A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

A different kind of beauty

Posted by Pepper on June 3, 2012

Since the time we’ve moved back to India, I find myself confronted by a few common questions. “Which country do you like more? India or USA?”. That one is not too hard. In all honesty, I tell them I can’t choose. Both the countries are close to my heart and special in their own way. What gets my goat is the assumption people make. I’ve had some folks come up to me and tell me, “Oh so you didn’t like the US at all, which is why you moved back right?”.

That assumption riles me up like nothing else. I love USA from the bottom of my heart. That country gave me a home, gave me immeasurable joys and everlasting memories. It is an integral part of who I am and I can never deny that. Till date, I find myself getting dreamy when I think of my beloved Bay Area and I let out a wishful sigh. So when I dispute all those claims and tell those people in no uncertain manner that I absolutely loved the US and I always will, they view me with suspicion. “What? If you loved the US then why did you move back?”.

Sigh. I usually take a deep breath before I even attempt to answer that. What can I tell them? Why did I move back to India when I loved the US? That is a valid question. If only it were that simple. There are so many layers to this, but when I am forced to answer them in one line, I say “I moved back to be closer to my family”. That apparently, is not reason enough. So I let go.

And then there are other people, NRIs mostly, who are considering a move back to the homeland. They are keen to know my experiences, in order to procure some help in their decision making process. Again, I don’t know how to answer their questions. All I tell them is, not to base their decisions on my experiences. Each of us has some different goals, ambitions and priorities in life. What I find easy to deal with might be extremely hard for you. What you think is enjoyable might be torturous for me. Whether you should move to India or not is a decision only you can make.

I know people a lot of people dislike the ruffled existence in India, and would choose the smooth life any day. Fair enough. I did enjoy the smooth life to a great extent too. When I lived in the US, I appreciated everything that the place had to offer. It was easy to express my appreciation to people. Most of the benefits are tangible in that country. I could talk about the scenic drives, clean air, quality of life and people understood it.

Now that I live in India, I lay my focus on appreciating everything that this country has to offer, but it is a lot harder to define the positives in a few words. Most of it is intangible and people do not understand me when I tell them I like India because it lets me ‘feel’. If all of us had an inbuilt switch, I would say in India, our internal switch is ‘on’ ninety percent of the time. You either feel happy, angry, sad, dismayed, excited, unnerved or something else. I like this ability to feel something different, at all times. Life here is unpredictable, full of surprises and shocks.

Do I like living in India? That is an easy question to answer. Yes, I love being here. Not only because it means being close to my family, but also because India inspires me. And the same aspects that inspire me can frustrate somebody else. I enjoy being around people. India, with it’s vast, ever growing population has no dearth of people. You see people walking on the road in throngs. You go to the petrol pump (or gas station, depending on your location), and you are greeted by people who will do your job for you, unlike the US, where you have to fill gas on your own, with no human interaction. You have tailors setting up shop in the middle of the streets. You see people selling their wares on busy roads. Everywhere, people are doing something. Even if you stay indoors, you have maids, watchmen, dhobis ringing your door bell. Sometimes I wonder how the day goes by. There is so much of one on one interaction with people. When I compare this to the quiet, programmed life in suburban America, I realise I feel a lot more alive in India. In the US, an average human is surrounded by more machines and less people. In India, it is the opposite.

I am not saying India is all good. Far from it. Chaos reigns this country. I often find myself screaming in my head, feeling the kind of frustration that makes one weep. I question my choices when I pay a killing price for a bumpy auto ride that almost throws me out of my seat, when I sit inside with sweat dripping from my furrowed brow, nauseous because of the poisonous fumes coming from the surrounding trucks. This is a part of my everyday life that I cannot ignore. There are certain aspects about India that I abhor. Like dowry, female infanticide, gender biases, but I can afford to sit in my high chair and say ‘these things don’t happen to me’. But something like an auto ride? The traffic? The pollution? There is no escaping it. No matter what you do.

Despite all of that, I think the pros override the cons. I find simple pleasures here that make my life worthwhile. When I go for walks in the evening and make some spur of the moment plans to stop by at a street side chaat corner, when the sister and I see a giant wheel in the middle of a chaotic road and decide to have some fun, when my maid comes and hugs me with delight, when I am able to see, touch and hug my parents whenever my heart desires, when I get to play with my cousins’ kids  and watch them grow, from babies, to toddlers to little adults, when I stand in my balcony, watching the world and see a frail man playing the flute as he walks by, when a morning walk in my building premises brings with it a whiff of incense. The sweet fragrance lingers on for a long time. All these aspects bring me fulfillment.

USA is beautiful. Most of us will agree. It is the kind of beauty that the world recognises. India is beautiful in a way that not everybody can recognise. These are two pictures, both taken around suburban residential areas, one in the Bay Area, close to where I lived and one in Mumbai, close to where I now live. Both speak a thousand words. And both these beautiful places will always remain close to my heart.

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24 Responses to “A different kind of beauty”

  1. mehmudah said

    Amazing post! Can relate almost entirely. Take care you and enjoy india as you are enjoying it!

  2. You have no idea how much I love this post, Pepper. You’ve brought words to what has always been in my heart! Sigh – the questioning souls!

    We moved back from the US more than a year and a half ago for reasons which could seem petty to a lot of people – the biggest one, being close to (primarily my) parents! Like Mint, my husband too loves the US and it broke/breaks my heart to a hundred pieces every time I think of how much he misses that place. However, that doesn’t deter me from having fun here. Like you’ve written in your other posts, it is not a non-probability that we could/would get back to the US some time in the future. Sorry.. I went on a tangent here. Just felt like sharing this!

  3. Aparna said

    Beautifully put. Couldn’t agree more.

  4. Anusha said

    You have put the points in such a simple way, yet it makes the whole emotion so understandable 🙂

  5. Wow! Pepper , you just summed my thoughts.. even we live in Bay area.. and are wrapping up by end of this year.. and moving to Mumbai.. and my thoughts are exactly as your’s!!! I know I will miss this place for sure but looking forward to my life in Mumbai.. and when I tell this to my friends here, they feel I am lying.. !! And same like you, when we tell people, we are moving back, they ask, “oh you hate this place”? How can you hate Bay Area? Like you, I love this place more with every moment.. And I wont hesitate to say that I have my inhibitions about the inflation,pollution and traffic/ and wonder about how well will we adapt in Mumbai.. but like you said, the pros outweigh the cons hopefully.. 🙂 Loved loved what you wrote! 🙂

  6. telugumom said

    A very nice post. Once we have lived in the USA, we have a different perspective of life. I am in the USA now and I long to be in India during the time of the festivals. It is just so alive there. But, there are some other aspects that I love here in the USA and feel like I should never leave this place. All in all if ever we decide to move back, it is going to be a tough decision for us 🙂

  7. R's Mom said

    You my dear, have a way with words..it was almost as if I was reading poetry…big hugs…

  8. metherebel said

    Pepper, very beautifully expressed. I so like the way you have written about both the countries!

    This post deserves a standing ovation 😉

    * clap clap clap*

  9. abhivyakti said

    Loved this post, wonderfully written. I cannot help but think about this myself, you bring out the difference in the shades of beauty so well..

    It is interesting how having people/human activity around is a kind of positive reassurance (to me, at least) that all is well with the world. I love observing people. It is, I guess, the love for the order that lurks beneath all the chaos.
    Overhearing vendors on the streets when I am talking to my mom on the phone sometimes makes me nostalgic. I keep on checking the weather of my hometown, that is my way of feeling connected. I also know that I will get impatient the next time I am home because of some trivial thing(the traffic or weather) and then smile at the thought that I missed all of this 🙂
    I guess the key is to appreciate the joy around us, wherever we are, because it is there, as you said, in obvious and hidden forms. You seem to have a keen eye for finding it !

  10. Ashwathy said

    Poetic. You have summed it up so aptly. Love it! 🙂

  11. Bhavani said

    What a lovely post Pepper…I so agree with you….Bay Area has been my home the past 13 yrs and I have to be thankful for that..but that does not mean I have forgotten the charm or beauty of my home in India…

    Keep writing:)

    -Bhavani

  12. Agree! Every country has its own beauty. Also, it depends what memories one has of the place. India to me will always be associated with my childhood and teens. And though far from perfect, it did contribute to 23 years of my life. And of course there are so many memories and people I cherish and associate them to India. Like, my family and some of my friends, the house I grew up in, all the familiar hang out places. Likewise, US has been and will be special in its own way. It gave me independence, the experience of staying alone and loving it, travel, an amazing grad school experience and of course, the husband! These two sets are very difficult to compare and say one is better. They are the best in their own respective place.

  13. I’ve only been to India once in my life, unfortunately, but you mirror my emotions when you say that India is a country which is about ‘feeling’. You have to feel, experience, understand, and completely internalise the country and all that it has to offer. Which is why sometimes I feel that although I’ve never lived there before, it is more of a home to me, than all the many countries I have been living in. It might have something to do with the fact that that’s where my roots are from, or it might have something to do with the fact that there is such a sense of community in the country. Whatever it is, spot on, as always.

    Love, Miffalicious. [www.miffalicious.com]

  14. Beautifully written! And the pictures sum it up perfectly. Did you live close to Rancho San Antonio?

  15. pixie said

    very well said and beautifully written 🙂

  16. Loved the totally unbiased move. you are right despite all its flaw – India allows you to “feel” no?

  17. well put; finally home is where the heart is 🙂 enjoy

  18. Like always a post that came from heart. I don’t think is it easy for anyone to make a decision between these two countries. Both are good in its own way. I am glad that you are happy with your choice 🙂

  19. Awesome post. The clarity of your thoughts is reflecting in you words. Home is where the heart is. And, strangely the heart can be at different places at different times 🙂

  20. Sharell said

    Wow, I didn’t think it had been THAT long since I’d come to your blog (I’m so erratic with my blog reading and don’t have much time to keep up!) but now I find you’ve moved countries and are back in India (and Mumbai, no less!). I’ve clearly got so much catching up to do. This post is just so evocative, I can completely relate to it. It’s beautifully written and captures all the relevant feelings. Wish you well for settling into your new life in Mumbai!

  21. D said

    This is the best post I have read on your blog, till date!! The pictures so very well compliment what you have conveyed through words..:) This is a super awsome post. I LOVED IT!

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