I thought I should share a couple of things I have found difficult since moving to India, especially as it’s something everyone keeps asking me.
I may always find some of these things difficult while others I will surely get used to with time. It’s only been two months so it will be interesting to look back on this post one day and see if things have changed.
1. I miss my family and friends
I have no idea when I will return to England to see them again. I wish England and India were not half a world away and plane tickets were free. One of my best friends will soon be getting married, another one is due to give birth, I wish I could be by their sides during these special times. This leaves me feeling low sometimes.
2. Being unable to understand my new family
This is my ongoing struggle, the language barrier. My mother-in-law and I cannot communicate very well which sometimes leads to confusion but mostly leads to frustration. When I have tried to speak Marathi people laugh at me which makes me feel uncomfortable and leaves me feeling disheartened. When someone speaks to me in English, people laugh at their attempts which I sense also makes them uncomfortable and disheartened. The result is a feeling of isolation.
This brings me on to #3.
3. Giggling makes me self conscious
Trying to adapt to Indian life means having to try many new things, such as eating with my right hand (I am left-handed), cooking Indian dishes and wearing Indian clothes. I am trying but there have been many occasions when I have unintentionally been made to feel defeated when doing this.
My attempts are often met with laughter and giggles which makes me want to grab a fork, a pair of jeans and run to my room. I know that the giggles are not malicious or nasty but they still make me feel so self-conscious. I desperately look to my husband to check if they are laughing because I am doing it wrong;
I really do know that these giggles are harmless and only because they are seeing something unusual. I know that I have to work on building a thicker skin and a little more confidence. This will just take some time I guess, time for my confidence to grow and time for people to get used to having me around and seeing me do crazy things like eat.
4. Lack of Independence
I have now made some short trips to the local coffee shop and supermarket but still feel a lack of independence. This will also take some time, learning the language and knowing my way around Nagpur for myself will surely help. For the time being, I still depend on my husband for everything.
5. Hearing that fair skin means beautiful
I have been bombarded by advertisement for fairness creams and fairness enhancers. I read ‘seeking a fair bride for our son’ in the newspaper personal columns and I have been told that fair skin means beautiful regardless of facial features.
I’m finding it upsetting that some people feel the need to bleach their skin to feel beautiful. The strange thing is that in the West girls desperately try to darken their skin with bronzers and tanning products with the opinion ‘the darker the better’. Ironic, right? The fairness obsession can be seen everywhere in India, from billboards to glossy magazines.
6. Lack of privacy
At first I was shocking when someone would walk into my bedroom without knocking, but I am slowly getting used to it. It keeps me on my toes, I have to make sure I have the door locked when because someone could (and has) walk in when I am getting dressed.
There always seems to be loads of people in our house, people I have never seen before turning up unannounced anytime, day or night. This is something that rarely happened in my house in England, people would make appointments, so I sometimes find it uncomfortable and overwhelming, especially when I am still in my pajamas with bird nest hair and I turn around and see we have guests.
7. Having maids
It sounds luxurious but I have found this to hard to adapt to. We have two maids and both of them are extremely nice and friendly but I find them intimating, for some reason I cannot put my finger on why I feel that way. Maybe it is because they can go around the house with confidence, walk into any room and do what they have to do whilst I hide around corners waiting for them to leave so I can make myself a cup of tea. I guess I just do not want to get in their way.
I have been woken up a couple times by one of our maids sweeping the floors in our room, she lets herself in without knocking. I also find it hard to find a time when to maid is not in the kitchen so I can cook for myself, I like to make my own food because the food that is made by the maid is not to my taste so I have to wait until she is finished, I rarely manage to make it to the kitchen before she does.
8. Touching the feet of elders
It is not just because of my clicking knees I find this a struggle. This tradition is a source of great anxiety for me and it all started on my first day in India. Touching the feet of your elders is a gesture of respect but I don’t yet know when it is appropriate or to whom it is appropriate.
When my grandmother-in-law was waiting to welcome me to my new home, my husband reached down and touched her feet and everyone looked at me. I had no idea whether I should do it or if maybe shouldn’t, countless thoughts flooded my mind. Do I have to wait until we are married to touch her feet? Am I allowed as a Westerner? In sheer panic I just gave her a massive hug which was fine. On subsequent meetings I knew she expected me to touch her feet but I am still slightly anxious about it when faced with new people.
Now I have a basic rule of just following husband but on the occasions when he is not around and I meet new people, I panic. Will they be offended that I think they are old? Will they be offended if I don’t do it? I try to keep in mind that people will understand my ignorance as I have not grown up with this custom.
9. Having my photograph taken without my permission
I am not sure why men want to take photographs of me, but they do! I do not like it at all. I have been photographed in may different ways without my permission, some more intrusive than others. I didn’t mind it so much to begin with but it soon became tiresome. I have been photographed from a distance and I have had a camera phone thrust in my face whilst I am eating a meal. I have had people who stand directly in front of me and click a photo whilst others have been much more sneaky about it.
My husband and I were standing watching one of the marriage ceremonies during the wedding in Aurangabad we recently attended. I spotted a guy pretending to take a photo of his friend as he pointed his camera phone directly at us, I nudged my husband and said ‘I just saw another photo being taken’. My husband replied ‘yeah, I saw it too’. I pointed in the direction of the amateur photographer and my husband said ‘I saw it happen there’, pointing in the opposite direction. Two people were taking photographs at the same time, I couldn’t believe it.
10. Craving food I cannot find in India
I dream of cheddar cheese from the West Country melted on top of Heinz baked beans… There is no need to continue on this point, it is torture to talk about it.
Whilst there are some things that drive me absolutely crazy, upset me and make me feel extremely uncomfortable, so far so good!