Monday, July 11, 2016

Sinking and Swimming and Other Things I Learned Post-India

In the weeks since I've been home, I've had dozens of conversations that all start the same way: "How was India?" 

My friends from abroad and I have bemoaned this amongst ourselves, sometimes getting a bit salty about how lazy the question can feel. One said, "How's India? How are we supposed to fit so many months of experiences after such a simple question?" And this is fair. But one thing I've been thinking about is that people tell you how much they care. Both in the general sense and in the context of the post-India, manic-depressive readjustment phase, it means that sometimes people are asking just to be polite and other times they really want to know.

In regards to the former, it's pretty simple responding to, "How was India?" You manage to shorten five months of experiences into a short, 30-second spiel, one that gets more direct  and reductive  each time it is told. Just like that, five months of traveling and taking classes and learning (because while the two aren't mutually-exclusive, they're certainly not necessarily linked either) and laughing and dancing and yoga and riding bikes (both with a motor and without) are diluted. And sometimes this is a warm welcome; it's nice to momentarily pretend that this experience wasn't as wonderfully exhausting as it was. It's nice to imagine my life as some cheesy Bollywood film with just a few themes and characters and outfit changes and musical numbers and even a dramatic montage thrown in for good measure.

Then there are those who when they ask about India, really want to know. After more than six months away, I went to D.C. last weekend and met up with some friends. When my friend Medha asked, "How was India?" she followed up with some more direct questions. "What was it like adjusting there? How were the other students? What was your daily routine like?" And my response, while a bit more rambled and messy and verbose, was more honest.

But as I recounted details and experiences of my time abroad, I realized that it all felt so far away. My friend Shanice recently wrote to me, "India feels like a far-off dream most days." And while India is undeniably far with respect to geography, I hardly think a few weeks is enough to explain how distanced I feel otherwise, how disoriented I sometimes feel in this post-India life. 

When Shanice and I spoke about how we both miss India but are happy with what we've got going here in the U.S., I said I was "good at the moment," something that rings true because missing India comes in waves. There are moments of tranquility where everything fits and you're just flowing along in your new routine. And then something will happen to trigger what it feels to miss India. Something will remind you how much you don't fit in here, not that you fit in there either, because you don't fit in anywhere. And that wave will pass, and you'll try to make sense of whatever you can on the sodden sand, but it's just a matter of time before the next wave comes along.

The good thing though is that the waves are getting smaller.

So, how was India? I don't know. It's hard to say. Ask me when the tide shifts again.

~ V

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