a lot and not for himself.I will hereafter understand his struggle.
If you ever happened to travel on an Indian road and witnessed the traffic,I think if you looked at that through my eyes,you would see how the traffic is such a good indicator of an Indian’s way of thinking.We are forever in a hurry,even before the poor traffic policeman has signalled to start moving,the autos,the bikes the cars,everyone has moved well ahead of the line and already started moving.They do not want anyone else to zoom ahead.There is a hunger in them,to forever keep winning.Though there is no competition.We just know that.We all know that.
I travel by an auto everyday these days,and I have to admit,I am scared.If I make it back home safe in one piece,it feels like a tiny achievement for me.The noise bothers me.But I am enjoying observing my people.My people who are always taking the wrong turn,breaking rules,forever impatient and hence endanger their life and other’s too,my people who do not mind getting into fights if their vehicle is hit for their own mistake.And on a typical Indian road,esp now in the season of weddings, you can see everyone from every walk of life ,very interesting and one of a kinf characters.The young and cool and their hep bikes,the old couples driving their old vespas and bajajs,the omnipresent autos in their notorious maneuvers ,the wedding procession with their loud,heart thumping music blazing out of poor speakers,the drunken friends of the groom dancing on the road and indifferent to if their procession is causing a road jam.
I feel lost in this swirling crowd of craziness,chaos and in this canvas where everything is a 100 times brighter,amplified and noisier.Everything here demands something from your own little quiet space, it is like asking you ‘Look at me,I am going to shove it in your face’!.I miss the eerie quiet and the sometimes boring perfectness of the American roads and most of all I miss the option I had to chose to not participate in it all and yet be unaffected.
But all these conflicting thoughts melt away the moment I see my home.The clothes hanging out to dry in the balcony,the familiar peace and quiet hanging low and surrounding my home,as if it is a island having its own distinct identity from the similar looking apartment homes.
Home is where being back in India takes precedence.And then ‘being Indian’ is just an emotion,just that,not too larger than life for me.