I have realised lately what an NRI I have become. I think the tell-tale sign was when I came down to Bombay in December and fell ill almost immediately. Though to be honest had been ill in HK and the docs here, unable to comprehend that Indian kids are dosed with antibiotics to the extend that 375mg is not going to burst a pimple on their nose when they grow up, could not do away with a sore throat, that then became a ear infection on the flight. But anyway, the doc in India immediately asked V and me were NRIs and we had to blush and mumble sheepish ‘yeses’. To be honest, V is more the NRI than me because he fits all the docs classic symptoms – endless partying, tummy upset, still endless partying, total collapse of system. Also, he keeps tapping his foot and saying “why are they taking so looooong.”
However, ever since I came back from India and was hit by a wave of homesickness that never happened in the first six months I was here, I realised that I am now an NRI in the most cliched way possible. I feel sort of happy if I see an Indian on the street or in a restaurant (even if its the waiter) and I am immediately nicer to that person (though in HK that’s partly because only Indian people will comprehend what common courtesy is all about, the locals kind of live in an impersonalized universe of their own where they pretend they don’t know their neighbours). I prefer to talking to Indian people (more on that later). I have taken to watching documentaries on India on the travel channel with much relish. Only yesterday I found myself on the potty reading a back issue of Vogue magazine borrowed from the local library with half the page torn out and among the residue of pages was something on Kerala masala banana wrapped fish. Of course I had to read it, although in India I would also skip the recipe sections of the mags unless they were chatty Nigella type ones and not actual recipes and even then it was a stretch.
About the talking to Indians thing. I have always found it weird when Indians go to other countries and most of their friends are Indian, my logic being why move away if you’re going to commune with people you could have been with in India. I know, I know, people don’t move away for the people, but still – the ghettoization of Indians across the world is something I find a bit weird. Especially since they always end up being a lot more Indian than the Indians back home (case in point is Indian guy in office who got married – arranged – to Indian girl from Bombay at 23 to shock from entire office).
But on the other, now that I no longer live in India, I am beginning to understand the comfort factor of hanging around with people who already have the background knowledge, who understand that India is not a monolith and who get the nuances. HK, I think, has two kinds of Indians – those that typically only hang out with each other and create a mini-version of India and those that studiously avoid being identified as Indians and therefore try to be as impersonal as the average Chinese person. I guess I’m somewhere in between. I think it’s imperative to have friends of other cultures, especially Chinese friends because we’re living in their city and its kind of pointless not to get to know any of them. But I’m also realizing that the Brits and Aussies in Hong Kong are have as much of a ghetto mentality the latter group of Indians cringe over. When a Brit or an Aussie meets another Brit or Aussie they immediately fall back on everything they have in common – rugby, Oxford and TV serials specific to their country and because its the dominant culture (in the world – seemingly) it slips by unremarked upon while the rest of us strive to play catch up.
Well, I say, screw that. I’m going to come out of the closet and say, I’m Indian and I like hanging out with Indians, or at least the ones that I might have something in common with in India. Most of all though I still like going back to India and my best friends are still back there.
Ok have ranted enough and don’t have anything else to say.