Saturday, December 17, 2011

Change in an Indian Family

Change is not easy for anyone. I used to think that people could change if they really wanted to and now that I've moved here I see just how difficult it can be, even if you are trying to change. I came to India with some very determined goals of things I would change about myself including:
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Stress levels
All of these were related to my health. A big turning point in my decision to come here was the extreme stress I was under in the US. I wound up in the hospital with the doctors thinking I had suffered a heart attack. (I'm nowhere near old I swear!) The doctor told me that if I didn't lower my stress level I wouldn't live a normal life much longer. I had spent years working on my diet and I exercised a lot but, felt it wasn't enough. I mainly felt that way because I wasn't losing weight.

Coming to India, the vegetables were fresher but I quickly found there was no real way to get much exercise, not even the amount I was getting before. So even though I've lost a massive amount of weight, a good portion of it was muscle. I was quite muscular before coming here. And even though he wouldn't like me posting it online, I could beat hubby arm wrestling and he has some massive biceps (like John Abraham sized!!). Almost all of that is gone now and some days I feel like my legs aren't strong enough to make it up the steps in the house. I can't work out in our room because there's no space and the rest of the house isn't much better. Not to mention I would look a little funny walking around with a DVD player hunting for an available TV and then everyone would watch me workout (or may just happen to see me) and I would be so own fault for only bringing Himalaya's Bollywood Booty and The Carmen Electra Strip Tease series so I have no one to blame but myself lol.

My stress level here is through the roof! It's not as crushing as my stress level in the US though so that is good I guess. Some things are not related to India specifically but India complicates them (like having to work online instead of an offline job which I really, really want lol....I will get a work permit soon though.)

My point is that even though these things have been top priority on my list they have been extremely difficult to manage. I actively work on all 3 but none seem to really be getting much better. I feel like that makes it easier for me to understand why changes happen slowly here (though I do still get frustrated waiting). I try to take notice of any good changes I see in the house and celebrate them. I know it is a massive change to even accept a white woman to come live in your home in India in the first place. For the most part the family treats me really well. The frustration comes in when their efforts to treat me well get combined with their fear of change or acceptance of the differences.

I don't doubt one bit that it's scary to all of a sudden stand out in a culture where blending in and being like everyone else is the norm. Before I come here this family worked hard to make sure they weren't known as anything bad in the neighborhood (i.e. they weren't the drunks, the bitches, the drama queens, the sluts, etc.) I noticed that people in this neighborhood are very quick to judge people and label them in crazy ways. One that really kills me is the teenage girl who tutors other students in English. Hubby (yep, he's a guilty party too) is certain she is a slut because she has boys in her home on a regular basis. He says she looks out the window at them and makes eyes and smiles but I swear in 11 months I haven't once seen this girl at the window or on the terrace that her parents weren't with her. And I try to tell him that if she tutors in her home her mother is there and I'm sure nothing is going on. He's not buying it because the neighborhood gossip says she's a slut. (Yeah...I did warn you it pisses me of but I'm not in India to change the country's view of people so I just let it go after strongly voicing to my husband how wrong he is and how he can't know that...he doesn't listen lol.)

Anyway, the rules in this family to remain under that neighborhood radar have always been very strict. I've heard tales of how hubby's grandmother was extremely hard on his mom and chachi. If she was alive, I'm quite sure I wouldn't be here. But I also feel that because she was so hard she made the family more willing to accept me. I know I've never been treated like they apparently were. That leads me to my current topic of leaving the house.

I went out yesterday, quite nervous. Today I needed more paint for the sign so niece and I went again. I don't see niece leave the house much either and I think she's a little excited about it being me and her going out - like a girls day type thing - but she seems also a little nervous. This time I didn't text hubby to let him know I was leaving the house because he got too worried on the first trip. I also noticed that MIL seemed a little distant today and barely spoke to me, she didn't come sit in my room or anything either. I think this is a sure sign she's having some trouble adjusting to my need to be independent when she wasn't really afforded that opportunity. (Even today it's rare she goes out alone and it's never far or for long.)

We came back, worked on the sign some more - still not finished lol - and then hubby came home. I then told him we had went out and he handled it a little better but was concerned I didn't tell him. I explained it was because he worried too much and then he just got this look like he knew I was right but couldn't openly admit it. So then I told him how the trip went, how short it was and all seemed okay. Until he got me alone lol. I swear that boy is gonna make himself sick but he told me "don't go out every day" and then he started in on a speech about how the streets are not safe and this isn't the US. (He said that because I told him I've been in much worse places than this and the US is a significantly more violent culture than India. I think my exact words were "Your neighborhood will never be as dangerous as some of the streets I've walked down and lived to tell about it..." and he cut me off to keep lecturing me.) I listened and let the words go in one ear and out the other.

I have no intention of going out every day. I can't possibly need that much for one and there just isn't enough here to keep me busy. I'm not going to hang out in the shops and chat because it's expected for you to purchase something and my room isn't big enough to hold all the stuff these stores sell and I think I have (nearly) enough bangles already. I didn't go out every day in the US and I'm not planning on morphing into an overly social butterfly now that I'm here nor am I planning on becoming part of the neighborhood gossip circuit to collect all the dirt (not that I could do that with this language barrier anyway). I know he's worried but this just shows he is trying to accept my need for independence and blend that with his upbringing of how evil the world is and how to avoid it. **In his defense there is a drunk 3 houses down and a man who just got out of jail across the corner. To him this is huge and means the neighborhood isn't safe. I think I'll skip telling him about some of the neighborhoods I hung out in as a teen so his stress meter doesn't start boiling. And maybe I am naive but I can't help but think criminals are all around us and many times we just don't realize they are there until they are busted (otherwise they wouldn't get arrested after the crime) and there are drunks everywhere. And kids all over the world pull rotten pranks on their parents (like the one that faked his own kidnapping here last month). These things to me just don't make an abnormally unsafe neighborhood and are not reason enough for me to spend my life in fear of walking out of the house to go to the store.

I'll continue to keep you guys updated..I think this post is getting long enough lol.


  1. Good for you :D The more you do it, the easier it'll get. Remember and tell someone where you are when you go out, just in case you get lost, safety 101 in any unfamiliar place. 

  2. Definitely! I don't want to screw this up after it took so long to get a peaceful resolution. (That feels odd saying it since I had to pitch a fit but you know what I mean lol.)

  3. it took me few  years to go out alone without in - laws getting in al kind of states so best of luck ------- and yes neighbourhoods are peculiarly oppressive reg. social stigma - chinup --------- !!

  4. Exercising has been a real problem for me too, as I'd prefer to do it at home in India and there's no room to put a workout DVD on! My solution was to get a stepper. It's a great way of exercising, and it goes under the bed when not in use.

    They're available on Ebay. Here's an example:

  5. Yay you got out! the more you do such small trips the more Rohit and his family will start loosening a little on that issue.
    Frankly after 8 years in India it still baffles me to hear people lecture me on how unsafe India is, because clearly they haven't been in Geneva, whcih is by far more unsafe than Bangalore or Mumbai, the difference in the west is that instead of teaching girls to just keep out of trouble, they are thought to just defend themselves in case of trouble. My sister got agressed near her home in a peacful posh area at night, she got away burning the man's face with her cigarette lighter :) All girls in Geneva just know when you walk around at night you just keep a weapon in your hand be it your lighter, a fork (yes a fork) or your keys held firmly between your fingers.
    DH was amazed they teach girls such things in Europe LOL That said when he started travelling with his job he was worried of leaving me all alone at home wondering if it would be safe, of course it was :) I even used to go out in the evening to meet friends for coffee or dinner. The biggest threat in my old neighbourhood in Bangalore was the mighty auntie brigade, they lecture you, gossip and are annoying, but I decided to just screw them, let them gossip, we know the truth, we are comfy in our life and above gossiping ourselves.
    A bit thougher for your in-laws to just accept it and get over it, because they still have that sense of witholding the family honors and take gossips probably worse than the new generation, tricky to deal with that issue, but not impossible, you just need to gently get them adjusted to the idea.

  6. Yeah, I get the same thing. Rohit doesn't even want to hear how I can protect myself. He says India is different. The gossip does seem to be one of their biggest fears.