The perks of living abroad for work, study or for whatever reason brings you unforgettable moments that serve as doses of happiness whenever you think of them. Throughout this piece of writing, I tend to reflect on some of the incidents I have faced whilst living and working in India. Some funny, some hilarious and some embarrassing moments most of which will be tips that I will share to avoid being in my shoes if you ever decide to embark on a fascinating journey here in India.
As I reflect on it from my own perspective, there is nothing set in stone here; this is just a self-reflection session and some useful tips that I hope you will come to enjoy.
Let me start off with what actually highlights the embarrassing moments I have experienced here. Of course cultural differences plays a huge role in bringing up some of the misconceptions and different approaches to what is thought and seen in every cultural standpoint. On April 6, 2016, I was in the middle of a normal workday at my office in Bangalore; I was focused on my laptop while listening to some energizing music to keep me attuned to my work. When all of a sudden, I heard what sounded like a music festival coming from outside the office. When my colleague pointed her finger toward the window, over the balcony, to where I could clearly see that a music festival was going on in the street.
My reaction towards what I have demonstrated at work that day can be summarized in several steps as the following:
(I would like to be clear that there were many moments of self-talk and thoughts that wandered my mind that day).
Step 1: When I reacted to my colleague’s extended finger, looked out the window, and took off my headphones, I was hit by the loud music playing outside; a large group of people were marching, playing drums, and celebrating. Maybe?
Step 2: I put on the biggest smile I could and burst out in excitement, this happy moment spoke for itself. I jumped out of my chair and grabbed my phone to document this wonderful ceremony. Joyfully thinking that I finally had the chance to see a wedding in India.
Step 3: I rushed to the balcony, jumping in a childlike rhythm, called upon my colleagues to come join me and see the wedding, supposedly! But their expressions in my opinion did not seem overly excited as I though at that moment that their lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that they are locals and had seen similar events.
Step 4: I stood in the balcony absolutely mesmerized and enthusiastically watching, taking photos and bursting with excitement; I enjoyed the drums and music as I observed the marchers, who wore floral necklaces around their necks.
Step 5: During the ceremony my eyes lay upon one man who has been lying down, he too wore flowers around his neck and was being carried in a decorative bed. Again, I indulged my inner musings: saying ok maybe the groom lies down on his wedding day, but wait, where is his wife? This is when I began to question my thoughts…
I assure you that this self-reflection took less than a second. I was in denial and did not want to believe that what I am actually witnessing at the moment is a dead body, and this whole celebration was a funeral. What could I say? What could I do? I was absolutely speechless! I was in a situation not to be envied for I assure you. Imagine this foreigner being the happiest person in a funeral! My eyes were literally tearing up from shock. It was the first time I attended such an event with enjoyment, with zero intention behind my actions.
I was too embarrassed to say the least. Afterwards, I tried explaining my disposition to my colleagues. The laughs, smiles and excitement that I expressed in the time of the funeral, I simply explained that I thought it was a wedding worth all the celebration and excitement! Funerals are administered differently back where I come from in Saudi.
Tip #1: drumming may not always indicate a happy occasion, so count to ten before jumping up and bursting with happiness.
Another randomly funny moment that I experienced in India was in Pondicherry, specifically in front of the Matrimandir, which has a spiritual significance for practitioners of Integral yoga, situated at the center of Auroville. My friends and I were relaxing on a bench after a long walk, when a lovely Indian family sat next to us and started whispering; soon, their mutters and looks became very obvious, it was definitely something to do with us. All of a sudden, their child who I assume was about ten years old, approached me and asked an unusual question: “what cream do you apply on your face?” I was a bit surprised, because I did not expect this kind of question. “Hmm,” I puzzled, “do you mean the sunblock cream that I use?”
To make a long story short, this family was confident of my Indian origins, but my light skin color fascinated them. They concluded that I must have been using a fair cream to make my color significantly lighter than that of the majority of Indians. The girl wanted me to reveal my secret!
However, a few minutes after our conversation, my friend applied some sun block to her face. The same girl came rushing back and asked to look at the cream. She read the label attentively and then returned to her parents to reveal the supposed secret. Later on, I stated clearly that I am not from India, and I am an Arab. Although they all experienced a moment of shock, yet this clarification point answered their wandering questions.
On the bright side, the family generously shared their food with us, an unsurprising gesture that I have personally observed regularly amongst many Indians, where they tend to joyfully share their food with people around them.
Tip #2: I feel cheerful when people think I am Indian, I believe that when you get to live among a certain society, you obtain many of their characteristics and attributes, and you get to share the love and feel adaptation. Don’t be surprised if you begin to acquire the looks, rituals, and beauty of a country you inhabit.
Let’s sum it up with some self-boosting tips. If you want to feel that your body weight is less than a feather just come to India and take an auto rickshaw ride (known as a tuktuk, or the “national taxi”), and you will experience flying while sitting in a riding coach. Alternatively, you can even expand your experience and visit other Indian cities by taking an overnight bus; you will see miraculous things.
The road is extremely bumpy and it is definitely an uneven surface and that shows in a way that makes my body detaches from the solid material beneath it. But I do look at the situation from a bright angle and boost myself confidence with how light I must be!
Tip #3: One of the most valuable lessons India taught me is that what you choose to see in life belongs entirely to you and is your decision. As a result, I choose wisely the bright side, were you become more flexible and accept when bumpy situations pass by you. You may even start finding solutions out of any problem you face; just accept the moment and respond to it with awareness