There were a lot of things that weren’t clicking for me in 2010. I think I was on pretty much a colossal downward spiral before the New Year hit, and I decided enough was enough and decided to pull my socks up. And probably take pre-emptive measures.
I keep going into these phases, and I realize there is no Permanent Solution. I also realize everyone and his brother go through these things, only, not everyone chooses to talk about these things.
But looking back, my downward spirals now are for reasons completely different from the ones that would drive me to desperation two or three years back, and I find that a very significant improvement. My set of downward spiral behaviours have significantly changed as well, and I’m glad for that. What hasn’t changed is that paralyzing feeling of falling further and further into an abyss when things go terribly wrong.
So I tell myself, nothing’s going to change those tendencies my brain seems to be wired into feeling. The best I can do is be aware of myself and my behaviours and let go a little here, be strict a little there.
Feeling low is our system’s natural response to unhospitable conditions, and its manifestation in the form of not wanting to make conversation or pay attention to everyday matters like food, cleanliness, relationships, etc just serve to make you look inward and solve your problems and make the world a better place for you to live in. I think I should embrace that, and accelerate the processes that are involved in dealing with issues in a way that’ll help me more than hurt me. That, I’ll advise anyone who asks, is way better than trying to distract yourself from whatever’s bothering you or thinking happy thoughts so that your feeling of depression will go away. Positive thinking and stuff is useful in some aspects, but depression too serves its own purposes. It would be foolish to ignore this natural instinct of ours, which comes up to tell us that something’s wrong and we need to do something about it.
In times of crisis, we can descend to chaos, and this is where the conformist in me helps a lot, because structure and routine are things that help you bring a semblance of normality into your thinking and don’t let you fall into so many pieces that it’s hard to pull yourself together later on. And, those things also prevent you from doing crazy stuff you’ll later only regret.
So, yeah, things haven’t magically worked out for me. They might work out magically, I’ll be glad if they did, but I don’t think I should depend on that. And I’m not pretending things have worked out. All that’s changed between a week ago and now is that all my inward-looking paid off and now I’m trying to act on whatever I thought of. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be perfect, it might not even work. But, the number of drafts on this blog are increasing, my grocery bills are shooting up, I swipe my bus pass a lot more, and my mind is filling with everyday worries – how can I manage to get my hands on that dataset, why is this bit of code giving trouble, damn that’s my joke they plagiarized, where the heck is my laundry card, god I’ve forgotten the Charleston… and I guess with these indications, I can say with increasing confidence that I’m back.
I’ve been in a foreign country for a year-and-a-half now. The hardest part is not adjusting to the weather or food or the people. Even the accent is not hard, given we’ve all been listening to the American accent right from the advent of cable TV and Star Plus. The hard bit has been to avoid referring to people by their place of origin.
You can’t say someone’s a Jap, it’s racist. You can’t say ‘that pretty Black woman there’. You need to say ‘His accent sounds urban’, not the other thing. Which is hard given I say ‘You sound like a Gult’ or ‘TYPICAL Bong you are’ and pepper my speech liberally with Amit and Isha and Dig and Tam and whatnot when I’m talking to (Indian) friends.
Also, when you ask a Mr. Nguyen where he’s from, and he says ‘San Francisco’, you need to learn to control your impulse to ask ‘Oh.. but where are you really from?’.
Add to this plenty of Op-Eds written about ‘We Indians are so racist ya’. But instinctively, I feel you just can’t compare being called Macaca with being called Bong. I wonder why, exactly…
If anything, NITK has made me more regionalist than I was before. But not in the ‘Slap her, she’s Mallu’ way. To be frank, NITK just confirmed whatever regional stereotypes I was trying to dismiss in mind. While at the same time getting to know the people behind the stereotypes. If anything, it just made the stereotypes more complex and complicated in my head.
The reason the Western world condemns these sort of things as ‘racism’, is because classifying and referring to someone by their place of origin there in the last century or so was borne out of xenophobia and misunderstanding. And a feeling of superiority/inferiority. Whereas, for us, it is not so. There are enough Madrasis in Delhi and there are enough Amits in Chennai that calling someone a Madrasi or an Amit is just a way of referral, not something derogatory. And people from other parts of India in any given Indian city don’t ghettoize and mingle only with ‘their own people’, that anyone would see someone else as only a Bong or Bawa or Dig, or have no idea about anything else about the community than just the stereotypes.
Regional stereotypes in India don’t mean anything. My cousin calls her neighbour Nair-maami, just like she calls her upstairs neighbour maadi-veetu-Usha-maami (Usha-aunty from upstairs). It doesn’t mean anything more. And who the heck takes these stereotypes seriously? No one seriously believes all Tambrahms are paavam vegetarian silent people and no one expects every Bong to have yellow nicotine-stained fingers along with a craze for football and Dada and adda.
If anything, taking the name of your place of origin can only be seen as a celebration of our diversity. Because, heck, we are all minorities and are all so spread out over the country that you can’t say it is better to be a Reddy than to be a Gowda or that you won’t rent your house out to someone with a Maharashtrian surname, the way they do in the Western world. There is not that stark a difference between different communities in India as there is abroad, that highlighting your place of origin means much. To call all this racism in the Indian context would be incredibly shortsighted, and absolutely unnecessary. There’s no point looking at our own culture through the prism of someone else’s culture, take everything out of context to the point that everything appears absolutely wrong.
This is just like a westerner seeing Arab men holding hands in public and assuming that everyone has deep-wrought homoerotic tendencies brought about by sex segregation everywhere.
With one exception, though. I don’t like referring to folks from the Northeast as ‘Chinki’. If we keep doing that, like someone on Twitter said, let’s give up all claim to Arunachal next.
And for the party-sharty crap that infests NITK, the sooner it dies a painful death, the better.
And don’t even get me started on Fair-and-Lovely. But if you do, please don’t call it ‘racism’. ‘Skin fetishism’ is a more appropriate term