Friday, July 28, 2006

Going home

There is something that all desis really enjoy doing. That is going back home on vacation. One could be living in India in a different city or even outside the country, but home is where one grew up and left behind all the memories (and sometimes family and friends). And like all desis I really look forward to going home on vacation. Except years of living away from home changes you in so many little ways, that it hits you hard the moment you step out of your familiar everyday turf.

The flight:

For example take the flight back home. We decide that we will catch up on sleep to compensate for the last couple of sleepless nights, when we were busy tying loose ends and trying to finish our packing. But just as I begin to make myself comfortable in the cramped space of the airplane seat, the person right next to me (who by the way is always an elderly, somebody's parent kind) decides to investigate a little into my background, which part of India I hail from, who I am visiting and for how long, what kind of job I have, how much I earn, what caste I belong to, whether I am married and for how long (quick check into B and whether it is a good match), if I have kids and the reason for not having them yet, making me wish that I hadn't agreed to taking the middle seat while letting B sit in the aisle. By the time I am through hearing all about the various accomplishments of my co-passenger's son and daughter, and can give the IRS an accurate account of their finances, B is snoring, making any attempts at sleep quite impossible. But I still try. God knows how much I need this rest since the trip back home will be one of whirlwind activity with very little time for rest. And just when I think that there is a God and I am drifting off into a tranquil slumber, someone prods me in the ribs, almost making me jump out of my seat. It's my co-passenger. Well of course it is.

"Beta could you let me out. Bathroom jana hain."

Apparently God has a peculiar sense of humor and He's going to prove it to me through the duration of this flight.

Strangely enough I survive the flight. In fact I even catch an hour of sleep right before the plane lands in Bombay. When I wake up I'm sure there must be some kind of mistake. It appears like I've been transported into a different flight while I was napping. Where did all the passengers go? I mean the ones that boarded the flight with us. I could have sworn atleast half the flight comprised of bright young women dressed in the same way I was. Yet now in the brief span that I was guilty of sleeping, these women had magically transformed their jeans and T-shirts into beautiful ethnic garb of sarees and salwars, complete with jewelry and bindis. It is mindboggling to say the least.

First impressions:

So we get off the flight. The first thing that hits us (literally) is a blast of warm humid air that is stifling and leaves us gasping for some oxygen. It's like you're way up on some mountain where the air is very thin and you cannot breathe unless you make a laborious effort. Or when one steps inside one of those 37 degree rooms that we use for growing cell cultures and not being able to leave. By the time our body acclimatizes to the sudden increase in heat and humidity I become aware of my shirt suddenly sticking to my body. Suddenly everything is icky and sticky and I can smell the person standing next to me. That smell which I had almost forgotten, of stale body odor, sweat and unwashed shirts. Almost forgotten.

We get through customs. And I sort of start getting used to the throngs of people pushing and jostling each other. I almost begin to enjoy myself. I'm home. Back where I belong. I can identify with these people. Minus the body odor. And the pushing. The next thing I know there's three different men trying their best to wrestle my cart away from me. As I try to stop them from robbing me of my possessions I realize all they are trying to do is transfer my luggage into the bus that will take me to the domestic airport. Welcome home. Where people can be paid to do your physical labor. I take a ten rupee note from my purse, only to find the guy shaking his head and saying,

"No, no. No Indian rupees. Only dollars".

I can barely believe what I am hearing. I let B handle the situation. But I don't think he fares any better. We tell ourselves that we are in India now and we have to get used to the haggling and bargaining and the people taking advantage of you bit.

So now we are waiting at the airport for our connecting flight to Calcutta. And I'm dying of thirst. I tell B that we have to careful about drinking water and he is to buy bottled water to keep us from having cholera (which is what I've been told since I was a little girl). We see a guy selling bottled water and we get one. The price: Rs 30 (which I discovered later was supposed to be Rs 10). We drink it and comment on how bad the water tastes. Sort of metallic and salty. And then we see it. There's this place for drinking water. A mammoth sink with a dozen taps where people are drinking water straight out of the tap. And our man is filling a couple of dozen Bisleri bottles with the tap water. And then I knew. I had just paid thrice the amount to buy a bottle of tap water. And just put ourselves in way of coming down with cholera. Needless to say I didn't drink another drop of water, bottled or not, until I reached the safety of our home.

The flight to Calcutta is wonderful. They offer us three choices for breakfast. Three choices! I mean, I am so used to having a miniscule pack of pretzels thrown at me on the domestic flights in the US, that having to choose between continental, South Indian sambhar and idli and North Indian paratha and sabzi has me all confused and worked up. It was just beautiful. We were home and it looked like it would be a beautiful day.

We arrive in Calcutta amidst a whole troop of relatives that had descended upon the Dumdum airport to greet us. Thank God none of them had bouquets of flowers or garlands, unlike some of the others who were there to welcome home their prodigal child. The drive back home was traumatic. Cars zip past us without any regard for oncoming traffic. I couldn't bear to look out the window for fear of shrieking every second. By some miracle we reach home without crashing into another car, man or animal and without having anything crash into us.


Okay so I don't get to go home (as in my home) right away. Well you see I got married before I came to the US and my rightful place in India is my shoshurbari (sasural/ in-laws place). So I bear through the next couple of hours while we shower and eat and unpack the chocolates (before they melt completely) and stash them in the fridge. Then we are allowed to go home. My home. I immediately go on this exploratory tour of the house. Checking out each room to see if things have changed. Everything looks different. Different curtains, new furniture, strange bedspread. And everytime I go, "hey that's new", someone informs me that it has been changed three years back, reminding me that may be the only thing new there was me.

Sights and sounds and the smells:

We both lose our voices within two days of landing in Calcutta. Everyone tells me it is the pollution that chokes your voice. So we have to resort to hoarse whispering and a great deal of nodding and shaking of the head. And even though there really isn't too much of jetlag for some reason I always feel exhausted. May be it is the sheer strain of having to travel through such chaotic traffic, blaring horns, throngs of suicidal people who prefer to walk on the road than on the sidewalk, the heat and humidity and the constant exhaust from cars and buses that cling to the air and choke your insides. I suddenly become aware of a hundred different sounds that are around me at any given time. Sounds that I had started to forget. Almost. Like the cacophony of cars honking, as they honk on every corner before they make a turn just to let you know that they are approaching. Or the guy with the metal bucket who washes our car every morning and makes sure he lets everyone know that he is doing his job. Or the people selling their wares on the street "Didi ekdom joler dorey" (as cheap as water). People are everywhere. Yelling, shouting, making themselves heard. And the smells. Of rotting garbage. Of clogged waste-water drains. Of smoke and motor exhaust. And amidst that, of tempting street food. Of rolls and telebhaja (fritters). Of peanuts being dry roasted. Of deep fried shingara and spicy chowmein.

How the West changes us:

Well we try to claim that things haven't changed much and we're pretty much the same folks who left the country a few years back. But somehow we've changed. In subtle ways. Like now I have an accent. I swear I didn't try to acquire one. It just crept in on me. May be when I was teaching undergrads in the University. May be when I was just trying to fit in. And's just a part of me. And people look at you funny when you open your mouth. Like you don't belong there anymore. And I guess we even get a certain bideshi (foreign) aura about us which make hawkers run after us with handicraft items and try to bargain in broken english,
"Very good item sir/madam. You pay dollar?"
What is this obsession with dollars in India these days? So now we have two currencies doing the rounds? You can pay in rupees or in dollars?

And people stare. Unabashedly. You may be sitting in the privacy of your car and stopped at a traffic light. While the person in the car right next to yours will be looking into your car and just staring at you like you were from a different planet. Staring is not considered rude. And meddling in other people's affairs is normal.

The other thing that bothers me is our expectation of getting a job done on time. Like when I went to the bank to withdraw money from my account and expected it to be a real swift operation. After all it is my money and I have every right to take whatever I want from my account. But that wasn't meant to happen. Because they had to verify my signature which by the way has evolved a great deal since my signing days in India. When that posed problems they needed further identification, things like passport which I had to go home to fetch. And then there was this business of passbook and updating the information in that. And I get shuttled from one counter to another, one where they fill out the form that expresses the desire to withdraw money, to another where they review it and give you a little note that you take to a third counter where they give you the money but make you go back to pick up your passbook from the first counter. And all this while I am missing my ATM back in the US. Missing it bad.

Or the time when I walk into a store that sells kurtas for men. (Kimbadanti for those of you who'd really like to know.) And it's a little weird because you have to tell the shopkeeper exactly what you are looking for and he will "show" you the items that he has stocked which meet your specifications. And I stand there patiently waiting to be "served" and the guy is merrily chatting with another guy who happens to own a shop next door. Now we are spoilt here in the US. We are told things like "the customer comes first" and the "customer is always right" and people who are selling always greet you with a smile, they ask you if you found everything okay and if there's anything they can help you find. There is something called 'customer service' and I love it. But it is sadly missing back home. And while we wait and wait with the expectation of being attended to, the shopkeeper could care less. And that I cannot take. Not anymore. So I walk out. Without having bought anything. And the shopkeeper really doesn't care. How crazy is that!

Getting used to it all:

Two weeks into your vacation your voice comes back miraculously. And you are less conscious about the stares. And you don't complain about the heat anymore. You fan yourself with a magazine while you sit it out in the traffic. You have resigned yourself to being in a constant state of diarrhea. And you are getting the hang of bargaining. In the shops, in taxis, everywhere. Like they say, it's only a matter of time.

And all too soon, it is over.

And before we know it we're on a flight back to the US. And we're on familiar ground. Where it is nice and clean and pretty, and people are smiling and polite and the non-staring kind, and lines move fast and things work with clockwork precision, where the roads are wide and the cars follow rules. And it all looks and smells so familiar. So predictable. And there's no acclimatizing, no getting used to anything. It's like we never left.

I feel a gush of emotion as I see my house. Exactly the way I left it. I go in and check on my plants. I go to every room and touch my things. Exactly where I left them when I went to India. And strangely it feels very comforting.

I whisper to myself, "Welcome home".

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Blogger Dipanjan Das said...

beautiful post. i have not gone back to india after i came to the US as yet, but i can so identity with the subtle incidents that you mention. is this why nobody returns back home?

5:14 PM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

the sights, sounds and smells, (some however disgusting ;) ) made me all misty eyed.
but the ending of your post was something else! great post.
i wanna go home now! :(

12:01 AM  
Blogger erebus said...

you're SO right...
this time however I didnt lose my voice or anything.. not much diarrhea either (except for one day when I had a double egg double chicken roll from the road side joint... that was asking for it)...
I actually loved the whole experience to bits...
the accent annoyed me too... makes us stand out... but easy way to fix it is to not speak in english at all...
And the service.... my god the customer service... i think it is a calcutta speciality.. where customers are generally a pain... the fewer the better... anyway.. I'll elucidate on this later...

12:05 AM  
Blogger That Girl said...

i felt all of these things as well... leaving home for Canada...going back home...nothing can ever take its will ALways be that way when you go home....

reading up on how you say the west changes a person...its true... it does creep up on you...some people more than others..but yes it does...and what ive learnt is to take the best parts from each side...and incorporate that into your life...and you become a deeper and well rounded person....

i realised the first time i came back to India...that politeness is something i never really gave much thought to when i was living in India....i mean.. i was taught to be polite.. but the range was really India.....and then in the west.... it was so different.... i came back home..really ultra polite and held doors for people and smiled at passersby if our eyes met.....when in turn. .i was given a look that says..."DONT you be looking at me!!!" hahhahahaha...

1:14 AM  
Blogger Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

Hey nice post! I can identify with a lot as well ... It's been 12 years since I left for the US, but I've been back quite often. I find it's kinda like a switch. I "switch off" the US and "switch on" India (accent, expectations, everything) and boom, it's ok. There are occasions, especially when driving (yah, I do manage to drive here), or waiting, or when something that should be so simple just isn't working that I go, "What the bleep is wrong with this country?"

'Cept for the being careful about water.

And what is it about hawkers? They must have a special NRI sensor! I've never been asked for dollars though ... maybe it's different in Calcutta.

Anyway ... thanks for the thoughts!

2:50 AM  
Blogger Joyful Heart! said...

M, now you will make me want to scream at Laloo Yadav once more, this is that kind of post hahaha! Very nicely written actually! Reminds me, when we went visiting singapore for a week, initially i had this terrible feeling that our hotel room was simply too sophisticated!!!! in just 3 days i started yearning for creaky doors, (and of all things!!!) cows!!! not that we live in the midst of cows or anything, but it was a strange wish to see one :))

Jokes apart, there's no point blaming people who go abroad saying they dont wish to come back! I believe that certain basic amenities and services are or birthright as citizens of a country. And India is terrible terrible w r t that.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

I realised how much the west sunk into me, when I went back home and got all excited to see a cow on the road. I also realised how insignificant my photo of a man milking a cow has become. The man who delivers milk to my grandparents place apparently does that in front of the gate every morning.
On another note, did you by any chance take a peek into my mind? I was thinking of writing about this just yesterday, but laziness prevented me from doing so. Maybe I still will. hehe.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Kausum said...

I have found, crossing roads the most difficult and fearful activity, I have ever done in India. You are not sure, whether you will be alive, by the time you cross the road. And then you see, people nochalantly crossing the chaos to the other side. Till date, I have never been able to use do it without fear.

One of the worst things of staying in the west is the food, roadside food. When I and my friend S went to India the last time, we decided to have a party. What did we eat? Chinese from roadside stalls, Frankies (Roll in Kol) ,Chaat and Paanipoori. But this time around didnt even try to touch them, coz I fell sick last time. And maybe this is one of the things I will miss everytime I go to India.

11:54 AM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Very nice post.

The only point of difference I have with you, and all the rest who've commented up to now, is that this experience you've described here is not just a west v India thing. I think it's more about getting used to a new place and a new culture and, in the process, getting unused to where you come from. I say this because I've had pretty much the same experience within India, of course, minus the problem of the accent and all :-) Every time I came back from Bombay to Delhi, it would take me at least a couple of days to get used to the place and the people.

Very wel done post :-)

1:43 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

nice. i've been meaning to do a post on "home" for a while now (ever since i hit india a week and a half back, basically). the thought struck first when we connected through from delhi to ahmedabad, which is my sasurbari, and the better half sighed, "home!"

and i, walking into my parents' new apartment in gurgaon, was thinking -- "home is where *i* stay."

1:48 PM  
Blogger Bonatellis said...

wonderful :)

after a few years, what is most unfortunate is that your adopted home becomes your real home

3:18 PM  
Blogger Trevor Penn said...

WOW... Very very nicely put. Terrific read.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Joyful Heart! said...

CACOPHOENIX you too missed the cow!!! now thats a reason to smile!!

5:56 AM  
Blogger Kausum said...

I totally agree with ghostoftomjoad. Although, I did mention about my experience when, I come from the west. I have always felt the same when I was travelling in India.

My summer vacations, when I was young used to be mostly in Calcutta. I used to hate the powercuts (loadshedding), the heat, the travel on minibus, the long travels on local trains and the traffic jams. Not to mention, the frequent taunts to my accented Bengali from my cousins. By the time, I get adjusted to the fact, we are ready to go back to Bombay. The moment the train enters Bombay, I just loved the smell, the road, the cabs, and when I reach home, its just wonderful. The feeling of elation. Its just as you say " I am home"

11:20 AM  
Blogger Priya said...

I'm right here, miles away from home, like you. And I just dropped in to say, I have broken my silence, finally:) Jachhish naki Kolkata er moddhye?

5:05 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

Though I stay in India itself, but I am in a different city in a different state...and some parts of your post were exactly what I go through.
There's also a strange feeling nowadays, when I start for my home town, it is like I am leaving myself back here, and going on to become a daughter again...somehow sense my independence diminishing...

Btw: these women had magically transformed their jeans and T-shirts into beautiful ethnic garb of sarees and salwars, complete with jewelry and bindis.

Does this actually happen?

5:27 AM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

Btw: these women had magically transformed their jeans and T-shirts into beautiful ethnic garb of sarees and salwars, complete with jewelry and bindis.
Does this actually happen?
LOL Yeah aparna it does happen. They usually change in a stpover or something. But once I was in a flight that was late and you should have seen them. About 2 hours before landing there was a mad scramble to the restroom. People will go in with Jeans and tank tops, loose hair, make up and come out with nice, demure slawar and sarees, big bindi, kajal lined eyes, hair tied up neatly into a bun or plaited. The lady next to me was scrambling in her handbag for her Mangalsutra and another even had a bunch of plastic flowers she put up on her head. hehehe

7:32 AM  
Blogger karmic said...

Nice post. Living here has changed us. For me it's the accent too and for some reason it's easy to spot me as not "belonging" there (accent aside).
The stares bug me and I just don't get why there is this need to stare.

I haven't yet had to sit next to someone who wanted to know all about me and also tell me about themselves. Might change in the future though.

I miss my home here in about 10 days time, and in 2 weeks it's time to go back home or come back.

7:39 AM  
Blogger eXPerience called L!FE said...

how many times do you re-read your posts before posting??

So detailed and nicely constructed sentences. You should consider writing a book.

8:10 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ dd I don't know about why people not going back home. But the fact of the matter is I feel like I'm been torn into two all the time. While my family and good memories all remain in Cal most of my present life and what I have molded it into is based here in the US. And even though there's nothing like being home, you start to miss your life, your work and everything else that you get so used to over here. You start worrying about bills, whether the rent was being paid on time, if your plants are being watered....little things but stuff that are imp to you nevertheless.
@ the_girl_from_ipanema hey thanks for visiting. And yeah although some things are disgusting and bad, it still feels great to be home.
@ erebus "double egg double chicken roll from the road side joint" I would brave the diarrhea to eat that right now!
@ grafxgurl *lol* holding up doors and smiling....are you crazy....because that's what they would think you are in India when you do that.
@ gashwin thanks for stopping here. Yes one has to be careful about drinking water. Cooked food is less of a worry. And the dollar bit really blew me away. I wouldn't be surpised if the hotels and resturants would have a sign saying "rupees and dollars accepted here".
@ pearl "cows"!!! *lol* That is just great.
@ cacophoenix you too are missing the cows? Well I look forward to reading your take on this :))
@ kausum oh my God crossing the roads! I had compeletely forgotten about that. It is just terrible. i usually tag along with someone to cover me on either side and then run when they do. And yes it just gets harder everytime to expose yourself to the roadside food.
@ ghostoftomjoad oh yes, absolutely. Which is why I define home as where you grew up. And you can be going home from a diff country or a diff city within feels the same.

8:30 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ tabula rasa :)) It is hard for me to accept my husband's home as my "home" because I've spent 10 days after my wedding living over there. So everytime I think about "home" it is the place where I grew up.
@ bonatellis so you're back! The thing is your dreams and your present get so tied up with where you live that you get a sense of belonging. And that is hard to ignore.
@ seashells thanks!
@ pearl :))
@ kausum that's exactly the way we all feel. Going home.
@ priya thank God for that! Hope everything's fine. Don't know when I'll be going but may be next year. We have two weddings in the family that I'd really like to be there for. Dekhi....
@ aparna I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it myself :)) It is really very funny.
@ cacophoenix plastic flowers!!!*lol*
@ karmic_jay the stares are quite unsettling. I guess the only way to fight it is to stare back and hope that they will stop.
@ eXPerience called l!fe not enough it seems. I still find typos. And usually when I re-read something I hate it and feel like deleting it. So I don't go over it again. But thanks for the compliment *blushing*

8:53 AM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

Just for info. I found tis cool thing called oasis
It is this plant watering system. A tad on the pricey side. But absolutely amazing. I have been using it for my two dozen odd plants. It is one less thing to worry about.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

m: I am so tempted to get into a violent exchange of thoughts. So, after counting 100, I write without getting into point-by-point chatter -

I think those who live overseas tend to exaggerate it a bit. That is not to say there is no substance but the shades and hues are definitely a notch darker. I know because I have done this going back routine a number of times and made mental notes everytime. Likewise with my family members who are settled overseas. So, while I am totally with you on how the air smells at Sahar, I am not always with you on women undergoing a make-over in flight and then you totally lose me when you yearn for ATM. I mean, I have to scratch my body parts to remember the last time I went to the bank with a passbook and got it updated. Or is it that Kolkata is that backward? And if your signature has changed, surely you are not fair in cribbing about having to go back to fetch you passport, are you? In fact, those poor sods are doing you a favour by protecting your money.

At any rate, Sant Dnyaneshwar has said "jo je vaanchheel to te laho". IOW, let everyone have what they wish for. So, I am happy that you finally go back. And blog about the experience.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i should have made my point clearer -- i was trying to say i don't even think of my parents' new place as home.

9:35 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ cacophoenix hey that looks really cool. The last time I went to India I came back to find my fern and ivy dead from lack of watering. I won't let that happen again.
@ dadoji I'm sorry but I didn't have the patience to count to a 100 (I'm just too impatient to get into an violent exchange of thoughts here).
1. "I am not always with you on women undergoing a make-over in flight" Oh yes they do. By the dozen. I think I was one of three females on board the KLM flight who did not change. May be I was just catching an odd incident, but it happened and I was amazed.
2. "to remember the last time I went to the bank with a passbook and got it updated" well when I left Cal I had my bank acoount in a local bank, no big MNC. And yes it may be backdated and all, but they still do the passbook thingy over there. And sorry no ATMs either. But when I visited I couldn't be bothered to open a new account in a newer place since I really don't bank over there much.
And yes I understand the need to protect my money but they know my Mom very well who frequents the place and who has a joint account with me. But the excuse was a little lopsided because it was close to lunch time and no one wanted to be bothered to work at that moment and wanted me to come back in 2 hrs.
I really didn't make up any of those incidents. Nor did I dress it up in darker shades to make it sound worse. I love my home back in India. And I love the one I have made here. And like cacophoneix mentions in her latest, we really can have and love two homes at the same time.
Okay now I can start counting. One, two, three....

9:40 AM  
Blogger karmic said...

Re: ATMs. Now with the spread of cash networks like NYCE, MAC. I no longer need to worry about cash when I go to India. I can access my checking account from a number of places in Bombay and Pune (2 places I go to most often).

9:41 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ tabula rasa I apologize. Now I see what you meant :) I guess we all build our nests and reinforce it with love and hopes and dreams. And that becomes "home". Thanks for clarifying that for me.

9:42 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ karmic_jay looks like i need an advancement in technology :)

9:43 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

m: You see, that is why you should have waited a bit before hammering away at the keyboard.

1. "not always with you" means I agree this happens *sometimes*. It is not an out and out phenomenon as your post makes it out to be. Try analysing the demographics of the women to change. Patience, dear, patience.

2. MNC banks? WTF! Most nationalised banks have ATMs. SBI, BoI, Canara, Dena, BoB come to mind off the top of my head. Many of the scheduled banks do too. Exactly what I mean when I say hues and shades are a notch darker. :-)

Bank - okay, so now we are moving away from the "professional" way of doing things and moving to "know my family" way. *lol* One thing I *will* agree with is that if the bank is still without an ATM then the attitude will show in the service. We are talking about a state ruled by commies, after all. But that does not take away you painting things with a flourish. Lagi raho!

Nobody said you are making up stories but, without you realising it, you are painting a picture with a wide stroke and broad brush. If this is the impression a person born in India and having a "home" there carries then no wonder foreigners say about India what they say. I am reminded of "yeh India hai, kuchh nahi hoga" talk from *sigh* Rang De Basanti.

The argument is not at all about having more than one home. Have I, at any point in my post, targetted you for having a "home" elsewhere? I have not two but three homes - just FYI.

See, that is where counting comes in. This time, count first.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

KJ: "Nowadays" is so passe. I used my BoA card in India way back in 2001.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Sin said...

Nice! I always find the second leg unnecessarily noisy. And I don't even wanna think about the chaos when the flight lands in Bangalore. People just get up and start getting their bags and moving to the front of the plane even when the plane's still taxiing. Sometimes I find it amusing. And of course, it's a good reminder that that's where you belong. A place where there are no rules! And if they are, they're meant to be broken. :)

11:26 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ dadoji well I don't know if the changing into ethnic wear has anything to do with demographics. I couldn't tell. But my knowledge is limited since I haven't travelled to India in 4 years. So I'll take your word for it (since you've done the rounds way more than me)that not everyone does it.
Then the ATM thing like I said was not there where i went. Atleast not 4 yrs back. And i didn't have the time or inclination to go open an account elsewhere.
"painting things with a flourish" lol
Agreed I've been using a wide stroke brush but this was meant to be a funny post, atleast that's how I started writing it and that required some darker shades. But the impression I have is quite correctly portrayed in the post. these things do happen. But that does not make me love it one bit less. I recently read this blog by a Brit who writes about his travels in india. and he is disgusted with the filth and corrucption, but he just loves the country to pieces. One can tell, he adores travelling in India and is probably one of the nicest i have read about India. being able to laugh at the filth and mess and corruption does not necessarily mean that my love or respect or patriotism is skewed in any way. Being proud of your country entails being able to look at things objectively and tell right from wrong.
Okay and this was after counting *lol*
@ truth fairy the no rules and breaking what rules exist is fun when you are watching it as an outsider. But when you are trying to get something done, it could be frustrating.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...

The ensuing argument between Dadoji and M highlights one significant observation of NRI's. Their mindset / view of India is what they had last seen/experienced when they visited India.

M, your post does reflect a scene of India which you would have normally seen 5 years back. Now its a challenge to give gifts to people which are not available in India.

12:57 PM  
Blogger ghetufool said...

seems west screws up you immune system.
lovely post, but how very biased! if people interfere in your business, salesman doesn't sort of ignore you, it's not because they usually do so. it's probably because your presence can be easily ignored and somehow it encourage poeple to behave that way towards you.
we never faced the same situation here. sad, your writing, except the style part, was nothing new then a westerner's ignorant comment on india. though, i don't expect to read romantic emotional stories on india, but as a reader i expected some deep thoughts. how very frustrating, very light, very casual, very biased. taansh firingee type.

2:53 PM  
Blogger ghetufool said...

onething more, you might not have spotted ATMs, but we don't need to huddle in a bank anymore.

2:55 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kausum yes I have heard that. My parents were visiting last month and that is what they said too about getting stuff from the US. And I agree my entire mind frame is stuck in a India 7 years back and that is where most of my thoughts are coming from.
@ ghetufool oh come on now... I wasn't trying to offend anyone here. The piece was intended as a fun piece. Really. And basically the different ways I have changed, even though I claim that I haven't. I was trying to be honest here. As far as the Kimbadanti experience I am not sure if it was because my presence could be ignored as you pointed out, or just lack of interest on part of the shopkeeper. He asked us "ki dekhben" and when we said what we wanted to see, he pointedly turned away and continued his chat with his friend. All the while me and three other people with me waited hoping he would stop chatting and bring stuff out. But after 5 minutes we realized that he had more important things to do than sell his goods. So we just left. we did not say a word to him. We did but whatever we needed from a Punjabi store next door. Who's loss was it? Kimbandanti just lost one customer. For life.
Romantic emotional stories about India? Of course I do those too. When my nostalgia gets the better of me. Because while it may not be apparent but I love my country and city inspite of everything I say. This on the other hand was supposed to be a light funny post. But looks like it offended more than one person.
ATMs: I never said that there aren't any. Just that I was reporting my stupid experience of banking in a place that didn't have any.
Like you say this really was intended to be "very light, very casual". When did I ever say otherwise?
"taansh firingee type" *lol* this really left me speechless! Shotyi aar bolar kichu nei :)

3:26 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ ghetufool
BTW "lovely post" did you really mean that? Because judging by the way you read my post couldn't quite get which part you found "lovely". Or may be it was sarcasm that I failed to understand. Just like you failed to recognize where my post was coming from.

3:27 PM  
Blogger ghetufool said...

oops ki boro clarification! yes, when i say it was a lovely post, i mean it. i don't care about the subject, i care how you put it. even the crappiest logic is excellent if it is written by a seasoned writer.
but if the logic or topic is a crap, than it invites criticism.
i just criticised your outlook, not your writing, i don't dare to do so. i repeat, it was well writen, so it was lovely.
regarding light cannot kick a person and say "oh, i was just joking..." somehow you get responsible for your act.
by the number of comments you get on your post, you must be aware that your blog is a popular and well-read one (i am not flattering you BTW). you should think a little (though you are not supposed to...people who disagree can buzz-off) before you comment something on your place of birth.

i know a person who lives in switzerland for the last thirty or more years. yet you should see his zeal when he comes to india. for him it's the sound of life...for you it's chaos.

useless bantering from a useless fellow. don't listen.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...

I had an observation, M said that the salesman ignored you, and you found this irritating coming from the west. I would say one thing and ghetufool you are wrong about it, Salesmen in Calcutta really suck. I actually have seen much more of these, on my vacations to Calcutta and this is even before, I have been outside India.

I am not sure whether you have encountered a Gujju or a Marwadi salesman. They will treat you like a king, anyday better than even the salesman out in the west.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write very beautifully... And seriously to be treaded very softly upon... :)

8:13 PM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

i actually agree with kausum on the salesmen thingy- and the thought cropped up when i read your post first. In Bombay, customers are given royal treatment. salesmen will come in hordes, opening up yards of fabric and the salesman will even pose in a sari for your viewing pleasure only. in the US, you're left to scour the racks and find what you want.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Ekta said...

oh boy!!!
Ur post is scaring me!!
I am due to travel to india on my annual chutti too!

4:21 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

> Being proud of your country entails being able to look at things objectively and tell right from wrong.

That I absolutely agree with. I have been known to wake people up from their deep social and civic slumber. Anyway, looking forward to the next exchange. :-P

6:52 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

Sorry for the second post but-

kausum and tgfi: The hotel/hospitality industry in India is highly rated by foreigners and I have come to agree with them wholeheartedly on that.

6:54 AM  
Blogger eXPerience called L!FE said...

wow! i read M's blog because i find the content interesting to read. People who are complaining about the post, should not, as this is how she feels and its her blog. Do you guys really think that she has overrated things? I mean, i love my india, is great but lets be practical. Its fair enough for a person to come from abroad and experience a reverse culture shock becoz s/he is no longer used to the way things are here. And if there is someone who is telling me that we are as developed as US, well lets think again.

8:33 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ ghetufool I've told you this before that you should stop calling yourself "useless" and if I found your blog/ comment/ posting "useless" then I wouldn't bother to read/ reply or clarify.
Critisism I'll take gladly. Because everyone is entitled to their opinion and has a right to express it. Including me. And you really cannot compare my fun intended post to kicking someone, can you? I mean you kick someone to hurt/ maim/ disrespect. My intention was never something that drastic. And like I said if I hurt anyone's feelings then I am sorry. I wasn't disrespecting my country. I wasn't being a "taansh firingi". And I think the strongest people are those who can laugh at themselves.
I am not Indian by birth, but I am by heart. I am Indian because I think I am. And my sense of love and pride is no less than yours. I can also look at both sides of a coin and not blindly support something, just for the heck of doing so. And that does not make me any less Indian than you are.
I'm glad so many people read my blog. And I'm glad you do too. I appreciate opinions from everyone and nowhere say that right and wrong is like black and white. We exist because of shades of grey. And I hope we can let these shades assume their own hue. I sincerely hope this does not stop you from reading my blog. Thanks for being here ghetufool. I appreciate it.
@ kausum I'm glad you brought that up. Even in Calcutta I've seen non-Bengali salesmen try much harder to make a sale than their Bong counterparts. Bongs are lazy by nature (I know this will bring the house down) and happy go lucky. They just don't seem to be cut out for business. They have afternoon siestas when shops close. This is business we are talking about. And business should be open no matter when the customer chooses to come. In Cal it is more like a sellers market where buyers cater to the people who sell. While it is the reverse everywhere else.
@ gk thanks for stopping here. And thanks again!
@ the_girl_from_ipanema oh I agree too. The way some salesmen treat you in India is wonderful. They cater to your whims, your interest and go to any lengths to make a sale. And I think it is because they genuinely care about making a sale. But when I was writing about that it was just an incident that happened in Calcutta. may be it was an isolated incident but I have seen that happen many times in cal where the salesman seems very disinterested in making an effort. I guess it is a Bong thing. And please before people jump my throat let me say I adore and love Bongs and have nothing gaainst them. this is just my observation and my opinion. I do not claim it to be an absolute fact!
@ ekta hey this wasn't meant to be scary. Honestly I love the exerience. It is amusing and unexpected. But fun nevertheless.
@ dadoji so here we are again *lol* in "violent agreement". Oh I just love that phrase you came up with. Looking too!
@ shashank hey thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm glad you understand where I'm coming from. And honestly I wasn't really cracking jokes and poking fun at India and the culture. I was just trying to say how people and their outlook changes when they are away for a while and when one encounters it how amusing things can be. I'm sorry it didn't come out the way I had hoped it would. But then I'm glad some people enjoyed reading it.

9:21 AM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

quoting e.c.l,
Its fair enough for a person to come from abroad and experience a reverse culture shock becoz s/he is no longer used to the way things are here.

superbly put.

nice work M.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Kausum said...

Dadoji, I never commented on the Hotel/Hospitality industry.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

m: Well, the agreement is rather mild here and the violent part stronger. But usually it is the other way round.

kausum: Of course you didn't. I was simply providing info on a related note. Cheers!

10:03 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ the_girl_from_ipanema thanks!
@ dadoji well I can almost see ourselves getting into more such "agreements" in the future. Take care!

1:01 PM  
Blogger P said... well written..
I want to go home...Now.....

1:05 PM  
Blogger ghetufool said...

why should i stop coming here? i like your writing, we may differ on some...we might agree somewhere.
besides there is no id or password to enter in this site. it's public!!!
no hard feelings

1:09 PM  
Blogger twip said...

I think I am mildly clautraphobic, and when I go back to India, the sheer number of people increase my claustraphobia to alarming propotions, but everything becomes normal after a week, just like you get used to it somehow and then its time to return.

Lovely post.

6:09 PM  
Blogger twip said...


6:09 PM  
Blogger Jinguchakka said...

Is the topic that makes this post very much readable or is it the way you write makes me feel the pangs of motherland?
A mix of both.
Good one.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Oh man!
After reading all this am now tempted to take the next flight to bombay!!
U got me nostalgic here lady!

9:00 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ perspective inc. thank you and welcome to my blog!
@ ghetufool I'm glad!
@ megha somehow I just love the crowd back home. It makes me feel alive.
@ jinguchakka I guess its the "missing home" bit. Thanks!
@ anand go on...surprise yourself and your family. You'll never regret it.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

Very surprised to see this post penned by you which is strangely offensive and insensitive especially coz it comes from you. I finally managed to read it through after leaving it after the 3 rd para thrice but anyways here’s my (kinda long) comment.

‘The person right next to me (who by the way is always an elderly, somebody's parent kind)’
You do realize one of those ppl could be your mom and Dad back on their flight to India just overjoyed to find someone familiar occupying the next seat after spending some time in a foreign land and well if you really cant strike up a conversation wih the neighbour (unlike your friendly neighbours in US) plzzz tell them so I am sure if you would let them know they would understand and hold back their needs for visiting the bathroom in this old age.

‘Yet now in the brief span that I was guilty of sleeping, these women had magically transformed their jeans and T-shirts into beautiful ethnic garb of sarees and salwars, complete with jewelry and bindis.’
Excuse these ppl for they have been living for a long time which they don’t really identify with and crave to wear their favorite ethnic garbs rather than stick out like sore ABCD’s in India.

‘Suddenly everything is icky and sticky and I can smell the person standing next to me. That smell which I had almost forgotten, of stale body odor, sweat and unwashed shirts.’ I apologize for that too it’s just that they don’t have as many AC’s around in that third world country.

‘We tell ourselves that we are in India now and we have to get used to the haggling and bargaining and the people taking advantage of you bit.’
What can I say, I just hope you never end up some more interesting places in NYC or Philadelphia ever where they wouldn’t think twice before shooting someone and the term haggling assumes new meaning.

‘And then I knew. I had just paid thrice the amount to buy a bottle of tap water. And just put ourselves in way of coming down with cholera.’ Trust me if you haven’t had cholera after drinking the same water for majority of your lifetime another drink of it wont kill you.

‘May be it is the sheer strain of having to travel through such chaotic traffic, blaring horns, throngs of suicidal people who prefer to walk on the road than on the sidewalk, the heat and humidity and the constant exhaust from cars and buses that cling to the air and choke your insides. I suddenly become aware of a hundred different sounds that are around me at any given time.’
The heat and humidity that in previous posts were carrying familiar smell of home and made Calcutta seem alive couldn’t really have changed that drastically, mebbe its just you who has..

‘And meddling in other people's affairs is normal.’
You realize its this MEDDLING that makes you best of friends with your neighbours who for most people end up being more important than blood relations

‘And all this while I am missing my ATM back in the US.’
Excuse us again we are a third world country you see, but we are trying to get up to everyone’s lofty standards.

‘I whisper to myself, "Welcome home".’

And that’s why HOME never really felt like home coz you have moved on and changed in many different ways. I do realize that you probably came off more strongly in the post than probably you ever meant to, but please do read up one of your earlier posts to see how much USof A has changed your emotions and feeling towards a place you fondly used to write about as HOME. Sorry I was kinda going to ignore this post but I felt compelled to drop in this comment as soon as I had finished going thru the post, no hard feelings though.

7:23 PM  
Blogger nomita said...

Hey M! Thanks for stopping by. I know ive been too lazy to post! Actually am also badly caught up in the thick of classes and exams.. WIll surely start posting once im in the clear a bit :) Havent got the time to read ur posts too in a long time!! Have a lot of catching up to do..anyways hope ur doing good :)

9:11 PM  
Blogger karmic said...

Did your post about IMG and how West Coast schools respond to them is missing? :)

9:40 PM  
Blogger Sudarshan. A. G. said...

How many years back was this visit? Recent?

The individual sounds actually played out as I read them...

The metal bucket... the Roasting peanuts...


2:41 AM  
Blogger Madhooo said...

That was an amazing post! One of the best posts that I have read so far. I have seen lot fo my people experiencing the same.:)))

7:04 AM  
Blogger eXPerience called L!FE said...

M, please dont stop blogging becoz of this "controversial post".

Rohan Kumar - I dont know too much about you, but the only thing that i would like to say is that just as when someone goes to a new country/city (leaving his/her comfort zone) the person goes through what is called Culture Shock. You would have experienced it when you went to US for the first time (you might not have noticed it as generally its noticed more by ppl around you). Similarly, when the person goes back to his/her original place (again leaving a comfort zone, which the person created, no matter how long the person has been in that zone) s/he goes through what is called Reverse Culture Shock. M went through it, I went through it and you will go through it as well (most likely).

8:52 AM  
Blogger karmic said...

Rohan.. Don't be so touchy that India is not the same as the US in som many ways. Nothing wrong with that observation by M. lighten up pal :)

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, Quoting from Spiderman
"With great powers come great responsibilities."

Now, you just cant write a funny post which are your observations but you will need to pander to the whims and opinions of your readers, who need to lighten up themselves and understand the vein of the post.

I am not sure, but so far everyone has had similar experiences. Maybe, there are much more of such experiences when travelling within the country in India, which when you compare with these experiences are similar to a level and not coz we are going to a developing nation.

10:53 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Boy oh boy! What a hornet's nest this is turning out to be!

@ rohan I see where you are coming from and like I told ghetufool earlier, I apologize if my post appeared "offensive and insensitive ". That really was not intended, trust me. I was not being disrespectful and did not wish to hurt anyone's sentiments. What started out as a light and funny post mainly geared towards how people living abroad change themselves and complain about everything back home, seems to have had a more serious impact than was intended.
If you read more carefully you'll see I was trying to say how living abroad has changed me. The way I think, the way I look at things, the way I feel. I accept the fact that it is "I" who has changed. There's nothing wrong with the way things are back home. In fact I don't like it when I see things changing. I love the place because of the way it is and the way I remember it. But one grows unused to the everyday happenings when they are away. And when you come across things that haven't happened in a while you notice them. And you find them either amusing or irritating. In my case I find most of it amusing.
I mean my Mom who faces jostling in a crowded bus can complain about it and get away because no one will point accusing fingers at her. But I on the other hand, after spending a few years abroad dare not complain (even on my blog) because there will be people jumping up to point fingers and label me "snob" "insensitive" "offensive". Ha! After all someone coming from the US has changed and has such "lofty standards" that they must be being obnoxious to even say something like that.
What you failed to get from the post was my pathetic attempt in laughing at my ownself, the way I have started thinking and seeing things. And one can laugh at oneself without offending others, right? Or have we given up the right to do so too?
I know this comment is going to be long. The reason being I would like to clarify certain points you brought up. I don't now if you will have the inclination to bear with me here, since you had such a hard time going through the post in the first place.

1. "elderly, somebody's parent kind" issue: the entire reason for saying that was to say that I never get a goodlooking hunk come sit next to me. I mean what are the odds of that happening? I really was trying to be funny here.
And I always am happy to talk to people who sit next to me. I actually have a really good Canadian friend that I made on a flight. What I was trying to say here was the fact how most Indian folks view you first as a potential matrimonial element and enquire into your caste and marital status, then pass judgement on your personal choice (as in spouse) and then into offsprings and other irrelevant aspects of your personal life. The joke here was about something called personal space, or the lack of it. I'm sorry if that didn't come across here, but I think you're just being a trifle touchy. And the bathroom bit was added for effect. Looks like I'll never make it as a comic-author!
2. "ethnic garb" controversy: so you're telling me that these girls were missing out on dressing up and were dying to get into their fancy clothes before the plane touched ground. And that would include things like putting on mangalsutras and sindoor I guess. I'm sorry I so failed to realize that. My entire impression was these people were trying to impress their folks and in laws about the way they dress even while living abroad and THAT was why they changed before the plane landed. I'm sorry. I misunderstood and am happy that you pointed that out.
On an unrelated note, the last time I went I travelled in my jeans and came out of the airport in my jeans without worrying about how my image would be about a "taansh firingi" bahu. The reason was I believed that it was a more convenient garment to be travelling in. And had I wanted to wear my saree and jewelry I would have done that. Because I have done that too. I have travelled wearing a red saree and decked up like a Christmas tree without caring about whether I fit into the Western world and the way that they dress. I just detest hypocrisy of any kind. Where I come halfway across the globe in my jeans and then change two minutes before I land to show people how "Indian" I still am! And BTW that was also trying to make a funny comment!
3. "stale body odor, sweat and unwashed shirts" You found that offensive too?!! Now you're really beginning to surprise me Rohan. Third world country my foot! There's nothing third world about India. Not any more. And yes "third world" is so passe. "Developing" hmmmm may be. And that has nothing to do with personal hygiene and body odor. Also this was inside the airport terminal which was fully AC. So there! I wasn't complaining about the lack of AC, but identifying a smell that I haven't encountered in a long time.
3. "haggling" issue: they haggle before they shoot you in NYC and Philadelphia? About what? Whether they will shoot you in the head or in the chest? Okay I'm just kidding. But what you're going to tell me that you are not unused to the bargaining and haggling and find it rather noticeable after you return home?
4. cholera: "if you haven’t had cholera after drinking the same water for majority of your lifetime" I never drank anything but boiled and filtered water when I was living in India. I know it was ridiculous but we grew up knowing there are bugs in the water and one has to clean it up before drinking it. No drinking water was allowed outside home. When I mentioned the cholera bit I was poking fun at my upbringing and the way I was told to think. What you didn't get that? Nobody I know has had cholera in the last 20 years. So cholera is a standing joke. It just overemphasizes the way people going home from the US think.
4. "mebbe its just you who has" hey you stole my line here. That is exactly what I said. I have changed. Without knowing it. And when I mention the sounds and the smells I am recounting all that I am familiar with. Things that didn't bother me then or did not notice while I lived there but I do when I go back. And I'd be lying to say that I so love the rotting garbage smell, because I don't. And I cannot say I don't see it or smell it. Because I do. And yes I'm being candid about certain things which bother me. Not because I'm being a traitor or unpatriotic, but because I love my country and would like things to change wrt that. Is that being a snob? Or being offensive? Insensitive may be? How about plain honest?
5. "meddling" true the neighbors and so called well meaning folks are all great and like family. Or even more. But this was mere observation. Never said that it was bad. Just stating that when you grow out of the regular meddling in your life and personal space, it feels a little awkward when you face it again. Just pointing out the ways I have changed.
6. The ATM part I have already explained (somewhere above) and don't want to go over again.
7. "HOME": My point exactly. Glad you got something right here. Yes I have changed. The way I look at things. My present day life, my hopes and future are built around this new place that I call home. And by that I mean the house itself and not necessarily USA or the culture here. My present life revolves around my little island of two people, my work and house. And yes, it feels like home. When I go visit the house I grew up in, all I have are memories, wonderful, beautiful ones. Of love and happiness and security. There lies my past. And somethings are better left the way they are. My stuff still lies around. like my old hairbrush, T-shirts that don't fit anymore, books that I don't read, stuff that I don't need. But I still love having them around. To touch. To feel. To remember. They form my past, days that I treasure. But they do not have a place in my present or my future. And I am willing to let go. So that I can keep my memories intact. Yes I have moved on. Because life always does. Do I regret it? Probably not. But I miss it. Every single day. When I wake up. When I lay down to sleep. I miss my family. I miss my home. I miss being there and living my life over there. I'd ask you to read a post that caocphoenix did recently and asked if it was possible to have your heart and your home in two places. Home is where the heart is. And you cannot accuse me of not having my heart in Calcutta.

I'm glad we could both get this out in the open because I wouldn't want you to feel this way about what I wrote and not being able to say it. Once again I apologize if I offended your sentiments. It truly wasn't meant to be that way.
@ nomita hey good to see you here again. You really need to catch up.
@ karmic_jay yes I took it off :)) Wrote it in a rush of emotion. Thought the better of it later.
@ a.g.s. 4 long years back. Now wonder my views are skewed like kausum pointed out.
@ madhooo thanks for visiting here and patiently reading this long long post :)
@ shashaank thanks again :) And no this won't keep me from writing. I write because I love writing. This blog is a vent for my thoughts. As random as they may appear.
@ karmic_jay :) Take care.

11:39 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kk well like you say the post was meant to be funny and to a great extent the joke was on me and the others who go back to India with these changed perceptions. It wasn't meant to offend.
And sure I can write another post in the same vein on how amusing it is when you travel around India and encounter people who are different than you and how they react to you. It always happens when you encounter something you are not used to.
And for the record I also expressed how delighted I was with the three options I got for breakfast on the domestic airlines. Come on....that's something I'm not used to and noticed and made an observation. How is it no one even noticed that?

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, infact, I was only reading about the observation about food on domestic airlines. Man I was really hungry and so could not focus on the rest of the blog.

Come to think of it, Meddling is actually not desired even in India. You do not build great friends who are neighbors by meddling. We build great friendships by supporting.

Who cares "Chopra ke Beti bhag gaayi hai" and your neighbor comes to tell you about that when we can mind our own affairs.

1:34 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kk "Man I was really hungry and so could not focus on the rest of the blog"

3:19 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

@eXPerience called L!FE Well if you really want to know I have been in US for three years and the trip back home was a lot more fun all beacuse of those lil lil things that have been dissed in this post so well I am not too sure abt that reverse culture shock thing. Its all abt one's perceptions and how much one identifies with the place he/she has lived in for the majority of their lives I guess and that's where we all differ as individuals.

@karmic_jay Well I ma sorry there are a few things on which I shall not back off and India happens to be right up there on that list. India is actually unlike US in many ways and thank God for that. Sorry this just isnt my 'lighten up' cup of tea

@m Weel so much to say this could be another post just by itself. Its just that you've alswys happened to be one of my fav bloggers coz somewhere your posts always connected and part of the reason was that they were Inidan in their very genesis. I know a lot of ppl found this post funny but somehow I just didnt find myself laughing at the end of it. I thought twice abt droppin in the above comment and even thought abt deleting it once I had posted it but I really wanted to hear your side of it coz somehow this post seemed like a complete contrast to what you seemed like from every single post of yours before this. All I noticed were a bunch of rants leveled against India and you somehow seemed to gradually fit the NRI stereotype who sist around and bitches abt his/her country because of which they are able to sit around in USA with every line that I read even though I kinda knew I was mistaken. Nyways to add to what you have stated in ur reply.

'And one can laugh at oneself without offending others, right? Or have we given up the right to do so too? '
Yes you have every right to and I feel very strongly abt that subject too but you must realize that so do others

'Looks like I'll never make it as a comic-author!
I am ready to take bets on that one ;)

'I just detest hypocrisy of any kind. Where I come halfway across the globe in my jeans and then change two minutes before I land to show people how "Indian" I still am! And BTW that was also trying to make a funny comment!'
WHat you probably misunserstood as hypocricy was probably borne out of a genuine intention to light up a couple of familiar faces back home

"stale body odor, sweat and unwashed shirts" You found that offensive too?!! Now you're really beginning to surprise me Rohan. Third world country my foot!
Guess u missed the sarcasm there, ppl sweat everywhere so please dont make it sound as if Indians are a stinky unkempt and uncouth lot

'But what you're going to tell me that you are not unused to the bargaining and haggling and find it rather noticeable after you return home?'
Cmon I m from the land of bargaining and hagglin remember (New Delhi), its all a part and parcel of life (ask you MOM how much she furtively enjoys haggling with the vegetable and fish sellers in Calcutta)

'When I mentioned the cholera bit I was poking fun at my upbringing and the way I was told to think. What you didn't get that? Nobody I know has had cholera in the last 20 years. So cholera is a standing joke.'
And no I didnt take that literally but its hard for someone who has drunk water from those 'thela' sellers in Delhi and still ddi on his visit back home 2 yrs back to digest that joke

Not because I'm being a traitor or unpatriotic, but because I love my country and would like things to change wrt that.
I am sorry but I dont think you are at liberty to call India worse off just because your perceptions abt life have changed. India will and willl always be abt a lot of those things written abt in ur post and well if you want to be judgemental abt them in the light of your changed perceptions so be it

'Or even more. But this was mere observation. Never said that it was bad. Just stating that when you grow out of the regular meddling in your life and personal space, it feels a little awkward when you face it again. Just pointing out the ways I have changed.'
I guess thats exactly what I said

Well this post was a lot harder to digest because I have stayed in US for a while now but I have nothing but very very happy memories from my trip back home because there are always 2 ways to a trip back home. Either you go abt having chaat from the roadside vendor, travel in jampacked buses and walk around every single familar nook and corner in the stifling heat just coz you truly love every single moment of it or you sit back grumbling as to how bad it is 'here' and how things really need to improve compared to USA. I m glad you took out time to respond to my comment, I hope you have a better undertsanding of my views too. And no, never ever can I accuse you of not having your heart in Calcutta (even though you are still welcome to switch your loyalties to Delhi ;) )

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was amused by the post and the exchanges that followed. Although I did not get the humor in the post, I do believe that every individual has a right to their own perceptions. But there is this one question that keeps nagging me. Keeping your entire post intact, what if the two locations were interchanged? After four years, you go home to the US for a month and then return to Calcutta. Would you still be whispering "Welcome home"?

This is not to seek explanations or justifications on your part. Just a hypothetical question, more of soul searching for answers on my part!

8:24 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...


Since you feel so seriously about it, I thought I will drop my 2 cents.

I dont think, M was bitching about our country. I maybe speaking for her here, but, I thought the blog was all about her experiences when she was flying home. I have too felt such things as have others. We tried to compare things out here in the west to those in India and consciously or unconsciously we tend to compare. There is nothing wrong in comparing. Bitching about it would be a harsh word for this post. I have an Uncle who is settled out here in US for the last 30 years and once he was flying thru Mumbai 25 yrs ago and he got robbed. He still feels that Mumbai is an unsafe city. He may not know that Mumbai is the safest city in India for everyone. But thats his perception. Because, when u leave India, you have a baseline and u add your experiences to each one of them and talk. What M talked about was her experiences, maybe, as I had earlier pointed out things are not as she said as her baseline is 4 yrs ago. I could swipe my American Credit Card in 2001 in a restaurant in India. There were lots of ATM's in Mumbai by 2000. But, I wouldnt say the same was true with other cities. Maybe Calcutta didnt have lots of ATM till then. But you are looking at a single person's point of view who felt that would have made life easier.

May I ask you why do you think they are rants against India? They are rants, experiences and everyone has a right to tell them. I mentioned, in one of my comments earlier, the sad part of leaving India is youw ill have to forsake roadside food, for the sake of your health. Are you not ranting about 2 cities in US Philly and NY about haggling. So should that be taken as an offence when it is true to a certain extent but its not true for everyone.

You mentioned that you can laugh about it but so do others. Who are these 'others'? If you are non-Indians, who cares about them. They are not going to create a destiny for my country. Its we who would say and do. You are trying to put yourself into a pedestal and say its not good to do it, but what have you done other than protest against experiences.

Lets talk about changing into ethnic garb. First thing, is it necessary to change into an ethnic garb. Aint your close ones going to light up anyways when they see you. They will me more happy probably seeing you than your attire. Then why is the attire so important if it is not risque. Well, the fact is, the Indian Society doesnt look at it kindly. There can be allowances made for travellign from a foreign country, go home and change into an ethnic attire, but going to your inlaws with jeans and tshirt will not be taken kindly. It is never a question of wearing the ethnic garb here or to show if they are more indian, they just want to show that they have the indian values and the society in India makes a decision based on attire. Isnt that hypocrisy? Any you may argue, it does not happen everywhere, try to meet some tightly held gujju or Marwadi families and you will know about it.

First Rohan, our country is not a third world country, Infact try to visit one and you will understand there its okie and no one will complain. And its true, people sweat everywhere. But have you noticed the personal hygiene, you dont raise your armpits if ur stinking, you try to cover it. But lots of people in India lack those basic decency rules. You dont need to use a deo to mask it, but try to wear clothes or change clothes if you are really stinking. You dont belch, sneeze in public. Have you seen anyone sorry for that.

The bit about bargaining, I used to think the same thing, But I did observe on my visit this time, that If you get a fair priced thing without haggling, no one would like to haggle. Haggling is done, coz you think the prices quoted are high, not coz there is any fun in it. But, if you get the price, you think is right without haggling why not. This time in Mumbai, I saw numerous departmental stores where people of all walks of life come to buy vegetables coz they dont need to haggle and get fair priced items.

Its not only Cholera, it can be jaundice, Hepatitis. Btw, if you look at Aug 1, 2006 in TOI there has been Cholera deaths. Maybe you are not aware of it but they do happen. My friend ate roadside chaat and by the time my friend reached US, she was down with Jaundice. Hepatitis in all cities are very much prevalent. If you have not so far been affected then you are just plain lucky. Infact, its a known fact, that are immune systems start working as they were intended to when we come to the west. In India, we do not have superior immune systems but they infact are not good enough to detect diseases.

You never want anyone to meddle into your life and irrespective of whether you have been to the west or not. Your contention that Meddling makes good friends is total crap. Good friends are made from support etc not from meddling. Meddling into other peoples affairs is considered bad in India and yet you think it is how we are.

Try travelling in a local train in mumbai during office hours, you will understand what a jamppacked feeling is, I did that when i went there, yet at the end of the day, I went to my friend and said, I dont think my body can take that torture anymore. You will be surprised to hear my friend said, I cant take it anymore, I try avoid trains. And this is a person who never has been to the west. So these things are nostalgic yes, but is not plesant at the end of the day. You are lucky, you havent had a problem due to roadside food, but dont try to stretch your luck too much.

You are not being a traitor or unpatriotic, but being a pseudo - nationalist, who cannot bring himself to see that it happens and worry about all the things people would say when they read it. You do know, Satyajit Ray got the Lifetime Academy Award, but those very movies never won an Oscar, coz the govt decided that they could not be sent out as they showed the poor of India. This is the kind of mentality you have. Think beyond these experiences. I will say inspite of what M has said in her post, we still like India, because India is more than those things.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Mint Chutney said...

I SO got this post. I loved it M.

9:45 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Okay guys I think it is time to give it a rest. We all have different views and we're entitled to express them. But I think we've said and debated enough. And when you squeeze a lemon too hard and too long it gets bitter. And heaven knows I don't want that happening.

@ rohan I get what you are saying and don't want to justify my every statement. Because I have nothing to gain by proving myself right at the expense of proving where I disagree with you. And vice versa.
"you've alswys happened to be one of my fav bloggers" Same here. Which is why I value and respect your comments and views.
"even though you are still welcome to switch your loyalties to Delhi" *lol* not until I can get you to switch urs to Cal :))
@ anon "After four years, you go home to the US for a month and then return to Calcutta. Would you still be whispering "Welcome home"? " I don't know because I've never been in a situation like that. Always considered home to be in the place I grew up: Cal. Except last time when I spent 6 weeks in Cal I started to get these stirrings for my "home" in the states: my house, my car, my work.....things I never thought would take priority over what I have back home. But I think you start forming a bond, a sense of belonging where you base your life and it grows on you. So no matter what when you go away there's something that pulls at your heartstrings. In bengali we call it "pichhutaan" meaning something that draws you back.
@ kausum like I said we all have our reasons and views. But it is time I had a new post up here. What say you? :))
@ mint chutney good seeing you here. Thanks for stopping by mint.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Kausum said...

M, sure, go ahead, do some more random thinking and blog it. However, I see the next post up before I could comment. :(( Anyways, the woman has done it again, translated a Bengali proverb in English and used it .. :)) "Lebu besi tiple teto ho jaaye"

11:41 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kausum "tiple" noy, "chiple" :))

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And all this while I am missing my ATM back in the US. Missing it bad."
Where in West Bengal did you live? .

5:02 AM  
Blogger Wanderlust said...

i felt a strange gush of tears reading this post realising how you want to feel at home, but seem to feel somthing missing all the time...i liked best where you said "the only new thing is perhaps me" .....but i do disagree to the fact that there isnt good customer service....conditions have improved far more than just need to know what to say, and how to react and they'd get the me its lot more better.....whtevr, you heart laid back there in US so you're far more happy in the comforts of what is your home:)

7:08 AM  
Blogger ubergeek said...

So totally loved that! And it is so true. Home is where u grew up, but when you return back to your current home, that feels just as good too :-)

4:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

good one! and i have also seen the in flight transformations that happen :)

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

vERY NICE POST. I havent been back for 5 yrs (went after my Highschool graduation). But i remember eating anything and everything, it didnt matter how bad my stomach was. The smell and the humidity just hits you and takes over you. Delhi, i heard, has changed a lot in the last 5 yrs. I want to go back now!!!!

11:40 AM  
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