The "immigrant experience" is a phrase I usually associate with the U.S., what with people from across the world streaming in here everyday. A travelogue is what I'd associate with literature by foreigners from India. But the blogosphere is telling a different story. Many American and other Western citizens, who have either got on the love train or are riding the global economy wave that took them to India or simply love living there, are blogging about their experiences in a personal way that travel guides are unlikely to offer. Some are there for a few years. Many are looking at a more permanent stay. All their stories are a refreshing look at my country, and a great guide for people planning to take the 24-hour flight across the oceans. Bloggers are sharing everything from festivals to travel experiences to cultural cues that can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.
Here are a few gems I found. Their blogs will take connect you to others who are going through similar life changes and sharing them openly.
The White Indian Housewife is of Australian origin, now married to a Indian and living in Mumbai. She blogs about everything from festivals to finding fulfillment in life, especially since her life in India offers a lot less of the material comforts she was used to. She also blogs extensively about multicultural relationships based on her experiences; but it was this post -- The Difficulty of Being Married to an Indian -- that gave me a sense of how quickly she had caught up with some biases that we as Indians have always known, but do not always wish to put in so many words (We talked about the skin color bias earlier on BlogHer, though):
The way a person is treated in India is very much based on their position in society. In fact, upon meeting someone, the first thing that an Indian will usually do is determine that position, then act accordingly.
There is a general rule though, and it’s based on skin colour and gender. White men have top position in the pecking order, followed by white women, then Indian men, and lastly Indian women. In my experience, if I go out somewhere with a gora (white man), he will be the one that gets the attention from waiters, shop assistants, and Indians in general. If I go out with my husband, Indians will usually defer to me.
There have been so many times that I’ve had success complaining about something where my husband hasn’t. There have also been many times where a place has willingly opened its doors to me and my white skin, but has resisted letting him in.
A Girl from Foreign, Jurate Nair, is of Lithuanian origin, now living in Mumbai with her husband. She blogs heavily on culture and Bollywood. She also maintains a photoblog, India As I See It , and a food blog, A Lithuanian Cooking in India. (She probably has a Lithuanian version of her food blog, but I cannot, of course, read it).
B. Friendly In Delhi is of German origin, lives in New Delhi, and is probably married to/or is getting married right now to her Indian boyfriend. She wonders about the future of her intercultural relationship in this interesting post -- Legalizing A Relationship :
Will an Indian-German couple stand a chance? [...]
[T]he other day I was asked once again what I was doing in India. Quickly followed by an "Are you working here?" Despite the frequency with which this question is hurled at me, I´m never prepared for the Indian curiosity (naturally these questions last until they know how my "husband" is earning a living) and still have no proper answer laid out, so I fumble. "Well, I am married here" (since the term girl-friend has a sleezy ring to it in India, we always said we are married already )Oh, to an Indian? Disbelief. Yes. "And you live in India?" Yes. This time I felt a bit cocky and asked the woman "Do you feel sorry for me now?" She frowned. Did I mention that Indians are not that good with irony or sarcasm? I think I did. Anyway, so the lady goes with a big smile on her face and quite sure of herself "Well, if you come for an Indian man, you must love India and Indian culture very much!". WOW! Is that so? I wanted to respond with a spicy "No, not at all, I only love him, not his country!" but thought it wiser to hold my tongue. Karma and all.... In any case, this statement really got me thinking. Do couples from different cultural backgrounds need to be in love with the place the partner grew up in?
[An aside...Well, not to impose my thoughts on this terrific conversation or anything, but the intrusive lady's statement may (MAY) have less to do with prejudice against our own culture and more about our own understanding of how hard it can get for a woman trying to negotiate over 5,000 years of a million traditions. Why would a "foreign" woman with barely any traditional burden want to put herself in such a position? Moving on...]
Delhi Bound's Naomi and her family moved to India by choice: no job losses, no international postings here. They simply wanted to move and raise their children internationally, almost following a family tradition. She writes a lot about issues and causes, like unemployment and how to teach your children compassion.
An American in Delhi has been living in India since 2007. Her latest post -- Are All Landlords Here Thieves? -- is a terrific cautionary tale for the dollar-rich tenant renting a place to live. As the first sentence of her post says:
A good INDIAN friend said to me one day, "White skin shows the way for black money."
Like White Indian Housewife, IndianTies: east marries west, a Texan girl married to an Indian and now living in the U.S., focuses on intercultural relationships, particularly if one of the partners is Indian. Her post -- Interracial Marriage a Status Symbol? -- is another interesting take on how we view success:
For my husband, being married to me (a white girl) isn't much of a status symbol - he didn't go out looking specifically for an American or a white girl. He didn't "need me" in order to get somewhere in life.[...]
However, some of my husband's Indian friends have expressed their desire to find a white girl to my husband. One friend (from India - who recently came to the States) actually said to my husband, "Wow, you've got it made, I have to find a white girl like you..." And he was serious![...]
In fact, when we tell people that we want to move back to India at some point, they give us the strangest looks and say, "Man you've got it made, why would you want togo back?"
All this to say that, yes, there are people who are disillusioned and want to marry out of their race for reasons other than love. But to those of us who are in it for the right reasons, what others think really shouldn't matter.
Gori Girl -- apart from looking breathtaking in her Indian bridal wear -- is of Californian origin, married to a Bengali Indian, now living in the D.C. area. She writes extensively about intercultural relationships that stems from her experience. Her blog is a crash course in Indian traditions (a lot of it Bengali). She also hosts a forum for questions about India.
[Pix Source: Gori Girl]
[C]heck this out—I was able to make an appointment at 10 a.m. for 11:45 a.m. the same day. I saw a real doctor, no nurse practitioner or even just a regular nurse with the Dr. buzzing through. I sat down with a doctor for 15 minutes, he listened to me, and was both caring and concerned. I was in and out within one hour flat. I got all three prescriptions I needed in the downstairs pharmacy with no wait, literally 2 minutes to get all the drugs.[...]
And the price? 300 rupees for the appointment, 229 for the drugs. That’s like $6.50 and $5.00 respectively… all without insurance of course, I paid for 100% of the costs. In contrast, I haven’t seen an actual doctor in the US for several years now and the cost of health care at home… well, we all know all that. I should add that the hospital was clean, world-class standards. My only real tell-tale India moment was when we drove out the back on the way home. They could use some improvement on their, uh, waste disposal system.
Mint blogger Melissa A. Bell seems to have landed up in India from her journalism school in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) following a series of not-so-calculated circumstances, going a bit with the flow of a tough media market in the U.S. and the possibility of traveling. In her post Why I Live in India, California gal Bell talks about why she returned to India after her internship and decided to stay on thus far:
In the US, in case you’ve somehow managed to miss all the moaning and groaning of the US media, the newspaper has been dying for some time. Most financial backers are loath to support established, successful city papers.
Part of it was a realization that it was not just my industry that was expanding like crazy. I had heard the growth story before I came. But it was an all-together new thing to experience the stark difference between a country stagnating and a country exploding. At that time the US was a country rife with apathy. I believe that more than anything else led my country in disastrous directions. People just weren’t excited about things. Even worse, people didn’t care. It was all about keeping to the status quo. In India, people cared. People wanted. People were fighting and experimenting and trying. You walked around and the air felt rife with possibility. It seemed that new companies, new ideas, new art, new music were stumbling and jumbling their way out into the world in every direction. It was a pretty addictive feeling to be in a place that felt so alive.
Joe and Kristina's American Expats in India
An American Teen in India
A Reason to Write- India
Dave and Jenny's Our Delhi Struggle
Gora Desi in Delhi -- An American Expat's Adventures in India
Gora!Gora!Gora! -- Jason is an expat from Sydney now living in Mumbai
India expat forums
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