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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Holy Cow" Part 1

A book has triggered something
The book I’m reading at the moment is amazing and so inspiring. It was recommended to me by a very special person, before I came to Chennai. Then when I got here, Jayanthi had a copy of the book and so I’ve been reading it ever since. I’m delighted! It’s called “Holy Cow” and tells of a tale about an Australian girl who moved to India. She writes about so many aspects of her journey, which I have also faced since being here, aiming at different impressions, emotions, lifestyles and adjustments.

I can relate to what she sees and how it makes her feel. However, for her it’s so much more intense. For me, there are many impressions to which I’ve switched-off. These are things that wouldn’t be seen in Ireland, Holland, Australia or even Thailand. I have seen them all, but have turned a blind-eye. The book describes these sights and impressions, in detail, as they have taken her by such surprise. When it comes to me, I haven’t even touched on the sights I’ve seen, in my writing. Because I wouldn’t be shocked, I wouldn’t be appalled. I simply look, I see and I accept. I tell myself it’s the way of life. It doesn’t make me think less of this country. It actually makes me think more of this country and its’ people, as I’m faced with such contrasts.

Why am I not shocked by what I see and how can I turn a blind eye with ease?
Is it because I can’t get my head around it or because I see it as normal? Or I don’t want to talk bad about this amazing country? Perhaps I don’t want to give the impression that India isn’t beautiful? It could be any number of reasons. As I conclude the answer, I can trust that everything around me is making an impression, never ever to be forgotten.

Many books from travel-writers telling about Indian adventures, describe this country in ways that might not motivate people to come. The description is based on the individual experiences and how they perceive this world. It’s also based on their background, their expectations, their openness, their passion. I have my own opinions when it comes to writing and expressing the essence , the lifestyle and the overall picture of a country. No matter how different it is than your “own” country, every single one can still be seen as amazing. There will always be some element you might not be able to relate to. But, on the other hand, there will always be something, no matter how small, which you can class as amazing, unique and inspiring.

However judgment always occurs. When it comes to India, I’ve heard and read people expressing themselves in such a way that the people of this country would be highly insulted. They say the streets are dirty, too crowded, too polluted, too smelly and it’s swamped with illness and disease. These things I’ve just described, I’ve seen them and I’m guilty of thinking the same. I’ve felt bad, judgmental and spoilt for having thought these thoughts.

But these are the first impressions a person can have. It can be the reality you’re faced with and the culture shock. If this judgment is that contributes to your “survival” when first acclimatizing to the country, then that’s obviously what’s needed. When I first embarked on this journey, people said don’t be naïve, be cautious, don’t trust anybody and in beware of the devil in everyone! This judgment is for survival on first arriving. But as soon as the ease starts to come, these should be released. Holding that judgment in place, will lead you to always keeping your distance and always remaining the outsider, the tourist, the Western-girl. This means you never will get from the journey all that you set out to experience. Won’t you always feel that barrier? Shouldn’t the barrier be released and shouldn’t the judgment be forgotten as you start to feel safe and secure in your new surroundings?

The story continues...

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