Tuesday, June 30, 2015

India 2015 Summer: Swalpa adjust maadi

** Warning: This is a rant. It does not contextualize or essentialize India as one entity. It also does not seek to improve anyone. Also, this is the sixth draft that might see the light of the day.

So, I've returned to India after almost a year of being in the United States. Turns out living by yourself, making your own food, washing your clothes and doing research are good ways to keep away from blogging. I am back to where it all began in that sense. Even this blog. Bangalore. Interning at a corporate research lab with bright people, most of them about three years younger. Before we go further, apologies to my brother whose every act of growing up I have so critically called out. Turns out people older than him and younger than me can both be immensely stupid and exceptionally mature. Whowouldathunk I'd have to make business conversations with people born in 1993? Well, the year 25 is two months away. Who could have imagined what the 25 year old me would resemble? Not me for sure.
So yeah, turns out I've finally reached Marathahalli, the proverbial tech park district where tiny little worker ants scurry in and out of with heavy black laptop bags and access cards strung around their necks. Most of them have unshapely behinds (not making this up) because of sedentary debugging jobs. I can already feel mine grow bigger as I type. There are no roads. Most roads turn to dust on a daily basis as cars and trucks ply on them. It's an odd place to say the least. On which our little tempo traveller runs morning and evening.
It's also my first close encounter to people on the other side of JNU (IIT Delhi is actually light years away if you get the political, cultural and philosophical differences). But, yes, engineers. Also, most North Indians. And, local people in the area. Mostly South Indians. What puzzled me is that Bangalore has become so much more North Indianized than I had seen in 2010. Now you don't even have to try to make Hindi sound like KannaD (as many Amit friends call it). To some Amit friends, rather seriously, all of South India is one region and has one language. The one that Shahrukh invented in Chennai Express. Again, very different from my Bangalore of yonder that made me learn a little bit of all the four big languages and even some dialect words. As I spoke functional Kannada, one Amit squealed. "Aap toh genius ho." I asked if he wanted to learn some. But kyun? Bakwaas hoti hai. He said.
He is not a bad person and I know nothing of NLP (natural language processing or a cooler thing than big data analysis). But I'd imagine that knowing a little bit of Kannada would go farther than going abroad and defending India's cultural diversity in terms of keeping us together and making our collective lives as Indians better. Again now, as an aspirant to NRI category I can justifiably be accused of Solutionism. So, with due apologies to Morozov, I shrugged and started walking towards the hotel wondering what all these bright Amits would do in their lives. It's hard to justify two degrees in cinema studies, I thought to myself. Which is true, sort of. At least the social science and humanities circles (read JNU self indulgence) I indulged in, people barely explained or asked "so what". But on the whole, I realized, the cultural studies education and a journey through comparative literature and grappling with issues of translation made me (no claims for my classmates) a less classist, less casteist and a less intolerable person. You would be amazed, or at least I am, as to how in India being a blue collar worker really casts you into some feudal relationship with the people you serve. Why aren't we nicer to those who serve us? Or, just a smile? Or try and speak the other's language?
This isn't versus America. As someone rightly said, the exhilarating thrill and frustration of life's pace and movement brought her back home. I came this summer for that same pulsating, elbowing through the crowd feeling. Of course I've gotten a lot rustier at hustling. But, especially for those of us who have resources and the privilege to be nicer, you'd wonder why we can't "swalpa adjust"?