Sunday, September 7, 2014

Look Mummy, Foreigner!

     I've already written plenty about being a foreigner in India (, but my views of it are continuing to evolve as it remains a major part of every aspect of my life here.
     Walking through my old college is like that scene in the movie I always scoffed at, the one where the main character walks through a crowd and time slows as everyone watches her, heads turn all the way around, conversations stop and people shoot meaningful glances to their friends Look who's here. But this heroine is about a head taller and 30 pounds heavier than the boys who gaze at her, and instead of flowing behind gracefully, her hair probably hasn't been washed for a few days. It occasionally makes me laugh out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. For the most part though, I don't notice the staring as much this time around. I've mastered the art of walking down the street effectively, looking like you know where you're going, head up without making eye contact with anyone accidentally, hardened eyes, aware, but not too conspicuous. This seems to work rather well. Maybe I'm just used to it, maybe I was expecting more of it.
     In fact, I think my greatest challenge has been to not expect more staring. At a certain point, I'm not sure quite where, ego enters the picture. Assuming that everyone is looking at me is easy to do and inflates me in a way I don't much care for. I keep thinking that when I don't understand the language, people must be talking about me. I've had haughty remarks ready for people who I later realized were focused on something else entirely. The intense Indian stare is not reserved for those with white skin, it is just one way of looking at the world that happens to be unpleasant when directed in a certain way.
     It is a fine balance between the two. Being conscious of people looking at me is important in staying safe and true to reality, but not assuming I am the center of Nasik is also important. India pulls me in lots of different directions. Being here makes me lose my sense of self as I engage and observe such an intense and overwhelming place. It's easy to be in the moment when the moment has so many stimulants within it. Freedom from all the identity I built up in America makes it easier to be true to myself. And yet as I try let go of all of this ego, being a foreigner forces it back. Often I really am the center of conversations I pass by, often people really are looking at me, and I have to admit that I'm not just an observer in this place.

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