Relocating, albeit temporarily, to India has required a tremendous amount of socio-cultural acclimation on my part.
Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
In addition to the stresses of the spotlight– i.e my status as a highly conspicuous foreigner….. (video courtesy of Anecia’s amazing vlog)
I have also had to adjust to my new (read: uncomfortable) subjugated social position:
To be fair, Americans ascribe to- and are somewhat obsessed with- the gender binary. However, in India, the separation of genders applies to much more than bathrooms and baby clothes.
Womanhood dictates where you sit on the bus, demands a heightened level of physical modesty, moderates interpersonal communication, and shortcuts your right to be out past a certain time.
To be doubly fair, all of these expectations exist (on implicit and explicit levels) within the States as well. However, in the comfort of one’s own country, it is easier to pick which battles, expectations, and standards to accept and which ones to fight.
The west coast feminist that I am, I have to continuously remind myself that I’m not at home. And although I fall more in love with India every day, I have learned that home is in fact not where the heart is.
I am a guest in this vibrant, foreign, traditional land. And as such I must be on my best, most observant behavior.
Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” – Susan Sontag
I must learn to respect the social, cultural differences between my home and host country.
I must learn to adapt to my environment while still maintaining my own sense of pride and individualism.
In many ways, this social adjustment has been humbling. I have learned to differentiate between what I believe is objectively “right” and what is subjectively normative.
Once I realized my way was not the only right, holy, perfect, preferable, and [insert all remaining centralized, self-righteous adjectives] way, I transcended my own biases and began to enjoy India more completely.
I have a long way to go. To save time, I’ll admit defeat in advance. I don’t ever expect to understand India in its entirety- that would take a million and one lifetimes. But for as long as I remain in this country, I will never stop trying.
On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.” – Friedrich Nietzsche