In the US there is not much to life, but you don’t have to deal with life.
In India, there is so much more to life, but you have to deal with life all the time.
You have to deal with heat.
You have to deal with traffic.
You have to deal with noise.
You have to deal with cows on the street.
You have to deal with dogs chasing you on your morning jog.
You have to deal with power outages.
You have to deal with trash on the street.
You have to deal with cockroaches on your floor and lizards on your wall.
You have to deal with unpunctuality.
You have to deal with unresponsiveness.
You have to deal with queues that are semi-circles.
You have to deal with multiple follow-ups on pretty much everything.
You have to deal with lack of personal space. Both physically and mentally.
You have to deal with late payments.
You have to deal with bargaining.
You have to deal with bribes.
You have to deal with “yes” that’s usually a “no.”
In the US, for the most part, you don’t depend on anybody. For many of us who lived or live in the US, you do your own laundry, you make your own tea, and you drive yourself to work. That dependency on yourself, that independence from others, gives you a sense of agency.
Without that sense of agency here in India, I feel powerless and sometimes helpless.
Here in India, if you can afford it, you get your food cooked by someone, your house cleaned by someone, your clothes ironed by someone, and your car driven by someone. But since you have to deal with life all the time, you get tired of doing pretty much nothing. You only get tired of dealing with life.
Maybe the real residents of Madras don’t think of all of this as dealing with life. To them, this is life. The only one they know.
Some context may help you understand the trigger behind this blog. Today was an exhausting day. The irony is I was doing pretty much nothing. I was just dealing with life. After a seemingly long day, I had a long hot shower (during a citywide water shortage if I might add), listening to beautiful music on a Bose speaker, standing in a tub inside a bathroom the size of my kitchen back in San Francisco. I should not have any reason to complain.
For a moment, for the first time since we returned home, I missed the calmness of life back home in San Francisco.
I’ll deal with this.