Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Beginning vs. The End

I came to India in January of 2011 and left for my first visit home just a few days ago, in May 2012.

Before coming, I was under the misguided notion that things were going to be fairly normal here and that Indian families are more loving than western families. While my parents are loving, I'd had a rough life and we were not very close. Not the way I knew families could be. I was raised mostly by my grandparents who were amazing. They raised me with traditional values. Family spent time together, did things together, at meals at the table together. We were strict Holiness Christian and we did all that came with it. Charity, volunteering, etc.

To quote myself: "I really haven't noticed anything extremely different between Indians and East Coast American's outside of cultural norms - at least not personality wise. Indians, like Americans, can be jerks, stubborn, spoiled, angry, sweet, loving, compassionate, etc. What I do notice is that by their culture they will tend to be nice and hospitable to your face more so than Americans. (Of course we all know there are 2-faced Americans all over too though.) They are more conservative than the Republicans by far and I don't think there is a Holiness Christian out there who is stricter about what God expects than an Indian...though they would be close!" - That comes from this post dated April 27, 2011.

While I was here, I learned what culture shock was. Culture shock takes hold of you when you least expect it and rips you apart from the inside out. That's the best way I can describe it. Things you knew, you no longer know. Things that worked, no longer work. Everything has changed and you feel incompetent, broken, confused and overflowing with emotions that you don't want to feel. It's different for everyone because no two people come from the same background or into the same circumstances. For me it manifested as anger and hurt. I actually did really well not to make any serious decisions during this time. I was reluctant to make decisions while I was over emotional. No good decisions are made when you're in that state.

As time went on and people relaxed around me I began to see the uglier side of life here. That only hurt and angered me more. As more and more reports of bride burnings, honor killings, infanticide and the beating of helpless babies surfaced, I realized there is an extremely dark side of India that no one wants to talk about. No one wants to hear about or believe exists. People here aren't valued the same as in the US where we go to great lengths to save one human life. People are treated more like a commodity that is bought and sold and there's no emphasis or emotional value placed on a human soul.

This is a cultural difference and you have to make your own decision as to whether you feel it's good or bad. It's up to each of us to determine how much human suffering you can bear, tolerate or dismiss. Your choice will depend on your background. Coming from a family that believes all life is precious and being an emotional person, I am not able to tolerate, dismiss or bear very much of it. I don't view women as breeders and house workers. They are people. I don't view children as a means to keeping a race intact. They are people. I don't view maiming individuals to invite pity for money making purposes as dismissible. It's sad. And I make NO apologies for how I feel. To me, the things will always be atrocities.

I don't look down on the maids, I don't think anyone is beneath me. We are all human and as such should all be equal. Here you must fight every single day for every tidbit of equality you can get. Even with the celebrity status white skin invites, equality still eludes you and I don't mean in a good way. Regardless of this families or my own financial status, I don't look down on or up to other people. Everyone has their own life, their own circumstances and they are individually responsible for them.

My experiences with life here have obviously changed my opinion of this city and India. In some ways this change has been good and in other ways, I wish it hadn't happened. I wish I could be oblivious to the things that go on here as so many Indians tend to be. I can't even count the number of Indians who swear to me that these atrocities don't occur here, or they only occur in villages or that they are rare. Amir Khan's Satyamev Jayate is proving them all wrong. These problems are extreme and getting out of hand because of the delusion that they don't exist.

Any of you who have not seen that show, there are videos on YouTube with subtitles in many languages. If you want a view of how real and normal India is (as in, it's not the spectacular, better than everyone else country that you're being told it is) then I highly suggest you watch the show. Amir Khan is a respectable actor with an entire life to lose so he's not going to spread rumors and trash. What he's reporting is verified and real, even if some don't like it.

So here's to forming your own opinion based on your own experiences and RESPECTING other's who form their own as well.


  1. Enjoy your trip back home! :-)  I'm leaving next week as well and can't wait to eat my favorite burgers and tacos.

    btw, it's AAMIR Khan..great show and I'm glad he's taking on these issues. 

  2. Thank you! I hope your trip goes great as well!

  3. I thought that life in India was as good as/as bad as living elsewhere. But, I need to admit that I never lived abroad to come to such a fleeting conclusion. I agree with your observation and in a single word I can say that many Indians are Hypocrites. Not everyone. But many.

    One of the biggest problems of this country is to try and control everyone around. Family, friends, subordinates, everyone. But I thought it was a common problem with the world in general. Can't be sure though. 

    The only advantage Indians had due to all this 'cultural set-up' was the better treatment elders got. The heads of joint family (at any age) literally command the younger generations. But then, the cultural changes that are sweeping the nation all over India is creating a lot of turbulence and inequality.

    Change is inevitable. Is it for the better? I don't know.

    Destination Infinity

  4. Every country has good and bad things about it. What each of us can tolerate is different. I'm sure that's why I have the problems I do in India. Its a huge adjustment and I just can't handle human suffering. I see too much of it there and that's like torture for me.

  5. The reason why Aamir Khan's show is very popular is not because he's "proving them all wrong" as you put it. It's because he is focused on educating people on the problems in Indian society, and, more importantly, finding solutions instead of just criticising and pointing fingers. E.g. the episode on child abuse ended with a workshop for small children and with a signature petition to lobby Parliament to pass a strict anti-Child Abuse bill. The episode he had on female foeticide inspired the panchayat of a Rajasthan village to monitor cases of female foeticide more closely in their village. This is all good and more power to Aamir Khan. 

  6. You are right. cultural shock always strikes without notice, and while there are various degree to it no expat is immune to it. No amount of preparation to live in a different country can make it go away completley, because culture is pretty much part of everybody and everything to the core, you can prepare yourself to face the big obvious differences, and these are rarely the one causing a culture shock, but over the months, it's the add up of small things that can send one over the edge. I am actually planning to write about that very soon. 

  7. I did a lot of research and preparation. I knew I would have some rough moments. Still, when you experience them it's like a natural disaster occuring lol. I'm glad I did my research so I at least knew what was happening but I was still powerless against it.