It has been almost five months since I reached India on this latest journey of mine. Due to the pandemic situation I haven’t been able to travel much, but I was still able to explore a lot regarding Indian daily life. In the last three months I have actually had the experience of living in India.
I have been staying at a shared accommodation as a paying guest and have been working online and doing household chores the way I would at my former rental apartment in the Netherlands. The only difference is that I’ve not been allowed to cook my own food and that I’ve had flat mates. So: eat whatever I got on my plate, whether it’s spicy, just gravy or even plain fried rice. Yes, that was the kind of food I’ve had since 25 March, the day the lockdown started in India. Not only with food I had to adjust, but also with hygiene and typical conservative thinking of people around me, especially the owner and my younger flat mates.
Backward sides in Indian culture
The owner of the accommodation is barely educated and believes whatever message he gets on WhatsApp. He didn’t update himself regarding the needed precautions in the pandemic situation, he was very careless with people’s private information and he didn’t know much about necessary paper work. To illustrate some things: he thought the Netherlands is a place in India, he didn’t know what an OCI card is and he thinks that you can get COVID-19 only by physical touch. The place is very badly maintained: it is dirty, there are lots of cockroaches, lizards, ants & mosquitos, street dogs would lick the filtered water and the staff would still put it in the drinking water tank…
Highly educated Indians and still backward thinking…
My flat mates were just 3-4 years younger than me and despite of having a Master of Science degree, they would still have very conservative thinking. They would still believe dark skin is ugly and light skin is beautiful. They would still let their parents decide everything for them, even if they don’t want it (“I’ve got no choice”). They would still think love marriage is a sign of shamelessness, live in relationships are not done and only arrange marriage is the way to settle down, even if the husband tortures you. They would still think marital rape doesn’t exist. They would still make dirty faces when even hearing the word “gay”. I had huge culture shocks while having conversations with them.
I am more Dutch than I had thought
In these months I have realized that I am more Dutch than I had thought. I never really felt this until this journey. I used to feel too Indian when I was in the Netherlands and now I’ve been in India for almost five months, I feel too Dutch for India. It somehow feels like I’m stuck in some identity crisis. I mean: where do I belong? I realized I can feel at home everywhere, but I really cherish the forward thinking of Dutch people, the openness of Dutch culture, clearly saying what you mean and even some Dutch humour. On the other hand, I am in love with India. I feel so less stress here, I’m close to nature and have got all kinds of options to work on my personal development.
Maybe it’s also because in India you don’t need much to sustain yourself and that creates a lot of space for doing things you really like. For some first times in my life I had been able to live in the moment, fully relax and just let thoughts go.
Indian challenges make you stronger
Because of this pandemic situation it’s too risky to travel and I had a lot of issues with the owner and flat mates. The owner helped one of the flat mates escape her mandatory quarantine and put my health at risk by putting her in my room (she had a quarantine stamp on her hand and symptoms like fever, coughing and sneezing). I had to secure myself in another room, where the owner didn’t allow me to use the beds as “the girls who were staying there have paid for those”. So I slept on the floor. Not very comfortable, but better than catching the virus! On 20 June the owner shouted at me again and told me to leave by the 30th, while most (affordable) accommodations don’t accept new guests. Within a few days I have to leave from here, so a new experience is waiting for me…..