Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Feeling that jet lag feeling

I'm back in Boston and I've been awake since 5am (it's fine, Mom, because I went to bed at 8). In the last hour and a half, I've had a green tea & granola snack, read a few articles, and painted my nails blue. I thought I should try to get this post out while I'm still feeling that jet lag feeling.

It's kind of weird, right? Really? I have a biological clock? Given the choice, there are times when my body would actually want to be awake? Also, if I'm still on Indian time then how come I get insurmountably sleepy when it's like 7:30am there? Huh? Everyone keeps asking me why I went to India for just a week, to screw with my sleep schedule and my emotions and more. In the plane on the way home, I was asking myself the same thing.

And then I experienced yesterday. I was just in between time zones enough that my body and my mind were totally free. I have never experienced the level of happiness or relaxation that I encountered yesterday. Adjusting to Indian time was a nightmare and I was expecting the same back here. But no.


Yesterday, I felt like I was neither in India nor the States. My mind seemed to have been left behind somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, and I was pure, blissful consciousness. I woke up at 6 to the birds chirping and the sun rising and my roommate sleeping. I didn't even know Boston had birds.

I wasn't in Punjab long enough during this trip to really get that thick Indian accent and forget which side of the street cars drive on, but I was in my "home" for just enough time to remember that there is a completely different world out there in which I can live and function as well as this one. And that's really freeing.

I think that because my body had neither adjusted to Indian mores nor American norms just yet, I was utterly and completely Ratna. I was a little weird in most of my classes, making comments that would be acceptable in I don't even know what country, but they were super instinctive (just a casual extension of my consciousness) and seemed to give my classmates a kick. I was chirpy (the four coffees are irrelevant) and happy and I think it's really comforting to know that when I'm having trouble dealing with this world, I have that other one. And when I'm experiencing issues in that world, I have this one. And if both are getting on my nerves, well, if time is such a crazy construct and I can exist in either society then why not in neither? When everything's "wrong" I hope I can hold on to that place in the middle of the Atlantic -- where I don't have to be anything specific or do anything prescribed -- and send my mind there every once in a while for a little mental spring break.

But for now, back to bed -- wish me luck with my jet lag.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tricolor Identity

Sometimes slipping effortlessly in and out of different cultures isn’t exactly effortless. You travel and try not to get too comfortable in any one skin for fear that the others won’t recognize you when you return. Hindi accents meld with Spanish syllables and the States confuse both. Can you keep that many languages straight in your head? I can, but I risk skepticism by those who don’t believe that a white girl can speak gutter Punjabi. So you’re half Indian -- what’s your other half again? No, I’m fully Indian and I’m a linguist so I know that “Punjab” means “five rivers” but I couldn’t care less what five rivers that refers to.

Bhangra and Salsa are strikingly similar but it’s tricky when your feet can’t tell the difference and you risk seeming rusty at both at parties. Sometimes you want to stay in one place for four years and not move for fear of shades of morality that can’t be blended, or because each language comes with an affect that isn’t easy to imitate. You’ve internalized them all but you never used to stumble over words before (in any language!) so maybe it’s the conjugations flying past that distract you, or the disbelief. 

Or mockery. You don’t understand India at all. You never will. No, I wasn’t raised to gossip and laze and be constantly frustrated with those poorer than me so maybe I won’t understand your India. I’m listening to Colombian music on my iPhone as the driver drives us by a pair of beggars, under the age of five, grossly neglecting their job. They stand in the middle of the road and throw back their fearless heads and laugh with one another instead of approaching our car and tapping on the windows. Maybe they don’t understand India either. They think they’re free to be irreverent and when they’re asked, maybe they say they’re majoring in “nothing” too, because they haven’t figured it out yet.

But hopefully at the end of the day when they say they’re going home, they at least know where that is.