Friday, December 4, 2009

Thoughts on being bi-cultural

All of a sudden I’m wanting Christmas decorations in my Hindu home. I have not been a practicing Christian for most of my adult life. Although I don’t consider myself a religious person, here in India being associated with one religion or another is sort of a must. There are more Christians here than in my experience in other places in India. Gopal is extremely well-educated and experienced as a Hindu holy man, so I am perfectly comfortable being Hindu, particularly since Hinduism includes Buddhism under its large, inclusive umbrella. So decorating for Christmas is probably hard to understand here. At first I thought of getting ornaments to hang on the shrubbery in the yard, but we ended up buying a tiny fake tree, 12 tiny ornaments, and two paper/plastic stars to put over hanging lights. I miss the holidays and spending them with my family much more this year.

It started immediately, in Delhi, trying to fit in, I think. I was so different, it felt good to do everything possible to fit in in other ways. I wore Indian clothes, bought and wore gold jewelry, and wore a bindi and tika powder on my forehead. I let my hair grow long and tied it back in a bun like all the older women. Now it’s long enough to braid, so I’m experimenting with that. I honestly don’t want to cut my hair and call more attention to myself. That’s a joke really, though. I stick out like a sore thumb wherever I go.

The way I dress these days is sort of schizophrenic. When I was living in Boys Company, a village, I always wore either a salwar kameez or a saree. Since I moved to Brooklands and now to Bedford, I wear a salwar when I’m dressing up; otherwise I wear jeans or sweatpants! That has been partly because of the storm and the muddy roads, etc. The last two days I’ve been wearing a long black skirt over leggings with a short salwar top. Now that it’s cold, I always wear a shawl as a scarf around my neck. I’ll undoubtedly wear salwar kameez again here more when it gets warmer.

I have children with whom I’m close here in India, yet don’t have much of a relationship any more with my only grandchild, Dexter, a heartbreaking reality. I’ve learned not to get attached to expectations. You never know what the future holds. Perhaps Dexter and I will be great friends one day. Maybe not.

Relationship with Gopal
Before I left for India, I was working at a labor union in Oakland. Two of the reps were Indian women. When one of them learned I was going to live in India with my Indian husband, she warned me that often these men turn into “Indian men.” Not Gopal, surely! I guess in that respect, Gopal and I are both a little schizophrenic. He is becoming more demanding and controlling; I am becoming less commanding and more acquiescent. My area is now the housekeeping, for example, which I accept readily. I am happy to report, however, that I am still bossy and controlling even so. And Gopal wants to make me happy, so things always work out, ya know? But, I am totally glad to allow him to be the guy in this culture. To tell you the truth, because I don’t know the language, etc., it is nice not to take any of that responsibility. Gopal gets stuck with everything pretty much.


abc said...

Came to your blog somehow. Now i read almost all of your posts. Nice to see an american woman adapting to indian lifestyle.
Amazing how flexible and friendly you are!

Just my thought on your appearance and clothing. Be yourself. Live the way you are. What is inside your heart is more important than what is outside. You have a wonderful heart i feel.

Keep writing your retirement journey in india. Hope you will get a nice home to settle here.

BTW, Dexter is cute.

abc said...

Forgot to tell you... I should really appreciate how you remember all the tamil and indian names. And you spell it correctly. How do you remember all the names(people and places)? Its wonderful.

Carolyn said...

Thank you, ABC. Very supportive words. I really appreciate it.
Regarding remembering Tamil names, I have to work at it because there's nothing in my brain to connect them too, ya know? Once I get to know people, I remember them. On places, etc., I keep checking with my Tamil-speaking husband.


I know what you mean about clothes and appearance. Sore thumbs, unite!

If I thought I could pull it off without looking like an idiot, I'd start wearing a lungi -- so much easier to keep clean. Don't need pockets as I carry a purse and/or backpack.

slowtalker said...

abc, you said it.
I also came to her blog somehow too. you both seem to have wonderful hearts.