After all that, you would think that coming back home to India would please the hell out of me.
But it does not. The problem is not the country but the people.
The disgust began in Sunnyvale which is so much like Indiranagar that I ought to have fallen in love with it as well, but that was impossible.
Because in Indiranagar you do not find young Indian men sitting puffed up in their huge SUVs, BMWs and other assorted cars driving around with such a look of smug satisfaction that they look like they are performing for someone. No, in Indiranagar, the young men are just cramped in their small cars (even SUVs here are small) and are so hassled with all the Metro work they look like they can’t wait to go home and cry on their momma’s shoulders which I suspect nearly all of them do.
Young Indian men in Sunnyvale (and nearly all of Sunnyvale is filled with young Indian men unless of course they are old and Indian) always hold their head high. Even in profile they look cocky. If they do manage to catch your eye and see that you are an Indian too, they smirk in a very unfriendly manner with a look that says, ‘Look at me. Look where I am. Look at what I am wearing and what I am driving. When you go home be sure to tell everyone about me.’ And they know you are an outsider because you are not sitting in your own car with an identical smug expression but are in a taxi and watching the world go by.
But may be I wrong them. May be they are smug simply because they mastered how to drive on the wrong side of the road and follow traffic rules like actually stopping – coming-to-a-complete-halt-stop when there is a red light. May be that’s all it is.
And with that I comforted myself till I reached the San Francisco airport where I saw many small dramas unfold especially with all the Indians boarding the same flight I was, to travel back to the motherland. It’s very curious the way Indians who live abroad and who are returning back home behave on flights. Performance comes naturally and inevitably.
Even a shrug is a well-thought out gesture. ‘Oh you don’t have another vegetarian meal? That’s okay, get me the chicken then.’ Shrug. Shrug says, ‘I live in America now, you get used to chicken, you know.’
Inside the plane, their body language is not one of someone exhausted and irritated by hours of being cooped in the plane but that of showing how ‘big’ they are. The longer the distance they’ve done, the more smug and bright their demeanour. Indians who got off in Hong Kong just didn’t look as smug or as bright as the Indians who continued all the way to Bangalore. The ones who were later going to Chennai needed two seats each, I’m sure. One for themselves and another for their huge ego! And I kid you not – they practically shone!
And when they speak to family, friends, co-passengers in their own tongue or in English, they are always looking around to see who is listening and accordingly brag.
‘I’m an NRI now. But so what? My son must still speak to me in Kannada, gotha (you know)?’
‘Howdu, namma culture bida baradu. (Yes, we shouldn’t leave our culture.) I was in the US for four years. Just getting back home. I feel I’ve forgotten Kannada, gotha (you know)?’
‘You are going to Michigan next Fall? (It’s always Fall – foreign season, you know) You passed the entrance exam?’
‘Yes, she is! Rhomba (very) difficult exam, you know. You even have to study differently.’
‘I went to Macau, man. For my vacation. Did you go to Macau? It’s beautiful. And you are coming from? Oh US? Where do you work? Intel? Oh super cool, dude! You must always be working from America then, no? Have these nachos. They are damn good. I really like Mexican food, you know. I love Taco Bells, man. You like Taco Bells? You must be eating Taco Bells everyday, no? (Taco Bells even in the US, very unsurprisingly, stinks.) So where do you vacation, dude? Try Macau. You will like it. It is super, man, simply super.’
And just when I almost dozed off in the plane, a man walked down the aisle and shouted out to someone on the other side of the plane. ‘Oye, car ka kya hua?’ (What happened to the car?) You want me to drop you in my car from the airport to the city? I can. Mera arrangement sabhi hogaya. (My arrangements are all done.) i-phone, yaar, super hai, mera i-phone. (i-phone, my friend, my i-phone is super) while brandishing his silly i-phone like some sort of bloody trophy.
It is really fatiguing to return to a country where everyday the play ‘Who’s bigger, better, brighter?’ is waiting to unfold.
But I’d be okay with that too if it weren’t for the staring game. Indians do it just because they can!
It is really tiresome to walk into a mall on a Sunday and have men and women alike and of all ages stare at your breasts just because they are big.
But as a lady psychologist I met at a party before I left to the US told me, ‘What do most Indians have? All the good things in life are totally out of reach for most of us. Staring is the only thing allowed to us. Is it any wonder then that we’ve perfected it?’
And as my breasts are definitely out of reach for all those dirty men and women in the malls on all days, never mind the Sundays; even that is, apparently, to be forgiven.
And so I’ve decided to entertain you with a Dolly Parton number because she knows exactly how much special/”industrial” bras (as she calls them) cost and what it feels like to be stared at just because you have big boobs and you try new looks.
And so I give you, Dolly Parton – definitely bigger. May be better. Almost certainly brighter. Thereby proving that I’m possibly a very different sort of Indian.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dolly Parton Live in London performing Jolene!
P.S. Nev, if you still read my blogs, thanks for sending me the song eons ago.