August 15, 2007

Musings on being Indian

I was browsing through the electronic version of The Times of India that I read every day, and came upon some pretty scathing editorials about the non-Indian-ness of Indians as well as Indians living abroad.

Our country means many things to many people- there are billions of citizens, wherefore there must be at least thousands of varying viewpoints. Wherefore, when we express our own point of view, we are bound to miss or disagree with another opinion.

I enjoy Shakespeare and Premchand- two authors very integral to the India I grew up in, even though Willy was an old Brit- but then, Premchand was also technically a British subject for a good part of his life, until 1947.

I like reading up on the Upnishads, and old Indian folklore from the all over the nation. I like quoting from the Gita and laughing at the old fuggly television series enacting the Ramayana.

I love wearing sarees and lehngas- even though both outfits are almost extinct in India, worn only on religeous events, weddings and such. I hate salwar kurtas :(

I love cooking chole, rajma, and biryanis- though I wont make fresh rotis, just buy it from Trader Joe's.

I love mehndi and chooris- when I visit back, I normally go out within the 1st 24 hours of my stay, and get mehndi done on my hands and feet, buy lots of chooris and pretty bindis.

I love purani Dilli, sadar, Lal Qila, the old galis and ghats of my hometowns (I consider Delhi, Kanpur and Allahabad as hometowns, all)- the smells (exception: old garbage- eugh), colors, chatter and noise are integral to my memories. The modern parts of the cities are great, but I prefer the old ones.

I love driving late at night with friends, drinking beer, stopping at India gate and singing the National Anthem (we did it 8 years before Amir did the same in "Rang de basanti") and eat bhelpuri from the late night vendors.

I love going to pubs in Bombay and Goa, walking down to the shore with friends at 2am, driving through the rain- stopping for nariyal pani.

I love watching Shabana and Tabu- and am spellbound when Salman capers accross the screen in Salaam-e-Ishq or the like.

None of the above makes me Indian- but it is part of who I am- a part of me that I cherish and that would have been definitely different was I not an Indian.

I like being an Indian. I love my heritage; it is my past and it shapes my future. I am not certain if I am losing my Indian-ness abroad, because the minute I set my foot back on Indian soil, I turn, chameleon-like, into the quintessential Bhartiya nari- not a Californian babe; both roops are an integral part of my psyche, and expand or contract depending on my mood and geographical location- sweet!


yves said...

Hi Shweta,

What's a "Bhartiya nari"? An Indian babe?!
It was nice going through your blog - originally to look for clues why you don't like Raj Kapoor (!), and reading here and there. And then this piece, hum, very nice. You know, I suppose this all comes from living abroad: I would never dream of writing the reasons of why I like being a Frenchman!
I can just see why you like Salman's capers now!
read you soon

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Oh man- I wish I was half as complementary as you are :D Thank you for being so nice- you totally made my day :)

Literally translated, yes, "Bhartiya Nari" = Indian Woman.
However, being a bhartiya nari would also "traditionally" imply: upholding of tradition and culture, being respectful and polite etc., caring of everyone- it CAN imply carrying a lot of useless mental and emotional baggage, and I am therefore not v high on that scale :D

I like Salman for having a good time being what he is without excuses, and having fun doing it.

I am sensing u have just inspired me to do a Bhartiya Nari post- need to think about it some and pull that soon.