Reflections and needing to start over

My new friend Rajan is probably one of the best things that could have happened to me while here. He has not only been a friend, but a guide, both physically and mentally throughout my adjustement process. My friend Chapal from grad school sent out a mass email to his office in Delhi to see who has contacts in Pune. I’m sure I wrote this before. Rajan offered to help me find a place (I wish I took him up on that offer, but that’s another story). Through this, Rajan helped me get my ticket to Bombay, invited me to his birthday dinner, helped me shop for my flat (which he disapproved of saying that he could have helped me find something much better for much less – little does he know I plan on taking him up on that offer quite soon), and taught me some things about myself.
I was very surprised to be invited to Rajan’s birthday, after only meeting once. The party consisted of himself, his girlfriend, his other friend from work, and me. His girlfriend, Neha, is also one of the nicest people I’ve met here. She offered that I could call her if there was anything that I couldn’t or didn’t want to discuss with Rajan. Yesterday, Rajan helped me buy items for my flat: mattress, kitchen supplies, a bucket for laundry, soap, etc. I don’t know if I could have done all that without him. He’s studying for his CAT tests starting today, a test to get into a masters program in business. While procrastinating, he decided to friend me on facebook and read my blog. This is where he taught me something about myself. He said, via gchat, that my blog, presents a picture of India that westerners want to hear, that it doesn’t seem like I think very highly of India. I have two justifications for this, one because I’m still in a bit of culture shock – I’m not happy with the flat and I’m being a bit of a baby, and two because it is all new (the only part he said was true to its core was about the traffic and smells). However I did think about what he said. Most of my readers are Western, we think like westerners, and until now, I didn’t realize, or at least not 100% consciously, that this may be completely different than a non westerners view. I want to start evaluating what I write to see if I’m biased or sound too negative or too western. It’ll be an interesting experiment.
There are some really amazing things about India that I’ve encountered so far as well. I’m not sure I would be in as good spirits if it weren’t for people like Rajan, the folks in Bombay, and Chapal. I’m not sure if I ever would meet people who would go so out of their way for me anywhere else. I do feel truly blessed for that.

In other news, my flat isn’t all I cracked it up to be. I got in last night and it was filthy, there were cockroaches, many spiders, and an odd smell. I will start to look for another flat starting next week when I get back from Bombay. For now, it’s a starting point, a place to lay my head. A good thing is that it has mosquito netting, so I can leave the windows open and not fear bites and buzzing. Tonight was a little nice. When I went to get a paper signed by my landlord so I could make my fifth trip to the FRO office (the place to get myself legally registered in India), she sat me down while she prepared food. I watched part of the Matrix with her and her two sons – one of whom never spoke a word, the other who helped translate and who also went to grad school in Michigan. I didn’t only sit there while she prepared food, my passport and ‘C Form’ went around the whole family, I watched the last half of the Matrix, I learned and quickly forgot many Marathi words, I was offered and obliged to eat the food she prepared, I watched some of Animal Planet about a deadly snake bite, answered questions about myself and my family, ate some leftover Diwali sweets, and then my form was signed. I sat another 15 min, I didn’t want to be rude and leave right after eating, but it was getting late and I had to put my wet laundry out. It was a long evening. Their hospitality does not, however, change my mind about getting a new flat. It did make my evening enjoyable in an unexpected way.

It’s late, I need to write to some folks, and I wanted to go running tomorrow morning. Somehow I feel like the latter will not happen.

…updated…running did not happen.

    • Rajan
    • November 10th, 2010

    Hey Ana! that is so sweet of youl! THANKS for all those wonderful words 🙂 n don’t worry bout all the mess.. u’d be real fine now. the worst is over.

    • betsy
    • November 10th, 2010

    Hi dear. I am sure that your eye-opening experience with Rajan will not be your first. He and his girlfriend sound like generous and wonderful people (the connection with our dear friend Chapal pretty much explains that, of course!). That said, I also feel that your blog accurately reflects your perspective as you are thrown into a culture and environment that you have never before encountered in such close intimate proximity before. Of course its a Western perspective, and of course you notice the things that make you uncomfortable, because you just got there, you are inundated with information that is difficult to understand, let alone process fully. Some of the whining is completely justified- you are experiencing an intense cultural adjustment- which will happen as a cycle, over and over again, in different degrees, during your entire time in India. Living with an immigrant for the last 10 years of my life, I know, this never goes away. There are things about the US that are horribly difficult, UNjust, and demeaning for immigrants and citizens, regardless of their ability to speak English or not. The “little” things like the place being dirty… did I ever tell you that I thought NYC was the dirtiest city in the USA after moving here from the Bay Area?! You notice these things when you are in a different place. You have done an amazing job at being adaptable thus far! Your attitude is way better than lots of the hundreds of students that I ushered through this same exact cultural adjustment process on three different continents (and India was/is always the toughest of the 5 countries I worked in!!).

    Now, having said ALL THAT, it is also a HUGE blessing and a HUGE gift to be confronted with critical assessments of yourself from this new place you are in, and all those who inhabit it. More than anyone will ever learn from you, you will learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible through living in another country. I deeply admire you, and wish you all the best. Each moment is truly an adventure, and you are helping me remember that, even in my little comfort zone world of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

    All my love, axe and respect to you and to your new friends!

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