I want to make something clear: I love India. I love the people, the culture, the country. But I don’t always like them. So for the benefit of hopeful exchange students, future travelers, and the like, I’m going to give some honest opinions on what it’s really like to live here.
Sexism starts in the home. If one of my host fathers wants something done, they order me to do it, regardless of what I might be doing. No requests, no please and thank you, no thought. I don’t know where to walk the line between being polite and trying to teach them that disrespect like this is what indirectly causes the rape cases that appear daily in the paper. I spend a lot of time angry at their arrogance when I should be calmly educating them about respect and equality.
My host parents love me. I can tell because they’re always feeding me. But affection? Not a chance. If you’re planning to live here, say goodbye to hugs and snuggles and move on with your life, because it doesn’t matter how crappy you feel or how lousy your day has been, the only one who’s going to comfort you about it is you. And while it might feel like you’re complaining, always announce everything that’s wrong with you because they’re never gonna ask. They care, sure enough. If you aren’t feeling well your host mom will do absolutely everything to make you feel better. But don’t expect someone to ask how you are and wait for an answer.
There are some things I understand perfectly: Indians don’t say thank you unless they really mean it. They show their appreciation rather than say it. But some things I just don’t get. People bump into you on the sidewalk and yell at you to watch out. Once, someone apologized for bumping into me and I was so shocked I forgot where I was going. People are also rude when you’re talking: they answer their phones or reply to someone else while you’re in the middle of a sentence and never excuse themselves first. I understand that this is a cultural difference, but simple politeness makes such a difference in daily life, I don’t see why people don’t use it.
4. Daily life
Still being truthful, I spend my days lying in bed watching TV. Finally, after asking for 7 months to join a class, I’ve been allowed to take calligraphy classes daily down the lane from my house. I try to go for a walk every day. I learn calculus and sometimes hindi from online programs and I talk to my friends, both in India and other countries, a lot, but I still have hours with nothing to do. I’ve given up feeling guilty about the amount of time I spend on my phone using facebook, reading, or watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because there’s just nothing else to do. Conversations are often out of the question, because the people who speak English well enough to freely talk to me usually believe that since they’re older than me they should make it clear how much more than me they know about everything.
My life is a constant roller coaster between elation and frustration. One moment something exciting or memorable will happen, and the next someone is being rude to me or ignoring me completely. I’m still so sure that I love India, but from moment to moment, I don’t know whether or not I like it.
And that’s Amalia’s Cold Hard Truth for the day. Yay!