Slowly, as the world pushes you into feeling and behaving like an adult, for me it comes as a whole task to gulp that down. I still feel outcast when my homies call out to the children at home to get some ice-cream at a near by shop, and I’m not among them. You are now supposed to make small talk with any relative you may not like, it is bad to walk away, something you could do as a child. As a child or a teenager, I always resolved to not change much when I grow up. I wanted to remain unbiased towards everything as I was then. But we all know – we grow up to those, our biases, our choices, our comfort zones.
A teacher in my high school once asked us ‘Children, like now you all don’t discriminate amongst each other to be friends on the basis of religion, but when you grow up, why do you change?’. At that point I happened to feel sure, I wouldn’t change, neither will these other teenagers around me. But you know what may have happened by now. Not so much for religion though, I happened to grow to a very strong cultural bias.
It was a mental block created over a period of time to be culturally conservative. Most of the times I hated the culture of taking safe decisions in life rather get any closer to pre-defined risks. I was to opt for a more stable career path like engineering instead of architecture or arts, which did not assure a job in those times. Then after a graduate degree I was supposed to find a job or get married, a possibility of higher education did not occur to us as it was just too much already that I was doing the graduation. With smaller ambitions, put in shape with time, facilitated with least exposure to outer world or other people with bigger ambitions – I graduated. Internet was available then, but not as much as in the metros at that time. And we weren’t boys to get the access if required, cause for them it is justified to seek answers in our culture.
My story goes on just like many other girls here, but the cultural bias how it affects the ambitions we inculcate, is something I often contemplate.
As a teenager, and even in early 20s, watching USA in movies as a place of free-thoughts and free-will, and even having close relatives there, it did not ever excite me to be there. I was a always a independence hungry girl, rebellious in all the ways, but yet culturally curbed. Growing up in India, I always thought the independence I seek, is possible in this country itself, why go abroad ? I thought I just need to be financially independent to get away from parents’ interference in my life. I know, I was naive. Indian parents never will think they have no business with you after you are 18. Since they gave birth to you, they have the right over your life- right until your own children get married or if life is generous, even the grandchildren! after a struggle to find yourself amidst the pressure to get married, even if you succeed to find yourself a career you love, you will, well .. get married one day. All this had not ever occurred to me earlier that making a decision to remain in india and not go abroad will cut down my circle of life to such a small circumference.
It is only after years, when you see the world around you thinking differently about matter, is when it strikes – did I cut down my opportunities to grow?
I have by now spent some years working with Americans or Europeans on various projects, and for a designer’s job, I constantly required to think outside the Indian mindset of things. May be I’m more deeply devoured by the indian-ness than many others, and that is what disgusts me. No matter how I hate playing safe at all times, I’m unconsciously doing so with my career plans or even life plans. I often question myself, had it been different if I took a bold step to go study abroad ? taken the heart to pursue education in what I believed to be the right thing for me ? I’ve always made decisions to stay in this comfort zone, where the terrain and people and their behaviors remain same, no matter what. I’ve always felt the discomfort to move outside it. I still think of all those NRIs I’ve know as someone ignorant and an outsider to culture of this country. I feel proud at times that I know more about my country’s roots that they will ever know or care for. But their life has possibilities that I may not face. They don’t need to feel connected or worried about this country. So is my patriotism just an excuse ? may be it is.
My manager would constantly echo this on our conversations – ‘In America, this is how we do it, you must think on those lines’. I don’t think it applies to my profession, because i’m mostly involved with the web, which is same for the US or India, or is it ? In any case, I do not refer to indian web as much for inspiration or cognition of solutions, as it is plainly not good at it yet. But there are many a times, I happen to think like an indian, the temptations like coming to work and not working, and leaving early. Indians were never very hard working types when they get paid reasonably. Look at the classes of society, the poorly paid work the hardest. Is it the sub-continent weather ? or are we just genetically easy-money hungry ?
Or may be because I’m just an artist and yearn to spend afternoons painting in a huge studio, instead of breaking my head on a corporate software solution. The Business world always brings this feeling of inferiority in me, of being incompetent. It makes me long to go and create a different niche somewhere and stay out of touch – in my box.