09 December, 2011

A Little Heart-to-Heart

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world."
~Marilyn Monroe

"I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake"
~Yael Naim, New Soul lyrics

I won't claim that I'm a poet, but I believe in posting things that mean something to me, and the following poem means something to me:

This is the story about a girl, who was struggling when she arrived in a foreign world.
At times she felt lonely and at times she felt blue, at times she felt very homesick too.
Life was so strange and so new and so different, it was difficult to retain her shaky confidence.
She was often at a loss as to what to say, at a loss as to how to behave.
And then she started to open up and share her worries, she learned the names of clothing and curries.
She said what she meant, and meant what she said, she got up on the right side of the bed.
She grew out her nails and painted them pink, she wrote a few verses in order to think.
She learned just because she kept it classy, didn't mean she couldn't be sassy.
She sang a song to herself each day, to remember the little moments that took her breath away.
She walked into work every morning with a smile, and left every night with a cheerful goodbye.
She decided her troubles weren't really so bad, there was always something for which she could be glad.
She learned she had met real friends, upon whom she could depend.
She learned it doesn't matter here or there, people are people everywhere.
She walked with a little more bounce in her stride, she believed kindness was more important than pride.
She knew she couldn't change the entire world with her heart, but she could change herself and that's a start.
She dared to dream, she dared to live, she dared to share, she dared to give.
She had a thousand million plans, goals that stretched far beyond her own wingspan.
Dreams for the future, dreams for the now, dreams in her thoughts, dreams she voiced aloud.
She knew that never is a kindness too little or small, to not be important at all.
She believed in many impossible things, she believed in the wonders that life can bring.
She knew that below the surface of books and looks, there was a girl who just came out of her nook.
And suddenly she knew a bit about herself, something that she couldn't find atop her bookshelf.
And that's a beautiful thing, you know, learning to let yourself go, grow, and glow.

It's amazing how much a place can change you. I feel so different from when I first arrived, it seems like a million years and yet just yesterday that I stepped off of the plane and onto unfamiliar soil. Often people ask me how I've liked Hyderabad, and I can't even begin to sum up my experiences in one sentence. The closest I can come to is, overall, it's been good. But how do I describe to people in just a few words the initial culture shock, mentally, physically, and emotionally, as well as the constant and ongoing language barriers, the cultural differences, the steep transportation learning curve, the complete absence of anything or anyone familiar, and sticking out like a flamingo in a snow storm whenever I step outside? Add to this homesickness and loneliness, difficult to resolve visa paperwork issues, and establishing new social connections, and you have the making of a real survival challenge. And yet, I am so glad to have come and experienced this, which has undoubtedly made me a stronger person. Talking to so many new people, living here, and experiencing a completely different culture has taught me that, on the inside, how similar people actually are everywhere. Once I began to adjust to vast cultural differences, and understand the culture and people better, I began to realize on a deeper level that everywhere people still have many of the same fears, hopes, dreams, goals, and most importantly that we are all human beings. And no racial, religious, or cultural differences should stand in the way of seeing each other as such. And you know what? I can be just as sarcastic here with my friends as my American friends, humor is also everywhere.

I think it's also important for me to note that, I hope I have shown that Americans are also real people. The behavior of celebrities and the scandals in their lives aren't how the majority of the population lives and behaves. How life is in American movies is also not exactly accurate as to what life is like in America, just like Bollywood films don't represent the lives of a 'typical' Indian, whatever that may be. We get such distorted images from the media about cultural differences of people around the world who are different from us, creating twisted stereotypes, either positive or negative, of foreign lands and peoples. This is so unfortunate and has created so many unjust biases and prejudices. No country is so perfect or so awful as the media will portray it as, India's not perfect, America's not perfect, nowhere is perfect. There is no existing utopian society, but I think if we take the time to realize that everywhere people are people, the world can start to become a better, more accepting place.

Life will certainly be much easier in many ways returning to America, but I will miss life in India and all the craziness and chaos, the excitement and new adventures. And then I will get to dive into the joys of portfolio revising and job searching. I don't really know where life will take me after this, but wherever my path leads, I know that I have a new sense of self, new foundation of confidence, and I am more ready to take on new challenges that will come my way. It is a very empowering feeling that long-term traveling gives, no longer a tourist but a traveler, learning how to live in a culture and way of life completely unfamiliar. It makes you see possibilities. And I hope to always continue experiencing life with a sense of adventure, appreciating the simple things, celebrating the small things, being thankful for the important things. I hope to continue to grow into more of the person that I really want to be, instead of the person that people expect me to be. To stand up for myself when I strongly believe in something, to stand up for others when they cannot stand up for themselves. And I hope I more often have the courage do what I strongly believe to be right rather than what is easy. It's important to really sit down and think about life, otherwise before you know it, life could be or be taking you somewhere that you don't really want to go. But the good news is, you don't have to stay there, you can change.

"It's never too late to be who you might have been." ~George Eliot

On a random note, I was learning a few more Hindi phrases, and words like "must" and "zabardust" which mean wonderful, when someone told me the word "jakaas" also means wonderful. Honestly, when I first heard it I did a double take, because it sounded a LOT like the American word "jackass," which I promise does not mean "wonderful" haha... I also learned this useful phrase, "Mene kuch nahi kia!" which means "I didn't do anything!" And if I really want to tell an auto driver to "Get lost," I could now say "Dafa ho jao!"

Last weekend I also saw my first movie in a theater, and I thought it was interesting that all movies in India will have an intermission, or an interval as I guess it's also called here. In America, our movie theaters never have intermissions, no matter how long the movie is, only if you go to a live theater performance will you have an intermission. Theaters here show movies in 3 languages: Telugu, Hindi, and English.

The most unfortunate part of my return? The weather...and this isn't even the worst of Minnesota winters. One last weather comparison for the heck of it.

"There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go."
~Tennessee Williams


  1. Pankaj Trivedi15 December, 2011

    Every post is turning out to be the best one. Nice insights and philosophy of life. Looking forward to your visit to the incredible country again. All the best!

  2. Thank you Pankaj, I will definitely do my best to visit again! I appreciate all the comments and positive feedback, so glad you and others have enjoyed my blog, it has been rewarding for me to write and share my experiences and views in such an honest way.

  3. I feel the same living in U.S. that people are same every where. I was born and brought up in India, mostly in Hyderabad. Came to U.S. to work here and made few good friends. Just the other day one of my amaerican friends said that she doesn't like people looking at each other based on race or nationality.

  4. Nice Post.Thanks for Sharing this in your blog.Book your tickets for Hyderabad in Patel Travels