Man is said to be a social animal, that’s why since ancient times, supposedly men and women have formed tribes and stayed together, hunted together, cooked together and grown together. Fast forward to our modern day where we are so busy, so preoccupied with our own lives, our careers, our kids, our mortgage payments, our vacations; that we barely have time to make new acquaintances, forge new friendships or make time to even smile at that well meaning Aunty from India (who misses India) visiting her son/daughter.
I have found that one’s capacity to make new friends and spend time with friends directly reduces in proportion to the number of years you have stayed away from home (which is always India for me).When one is a blushing new bride from India, staying in an apartment with hubby dearest, having nothing to do but to watch terrible day time soaps and cook wonderful things for hubby and wait for the husband to return from work, that girl looks out of the apartment window and sees another desi playing with her kid in the garden, their eyes meet, they smile and a friendship begins. It would be that simple. Soon they would be watching movies together, swapping recipes, sending over extra portions of special dishes they cook, planning weekend driving trips together…Soon that girl goes to school, gets her Masters degree, begins to comfortably move around in a circle of mixed nationalities, starts going to that expensive hair salon, gets the latest hairstyles, highlights done, manicures, pedicures, buys trendy clothes, gets a job at a Fortune XXX company, they move into a house of their own, have kids – eventually the whole world revolves around self. They live the perfect American dream…while losing touch with their Indian warmth.
Every time I go to India, I admit I do get flustered with the amount of privacy invasion questions asked – How much do you earn? How much does he earn? How much do you spend on your house? When will you have a kid? Etc but as a package deal, with those curious inquisitive questions also come a team of loving friends, family and neighbors who adore your kid as their own, spoil him with gifts and food items, spoil you with offers of entertaining your kid while you go shopping or take a long afternoon nap, come over with your favorite food items, are always ready for long chats on “the days that were”; those happy days of the past.
Every time I board a plane to come back to my adopted home, I am partly relieved to be going back to my routine, going back to a lesser polluted zone, more disciplined way of life but at the same time loneliness already begins to creep in my heart. My parents, my childhood friends, those countless Uncles, Aunts, cousins, friends of friends, neighbors, the neighborhood shopkeeper, the bhaaji wali bai, the maids………I miss every single one of them, I miss their happiness at seeing me, I miss their questions about how I am doing, I miss their concern at me being away from home and managing things on my own, even my bai feels so bad for me that I work all day and then go home and cook and clean on my own without any help ! Each one in their own way provides so much love and affection and a concrete support structure which no matter how many years you stay here cannot provide. The weekend friendships do graduate into stronger bonds as the years go past but because of being so busy with our own lives, we cannot meet/inquire/help more often even though we might wish to. There were those days of the past when there would be one color TV in the building and 25 people would crowd into a small living room to watch a Bollywood blockbuster and now there are these days when there is a huge 64 inch plasma TV with comfortable sofas and easy rest chairs in a huge room and only 2 people to watch it.
I should ask my friends and cousins if they share similar experiences there in India; is the India from my childhood and memories of the past changed now, do they too like me have no time to make friends or entertain or make time to share their life with others? Or is it just my attitude of “Grass is greener on the other side”; no matter what side I am on.