Starting this blog, I never expected it to be this much fun, so much so that I am starting my 3rd entry in less than 24 hours. This blog is still very much in its infancy, but I am pleased to see that I am already receiving some positive and constructive feedback. So this entry will attempt to explore a complicated subject, that is myself, and my travels from rural south India to the metropolitan behemoth that is London.
How do you reconcile a lifestyle with this setting in India, and with the ever-present crippling poverty around every corner:
Not forgetting the crowds:
And compare that with London:
And that’s just the modest street I lived on, just check out Canary Wharf for comparison:
It is difficult to put into words to someone who has never lived next to abject poverty the sheer culture shock you go through when you move to the West. Now I should probably make clear, I was never poor, hell I am actually quite well off, all things considered. But, it is still an absolute shock moving country. Let me give you an example, where I grew up if I wanted to have chicken for dinner I would go and buy it from a place like this:
And if you had a fancy, the shop keeper would pause from smoking his gold flake cigarettes to let you pick a live chicken from one of his cages, and after briefly haggling over price he will proceed to grab the chicken out of its cage and get a bucket:
At this point, he casually proceeds to slit the chickens throat in the middle of the busy street, pausing only to ash his cigarette, and toss it in the bucket. Then you will resume haggling with the shopkeeper, or just make idle conversation while the chicken noisily scrapes around its bucket until it bleeds out and dies. At this point the shop keeper will fish it out, pluck it in front of you, and if you like, even gut it, and chop it up in little pieces, then chuck the remains into a plastic bag for you to take home and cook for dinner. Now how do you compare, what is a daily occurrence in rural south India with shopping for dinner at Tescos?
And you know what the funny thing is? The chicken tastes better in India. And at least I don’t have to worry about it being contaminated with horse meat.
But what causes me the most difficulty on a daily basis is the contradictions you will find living in both settings. I moved to the UK five years ago, I moved from a very religious boarding school, with strict Christian dogma and where students were more likely to get expelled for smoking and drinking then they were for getting caught beating up other kids. And from there I moved to University student halls. Suddenly smoking, drinking, shameless debauchery, were not only tolerated but actively encouraged!
Now, as someone who once passed out on a friends Tennis court on the stroke of midnight on a New Years day in Delhi, and who required a three man team to carry me back up an elevator into bed, I am hardly one to judge others for their drunken antics. But what fascinated me most was the sheer scale of it, go out to any high street in the UK on a late Saturday night and you will see dozens of people drunkenly milling around pubs and fast food joints while police vans look on. Standards are just completely flipped upside down, in the UK girls will happily run around in short shorts and revealing skirts with ample cleavage on display, while happily drinking like sailors.
Act like that in India and oh boy have you had it. Parents over there keep their kids on a tight leash let me tell you, and lets not forget the brazen English men who will happily approach anything with a pulse on a night out to try their luck.
But I don’t want to sound judgmental here, and I am not trying to advocate one culture over another, I am not trying to argue that people should have their career paths planned out from birth, and a betrothal arranged by age seven, far from it. But what I am trying to demonstrate is the complete juxtaposition of standards and expectations in both cultures.The behavior that in one country will see you ostracized and shunned for, will be cheered and probably toasted to with a round of shots if you just jump on a 14 hour transcontinental flight. Its a funny world.
When I was very young, maybe 10 or 11 my next door neighbors had a baby girl, and I can still remember someone from their house trying to delicately ask my parents if a betrothal in a few years might be acceptable, thankfully my mom threw them out. Fast forward to when I was 18 and waking up in some random bed with someone I don’t even know and quietly slipping out to grab a full English breakfast at the pub, I am still amazed at how quickly I took to British drinking culture.
My point in all of this, is that today the world has gotten smaller. Cultures who thrived on isolationism are becoming more exposed to outside influences, the globalization of the world is absolutely fascinating.
Never before have we been so influenced by so many different peoples and beliefs, and this is a good thing. It challenges your beliefs, it makes you question yourself, it makes you realize that what you took for normal isn’t necessarily normal to others. And most importantly, it can let you choose for yourself who you want to be. It opens a door to a huge myriad of possibilities and new experiences, the world is growing smaller, but its possibilities and opportunities are becoming ever larger. Make the most of them.