Even before the air hostess announces “Namaskar deviyon aur sajjano, nayi Delhi ke Indira Gandhi hawai adde pe aapka swagat hai” as the aircraft touches the ground, you see the homegrowns fiddling with the phone anxiously waiting for the network. As soon as the network strengthens a phone call is placed to all the people who give our day an edge of comfort and familiarity. In the hushed voice, we hear almost everyone giving instructions either to the driver or to the house help “Ek ghante mein ghar aa rahe hai, khana taiyaar rakhna”, “bhaiya, kahan par ho”.
Sar zameene Hindustan mein aapka swagat hai!
Swades Of The Modern Paradigm
At the immigration counter, you see the meekest of sheep on foreign land morphing into clever monkeys who are busy jumping the queues. Not sure when exactly they threw the manners in the trash. May be enough of thank you and welcome. No more, we have to tell our kids to talk softly. “Dheere bolo” has been the favourite instruction for the kids throughout the foreign holiday. No more, mothers have to keep the candy wrappers in their handbags to save their children from racial profiling as nobody wants to be part of a community that is ill-mannered or uncouth.
We Indians are essentially malleable; we adjust to circumstances and situations as quickly as the clay adjusts to the mould. And.
When in India, do as the Indians do
It takes a little while to unplug the foreign mode. The drive from the airport to home washes the glamour of the international stay/ holiday, it works like a silky balm formula that dissolves the makeup and you see reality more clearly. You breathe in your skin, and you do not complain about the traffic snarls, humidity, or waterlogging. We are friends with corruption, Chinese goods, Jugaad, moral policing, skewed work-life balance, dirty politics, and murky traffic. The idea is not to reduce Indianness to the narrow bigotry of our own blinkers but to accept things as they are.
Initially, for a few days, the heart struggles vainly not to think about the beauty of the foreign land. The beauty is breathtaking and incomprehensible. The beauty that can turn on the poetic expression, there you see the day dying in the indigo ink with flashes of orange in the milky violet sky. Everything seems to be designed and executed with utmost care and precision even God seemed to be biased with nature. The twinkling stars seem to smile brighter, here we don’t see them smiling too often.
Wondering whether it is human perversity that is to be blamed for the lack of everything that we face or is the ease with mediocrity. We are used to broken roads, or the traffic police spying from behind the trees to handover the traffic challan. We find beauty in our chaos. We understand the mess of this magnitude. We understand why Kanwar Yatra should block the roads in the peak hours as much as our foreign counterparts understand the regimented and regulated driving in the lanes. There process-driven system that can also, be unreasonable and appalling at times. Reminds me of a friend who had to wait for hours in the hospital emergency as she was cramping and bleeding from a miscarriage.
The unobtrusive yet inexorable onset of infatuation with a foreign land will hit you if you have to marry the place and stay there forever. Dating is good. Marriage is compelling. It’s a kind of devilish dilemma one has to face in life.
Settling in India vs Abroad has been a part of the discussion since time immemorial. There is an undeniable need to candy floss what they have and we are striving to achieve be it the quality of air or work-life balance. Europeans out at 4:30 PM on a usual working day and cycling in a clean environment with no honking from behind. This comes as a bit of a scrubber and as I wrap my head around it, I feel it is difficult to see it through a prism of a tourist.
I do not want to go into the rights and wrongs of leaving the country for good. I do not want to open up a whole new can of worms. At my age, neither there is deep-seated reluctance nor juvenile excitement. For a world that is increasingly fractious and divided, you want a happier and more secure future. The sentiment that pulls us close to the country has waned bit by bit, decade after decade.
For those of you inhabiting a parallel universe, here are the bare bones, everything is good if we stop comparing. Life is good where your loved ones and you are happy. There would always be a subtle and silent feeling pulsating at the back of the mind compelling you to compare.
Just don’t fall for it.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: Bringing India's Culture To Global Stage: Nidhi And Neha Ramanathan