Friday, May 05, 2006

Straddling worlds

I haven't written for a while because I am in India. And when I am in India, things go kinda crazy. Some of the craziness is just vacation related: schedules are upset, work is forgotten, you're meeting several people (here, you are never alone, and I mean never). But some of the craziness is literally in your head. India can mess up your head. You see, I am a dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka. Which translates to, I am an NRI, a non-resident Indian.

Being a dhobi ka kutta (literal translation: the laundryman's dog) means that you are always mentally straddling at least two worlds in your head. In my case, it's three: my American world, my Bandra world and my Borivali world. The first world is self-explanatory -- I live in the U.S. and have been doing so since 1995 (legally, I may add). The second world -- my Bandra world -- is where I grew up. Bandra is a suburb in Mumbai, my hometown. And I was a true suburban kid: shopping at Linking Road, eating chaat at Elco, strolling in Jogger's Park in Carter Road, cycling in Bandstand, stuffing my face at Khar Gymkhana. That was the world I left behind when I left for the U.S. to pursue a degree in journalism. And that's the world of my parents.

The third world -- my Borivali world -- is the world I visit most often when I am in Mumbai. Borivali is where my in-laws now live, having moved here from Khar (which is a suburb right next to Bandra). On a good day, it takes 45 minutes to drive to Bandra from Borivali; on a bad day, it can take hours. Mentally, it takes me several leaps to function in either world.

Both places are home to me, I am loved in both, but I am a different person in either place. For example, let's take alcohol and meat consumption: none in Borivali, oui oui in Bandra. Language: Hindi in Borivali, English in Bandra. Clothes: salwar kameezes and jeans in Borivali, shorts and skirts in Bandra. In an attempt to occasionally bridge both worlds, I can get quite daring: This time, I actually wore capris in Borivali and spoke Hindi in Bandra.

Maybe one day, my Mumbai worlds will conjoin -- or collide -- leaving just one world, just one me behind. Until then, it's chaos as usual.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you sound like a poor man's aishwarya rai! (and no, the purpose of this comment is not to dis your husband! :-)

- s.b.