As a writer, I think I have the tendency to mythologize my experiences. I want to provide vivid descriptions, exaggerate the smallest details and give them significance. In some sense, I’m trying to bridge a gap of understanding. I couch a lot of my explanations in my American upbringing. I came to India assuming that the purpose of this blog was to explain a world that was very far away from my world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to describe this place and the events that have unfolded while I’ve been here. Some days are trivial. Sometimes I’m irritated by the fact that a mosquito got trapped under the net and bit me on the face while I slept. Sometimes I experience small, relatable pleasures like playing catch with my cousin or streaming Law & Order: SVU after a long day at work (holla, Palmetto Street ladies). And sometimes very uniquely Indian things happen, like that one time a buffalo winked at me (I swear it really happened), or when my co-workers and I share lunch, potluck style every day.
But blogs are curated. We spin our lives into myths because they’re more interesting or seem more rare when we do. I don’t think adventures are adventures 100% of the time. Neither are stories. They are cherry-picked facts, omitting the times we wait, the times we’re bored, the times when we’re surfing the web in our underwear. All of these things happen in Nungambakkam, just like they would happen in Brooklyn.
I’m constantly tempted to write the myth of my own life. But is it right to omit these banalities? I’ve always hated when westerners romanticize India. Some people really think that India is just one huge ashram. Incense, kush, yoga, and traffic. Where you go to “find yourself”. Yawn. How limiting. India is a country of Internet and scriptures, booze and chai, housecats and crows, violence and peace. Latent passion, anger, and hope are constantly at risk of erupting here, just like they are in every democracy.
Indians spin their own myth too, for different reasons. Poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and widespread corruption make it nearly impossible to live a fully invested life. Some things need to be written out of the story. Politicians hide behind Hinduism, saying that it’s inherently peaceful. How could they be embezzlers and assassins? They’re Hindu after all! It is easier to shroud the country in mysticism than to even begin to understand the infinite contradictions that present themselves here. But, as one famous American would remind us, we do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Isn’t it our responsibility to try and understand?
India is not Through The Looking Glass. You won’t find the Red Queen. You won’t find Tweedledee and Tweedledum. You won’t find The Jabberwock. Instead you’ll find a maid trying to make ends meet to send her children to school. You’ll find a grandmother and her grandchildren. You’ll find a housewife. You’ll find a businessman. You’ll find a yuppie. You’ll find a stoner. You’ll find a teetotaler. You’ll find a schoolgirl. You’ll find a banker. You’ll find a depressive. You’ll find a lover. You’ll find a hipster. You’ll find a dreamer. You’ll find every possible combination of every one of these characterizations.
It is very important that I don’t make a myth of what is home to 1 billion people. 1 BILLION people. It’s too easy, and it doesn’t do justice to the people whose stories should be told honestly because they’re raw and real and interesting all on their own. To them, this is the real world and my world is but a myth. Also, this is my world. Life happens here.