Thursday, September 2, 2010

A few of the ten thousand reasons I am glad to be out of India

The reasons are not listed in any order but in the order they flash across my mind :

No more facing the ‘eve-teasing’ i.e. the dirty behaviours of males towards females in public places like buses, foot paths, etc.

No more standing in queues and watching with frustration while people simply join in ahead of you

No more facing rude behaviours of people especially in government offices…where you have to beg humbly to get your work done (it’s their job…they are not doing you any favour but act like they are). Pay a bribe to get it done. And the worst for me was that I have to be respectful even when I am paying the bribe…the slightest bit of anger or sneering on my part and the bribe gets refused or pocketed but the work is not done ! One has to pander to the inflated yet frail egos of the government clerks without uttering a word of protest against their slowness, errors, refusal to work, inefficiency, corruption or anything .

Religious and classical music: I am not a fan of music and I especially cannot stand classical (Carnatic) music and religious songs. Living in Bangalore, I was forced to listen to loud religious songs on every religious occasion, coming from the television or radio at my home or from the loud speakers in far off temples. And what I hated most was listening to the same set of songs every year, several times a day (on that religious day…like the Gajamukane Ganapathiye… on Ganesh Chaturti). I can stand carnatic music if it was live but to listen to the high pitched voices of women on cassettes was brutal ! I so enjoy the blissful silence at my home now and to listen to music of my choice and when I want it
The daily transactions or interactions with people which really wore out my good nature (or what little of good nature I have !) in Bangalore was the interactions with the bus conductors, auto drivers, the guy in the government ration shop and so on. The most disgusting was the looks and comments of the oglers on the streets.

What else ? The beggars really did not bother me as they did some of my friends. I in fact feel sorry for them, even the young able bodied ones….When many many educated people I know, could not get jobs in Bangalore, how can one expect these poor people to get jobs, given their lack of education and skills. Begging seems a lesser evil than thieving.

There were a whole lot of irritations I faced in Bangalore which seem to have gotten worse now(2010) such as the frequent and long power failures, the shortage of water, the frequent breakdown of telephones (landlines), the inflation which is just eating up my dad’s pension and causing a decline in his quality of life, day by day.

My dad and so many people who did not leave India rant at me about my lack of patriotism and intense dislike and criticism of India. But my question is what is patriotism ? Should I like India as a geographical entity or should I like Indians or Indian culture? As one Britisher said, I like India but cant stand Indians ! That I cant stand Indians is an exaggeration of course, but there are so many habits and behaviours of my fellow country men which intensely angers and irritates me.

When I hear from my folks in India to return and help out “India” or “Do something for India” I want them to see my perspective. For example, I hear of a flood in Bangalore and that the govt is collecting funds to help. I would like to send money of course, but I always have the suspicion that the money sent from here will not reach the true victims but is stolen by the government officials in charge. The magnitude of corruption puts one completely off India or helping India.
Now I would like to say something about why I disliked schooling in India( I was in school from 1971 till 1980). I do know that schools have improved a lot since my time but I am sure there are still a lot of ugly features in Indian schools even now.

I was a typical average kid, not too bright and not retarded ( I hope !). Being an average kid in some schools like the National English School (Now it is National Public School I think…the one with Gopal Krishna as Founder/Principal)is a nightmare ! Every child, irrespective of ability level is expected to do well and punished quite severely if not doing well. The punishments were so physically and emotionally brutal that I am sure most kids self-esteem was permanently damaged. I do not want to go into the details as I am sure most Indians will know.

Another thing which made me miserable all through my school life was the difficulties I had studying Hindi and Kannada ! It was torture especially the “Old Kannada or Hale Kannada”. I learnt Hindi so well later when I saw Hindi movies and serials but the way Hindi was taught in school was so uninspiring. Plus the Hindi teacher was the most brutal in her punishment and I remember praying for her to be absent every class. Sometimes I think my emotions in school (as also that of millions of other Indian school kids) is like that children in Dickens novels….pure terror.

Now that I read a lot about child psychology, I cant imagine how life must be for special needs kids in India like the ones with ADHD, DD, Dyslexia, Epilepsy, etc. While working as a counsellor in Bangalore, I saw many cases of kids with these problems whose problems were not recognized and they were beaten by teachers and parents. I still remember telling a teacher that the boy is not lazy but has a learning disability and the teacher curtly told me that “middle class parents like to call their lazy or dumb kids dyslexic” ! I wanted to smack her but had to shut up and gently request her again to help the boy.

The long line to use the toilets in school, the long lines at the taps if you did not bring water, the boring and tedious exercises in Physical education classes, the boring moral education classes (we had to learn so many Psalms by heart that it was torture…My friend copied them in test which defeats the very purpose of moral education, isn’t it ?)

I have been cribbing for so long that I am sure you readers are getting put off. So I am going to recall and write of things I liked in India. There are tons of those too.
Mangoes (both the sweet variety and the Totapuri), jackfruit, sapotas, the Seetapala especially the milkshakes of Apple, Seethapala and sapota at Ganesha fruit juice centre at Basavanagudi. I like other fruits too but these are especially dear as I cant find them now, where I live.
The Masala dosas in hotels and also the set dosas. The wonderful capsicul bonda near Arya Samaj at VV Puram, Bangalore filled with shredded raw onion, carrot, coriander leaves and sprinkled with chilli powder and salt with a drop of lemon juice squeezed on top. The ‘bele obbattu’ made at home by my mom , ragi mudde with bas saaru, or kalian huli, ragi roti with kadlekai chutney, etc. Each aunt of mine was known for a dish and I loved all those dishes.

Roaming in M.G.Road or Brigade road after buying the tickets for an English movie was another favourite. Seeing an English movie was another favourite pastime of mine though it was a long process with several steps. Waiting for a good movie to come to Bangalore, convincing father that it is not vulgar, that is probably educational, that seeing the movie will not negatively affect my studies, wheedling the money to see the movie, finding a dress in the bare wardrobe, befitting the occasion, leaving the house well in advance of the movie (as very few buses ply from Rajajinagar where I lived to Shivajinagar, where the English movie was.
People watching in the M.G Road and Brigade area was a lot of fun too. I loved seeing the fashionable clothes the people here wore and I always wondered why I did not see them on the buses leading to M.G.Road or Brigade road. Did they all have cars or arrive by autos? I don’t know.

Hmm. What else did I love in India or Bangalore where I spent my entire life? Roaming the streets for books which I have already mentioned in an earlier blog in detail.

I loved shopping for clothes (rather I would buy dress materials and get them stitched) and have spent several happy hours in Commercial street, picking materials with friends or my husband. After which we ate at one of the eateries off commercial street or at Bhagatram’s in commercial street itself. I also hugely enjoyed going to the many many handicraft exhibition and buying the handloom materials, bedsheets, etc. ( I loved the smell of those handloom clothes !) I must admit my husband started getting fed up of the handicraft exhibitions and I had to literally drag him to them after a few years !

Going to the tailor with the dress materials , giving measurements and getting them when they were ready was not fun for me. I disliked it but I had to do it.

One mild pleasure or rather a relaxing peaceful time I had was when I visited some temples in the afternoon of a working day when the temples were mostly empty. These temples included the Lalbagh Anjeniah temple, the Basavanagudi temple for Basava/Nandi, the Kadumalleshwara temple in Malleshwaram. These temples are really peaceful in the absence of crowds and the chimes of the bells (only in the Malleshwaram temple) or the rustle of the Peepal tree leaves in the wind was very comforting.
I have always found uncrowded temples such as those in villages or remote places and simple temples ( by simple I mean with just a deity and a bell and not much additions like tube lights, etc) more conducive to contemplation of God than the jazzy ones. Sadly, the more people like a certain temple, the more the contributions and more the decorations and crowds and then the temple is no longer attractive to me for praying.

In Canada my social life is next to nil, as I have not made many friends after moving here. However I had a great deal of friends and relatives and had a wonderful social life in India. True, I found some of my relatives very intrusive, there were severe disagreements, tears, fights, hurt feelings and what not but there was never any boredom ! I think social life is something I heartily miss.

Another major thing I miss is the humor I enjoyed with my friends and colleagues and relatives. Canadians are great people and I love being here but the kind of humor and repartee I enjoyed in India is impossible here. The Canadians I interact with are polite and I think 90% of the jokes I made/enjoyed in India would be unacceptable here ! The humor I enjoyed in India was really funny but politically incorrect, crude, hurtful to several people (the jokes were about one’s caste or a disability one had and so on). Let me assure you that both the people I interacted with and myself are relatively decent people and harbour no ill will towards any group. But we did make jokes attacking people. For example, the Gowdas in my group poked fun at the two Brahmins in our group who in turn attacked the Gowdas in their talk. Then it would be women attacking the men and the parties would realign as men vs women. At least a few of my colleagues in India were very witty and it was sheer joy to see the verbal attacks and defenses when they got together. Needless to say, the relationships were so good that there was no possibility of misunderstandings or hurt feelings or egos, however sharp the comment.
I did try joking a bit in Canada but I got such shocked looks that I decided to shut up until I understood what sort of humor tickles the Canadians. It is not that the Canadians lack humor. They have created some really funny and enjoyable movies and tv series (e.g. Newsroom , Trailer Park Boys) but I am unable to have the same fun chatting with them as I did in India. I can relate to the Indians who have moved here but their kids born and brought up in Canada are a different set altogether.

My husband misses the Baale-yele oota (food served on banana leaf), the Basavanagudi area and his friends.

We definitely definitely definitely don’t miss the Indian movies and television at all. God ! I hated them when I was in India itself !
The same story in a million movies, the same type of music, the same stereotyped acting, the same poor jokes, Ugh ! To escape being subjected to the Kannada/hindi/ whatever tv serials is one major blessing for me. I know that the current youngsters in India have access to some American and British movies and serials on cable and a lot more on the internet but I could see only a few English serials when in India. I feel really miserable when I think of the countless kids in Indian villages exposed to the poor fare offered by Indian movies and television and that they don’t know something better exists . The city kids have a lot of options.

What else do I miss and don’t miss from India? I don’t miss the dirty or absent toilets for women travellers in India. I miss the ‘Yelneer’ or tender water of coconut which we would drink when the bus stops while travelling. To me, yelneer is manna from heaven compared to the coco cola and other soft drinks we get in Canada

1 comment:

Calydon said...

I enjoyed this post very much as it is hard to find an accurate recounting of what life is like in India, written in English, from the perspective of someone who is familiar with Canada.

I should preface this by saying I am a Caucausian born in Canada, but very curious about India, and have even considered moving there for a year or two. Can you tell me or do you know where I can read more about what to expect on a daily basis?

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