Wednesday, January 27, 2016

That imprudent, hidden, Xenophobe in me

It was Republic Day yesterday. My heart swells with pride and my eyes well with tears when I hear a crowd singing "Jana Gana Mana". Whistling Vande Mataram gives me the same peace as prayer. I've expressed often how much I like being in my country, with my people, my languages, my music and food. My stay abroad reminded me how much I need them in my life. There'd be talk in the ether, never in my immediate surroundings, how foreigners shouldn't come to our great nation, in the US. We all, my colleagues and friends of any background, thought of people as ignorant and closed minded. And yet, I didn't know I had a bit of Xenophobia in me.
The other day, about a month go, in IIT Kanpur, some friends and I were lounging over coffee. There was a caucasian gentleman at a table nearby. I was telling some story about accents... or the tightness of families... or something else, I can't remember. I described someone of English descent as Firangi. A friend of mine said I shouldn't use that word because we had one in our vicinity. I, with a touch of irritation, blurted "Ye mera Desh hai!!". People laughed and we moved on. But the incident stuck in my mind.
I am revulsed by people telling immigrants to stay out of the west. I hung my head in shame when Nigerians were assaulted by a mob in the echoes of "Bharat Mata ki Jai!!" in New Delhi not too long ago. Shiv Sainiks, who won't let fellow Indians exercise their constitutional right to free movement within the country have earned tremendous disdain by many. I judge people who talk like that as 'them'. They don't represent me and I do not stand for such ideology.
And yet... I said it. In the context of being disrespectful to a fellow human, I said  "Ye Mera Desh Hai!" as if I have the right to disrespect a human being from some other country. The tragedy is that this sentiment appeals to from a vast majority of locals in most places in the world. In the moment, I felt in my motherland, I have the right to do what I want. It is the greatness of this nation that I can freely tote that thought. But then again, it's thoughts of contempt for humans that ruin even the greatest of nations. I do not want to be part of the dregs of human kind that don not respect all people equally.
Let's hope this thought gets assimilated in me for good. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Saying No

In this day and age where finding a spouse is tough, (or has is always been so?) bowing to the needs of the family complicates matters. I hold the need to keep my parents close to me throughout my life, very close to my heart. And yet, I don't see how they can possibly judge for me who would best be my companion for life. And so, we've agreed on their suggesting girls that they approve of and me speaking to them for some length time to know whether we click.
Through this process, I met someone who is, what I thought was all I can ask for in a girl. I mentioned to close cousins that all I ask is a workable roommate. Talking to people has corrected that notion. The girl I was speaking of, picked the profession she wanted to pursue early on, studied in lofty institutions, is independent and knows what she wants from life. Dream spouse, if you had asked me many months ago.
When we met, no sparks flew on either side. To expect them to have, would have been adolescent. Thanks to my parents criteria, we have similar backgrounds and were on the same page on just about everything. I cannot reiterate enough how precious this is. I've met people from vastly different backgrounds. From that dataset, I know, the odds of this concurrence are miniscule. She is really smart and driven. I love that in a human being. Knowing what you want tells you what is worth fretting over and what isn't. Such a person probably is at peace with their surroundings. Such a person is admirable.
Conversations with her were very well informed and exciting. They were on a variety of subjects: from international events, politics, art and literature. She writes poetry. That is very appealing. Her short poems were beautiful and moving. She shed light on perspectives hidden from my view. In the moment, I didn't appreciate being overruled in curt runs of speech. But later, I acknowledged I came away richer for having that conversation.
Being as busy as we both are, it was hard to find the time to meet. I'd drop a line asking how things are. I always got a reply: very curt and logical. Occasionally, when I'd asked of her aspirations, the reply was more than a sentence long. Over the past 5 months we may have met  about seven times. I would have liked to meet more and perhaps talk more. It would have been nice to take a walk or watch a movie, share inconsequential non-events that turn life from a rush to the finish line to pleasurable journey. Even an occasional Hi from time to time would've been nice. Some semblance of companionship is definitely desireable. I tried, to no effect.
And yet, when I suggested recently, that we should meet other people, I came away much sadder than I thought I would.
I can't help but feel I made her unhappy. I hate being in that position. That position sucks. Maybe this is the best thing to happen in the long run. But at this moment in time, possibly only by virtue of having known someone that long, in that context, having to turn someone down, hurts. But thankfully, there is the other less burdensome possibility, that it didn't matter much to her.