Halloween [en]

Tonight is Halloween.

Five years ago, Switzerland had barely heard of this weird witch-party so popular in the States.
Three years back, the cauldron started simmering, and this year it is coming up to a boil. People dressed up, kids running around asking for sweets (even two weeks ago!) and lotsa lotsa Halloween stuff to buy in the shops.

I used to celebrate Halloween when I was a kid of the Commonwealth American School. But somehow grinning pumpkins don’t seem to fit in here.
Especially when they seem to be but another excuse to increase consumerism.

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Web Peeves and Nice Finds [en]

I’ve been going around a few sites this evening and last. A couple of things bug me:

  • thin grey Verdana text on black backgrounds
  • total lack of capital letters

Apart from that, two nice links I found recently.
First, my friend Mithun from Pune actually started a weblog, and at F2S too! Reading his Cerebral Emissions makes me feel “in touch”, much more than emailing – which neither he nor me manage to do very regularly.

Second, Tangerine Girl – pretty girl, pretty site. Her writing is refreshing, and I really like her pictures. I spent quite some time prowling around her gallery, and I don’t really do picture-gazing very often.

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So, How Was the Trip? Tell Me About it! [en]

I must admit I’m sick of hearing this question. And as university has just started, I’m again meeting a whole bunch of people I haven’t seen in over a year and who are impatient for news.

The trip was overall a very positive experience. I would encourage anybody who has an occasion to have a similar life-experience to simply go for it.

I grew up a lot (but of course, one always grows up during a year) and feel that I belong to adult-land now.

The first three months were really hard, looking back. My solitary arrival, sickness the second day, a landlady I didn’t get on with and who gently kicked me out, illness and money problems in Delhi – all that was no fun.

The worst at that time was solitude. I was suffering from culture shock, slightly depressed, didn’t know whom to trust, and I had the feeling that try as they might, the people I confided in couldn’t truly relate to what I was going through. That was normal, of course – just as we have trouble imagining what it is for an Indian to land in our culture.

I wrote a lot during that time: my logbook, and “culture shock” notes – which I can’t really find courage to go through and sort out, as they send me back to deeply into those “hard times”.

Meeting Nicola in Delhi and the subsequent weeks in Rishikesh did me a lot of good. I had people to talk to, and got a chance to see how much I had already adapted to this strange culture. Going back to Pune was not too hard, as Mithun‘s family had kindly accepted to put up with me until I found a flat.

The third and last “part” of my journey is the longest – after having met Aleika and settling down in her big and protected home.

When I am asked what I did “over there”, I often answer (amongst others) “babysitting”. People often laugh a little.

It was much more than that, of course. Not everybody gets the chance of living with a baby before having their own. And I must say Somak and Aleika really let me take an important place in Akirno‘s life – I’m very grateful to them about that. It really contributed to making my Indian adventure such a great life experience.

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Would You Say India is Behind the West? [en]

As much as I would like to be able to say that cultures are not to be hierarchically classified, and that they are all equal, but different, my experience of India has somewhat disturbed this position. Let me explain.

Of course cultures are different, and there are probably few cultures more different from mine than the Indian one. But India is importing, or let’s say: absorbing, a lot of western culture.

Even though India will remain India, and people there do not want to lose their culture, there is an attraction to the West and an inclination to imitate it.

I think these streaks of western culture can allow a comparison – although I am of course aware that what I am saying here is disputable.

  • Take birth control and sexual education: India is way behind.
  • Take ecological awareness: India is way behind.
  • Health facilities: behind.
  • Quality of education: behind.
  • Social services: behind.

That doesn’t mean to say India is “bad”. I really love India. I think lots of positive things about this country. But it has some really horrible sides for me.

  • I find it dreadful to see people breaking rocks under the scorching sun on a heavy traffic road (convicts work). I find it even more dreadful to hear people saying “but then what work would these poor people do?” when you ask why machines couldn’t do the work.
  • I was horrified to learn that small children are maimed so that they will be more efficient “employees” in the begging-business (that was confirmed to me by a family member who has been counsellor in human rights for many years in NGOs).
  • I find it unacceptable that many people do not have access to education, and that even for those who do, schooling is so often bad – especially for those who do not have the money to bribe themselves into the best schools.

Worst of all – it is in my opinion the root of all the “problems” in India, and in any case, preventing any revision of the system in place: corruption. Corruption is everywhere, from the top to the bottom of the social ladder. Your speeding ticket is Rs 100? No problem, give 50, don’t ask for a receipt, and everybody is happy. It is almost official.

Some will say it is part of the system, that you cannot get rid of it, that it is necessary in Indian culture. I don’t care. Of course, policemen take bribes because they are not paid enough. So do all the clerks and small officials. But somewhere, up higher on the ladder, some people are making very big bucks out of the system, while there is no staff in the hospitals, no money for schools, holes in the roads and droughts in Gujurat. That is wrong.

Linked to the corruption problem, there is the screaming lack of law enforcement. I have been told that the Indian constitution is quite a good one – but what is the use of laws if nobody respects them? And that is what the situation is in India.

Of course, there are horrible things in the West too. And there are beautiful things in India. The picture above is not meant to be complete – it is a list of dark sides.

I am probably also reacting to the Myth of India you find in the West. Most people who “love India” in my country have never been there and shrink back in horror when I describe what everyday life there was like for me. And I had a rather cosy home, I would say.

People tend to emphasise only the “spiritual” side of India. I am not talking about that here, you will have noticed – although it is what I am studying. In short, I don’t think people in modern India are more spiritual than here. But that is another chapter.

I love India, but I have been there, and I am critical. I can be critical with my own country too, of course – but that isn’t what I’m doing here : )

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Back [en]

Here I am, finally – cat sprawled over my knees, dog curled up under the table, and computer humming on the table. Lots of cables, CD-ROMs and papers lying all over the place, and the modem is perched on my ironing table about two metres away, but it works: I’m online.

All the places I used to visit regularly two months ago have continued living a life of their own. Even the statistics of my little site tell me that people other than me actually do visit it.
I didn’t miss the web when I was “offline”. I did wonder every now and again about what was going on there, without me. But finally, when you’re not there, you’re not there – life goes on and cyberspace seems more and more distant.

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End of Orange [en]

My adventure at Orange is over. Although university has started already, I feel on holiday – which is not very surprising, considering what my life was like these last weeks:

sleep – walk the dog – work – walk the dog – work – walk the dog – sleep – walk the dog – work – …

Animals

Bagha pooped in Cali’s bed a few days back. Luckily I found it before she did.
He peed on my bathroom rug yesterday – the message was clear: he got his litterbox back.
This morning, somebody had redecorated the living-room floor. I suspect Cali – she was looking rather sheepish as I cleaned up.

I really hope it stops there!

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Childhood Memories [en]

I flew to England on Thursday, and went to see the house I spent the first two years of my life in.
I could remember the street from my last visit, when I was eight, but not a single thing apart from that.
The neighbours were still the same, and remembered my family. A very sweet old lady had bought the house when my parents moved out, and she was still living there. She invited us in, served us tea and cake.

I couldn`t help but compare myself to Akirno. He is now the age I was when I moved to Switzerland. Will he retain no memories at all of his life in India, and of the eight months I spent living in his family?

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