Friday, October 29, 2010
It's been nearly four years since I have been living in India and finding the right balance between my desi-self and American mindset continues to be elusive. These years have helped me a lot to get back in touch with the Indian in me. Two decades in the US (especially during my 20s and 30s) had made a complete American out of me. As Americans, we value our individualism and personal freedom. I love the ability of Americans to be self-critical and laugh at themselves. We also tend to be direct and to the point. We are focused on execution and getting things done. We like order and structure in our lives.
India on the other hand is defined by relationships. You can't help but not be connected to the larger whole (whether you like it or not!). As Indians, the feelings, needs and emotions of others are very important to us. Indians have a sense of humility and an amazing yearning for knowledge. The journey is more important to us than the destination. We thrive in chaos and make things happen inspire of lack of order and structure (the 2010 Common Wealth Games will stand as an example).
Yesterday, I moved a step closer to my Indian-ness. A couple of colleagues at work helped me in this shift. Somebody remembered a comment that I had made at a recent event about the elegance of a South Indian outfit for men - Pancha Katcham. It is white/cream in color. It is a 5-yard strip of cloth that is draped around the waist and sort of looks like a skirt. It is knotted in five places (for safety?). This is worn with a white shirt. My colleagues not only purchased a complete outfit as a gift for me but helped me put the outfit on (believe me, you need help doing this). It was a fascinating experience for me and I was touched at their thoughtfulness. They were as excited to see me in this new outfit as I was to put it on.
A symbol of transformation? Maybe.