Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bhawanipatna revisted

The longer you stay in a place the more it becomes normal and I sometimes struggle to think of things to write about my life in Bhawanipatna as opposed to my trips outside it. However, last week two people from the VSO office came down to take a look at what a rural placement in India is like in reality. Irene was from the VSO office in Kenya and Manish from the office in Delhi. In the same way as I used to look at London differently when I'd come back from a far-flung country, having someone visit me made me look at my life here from a different viewpoint. There are, of course, the constraints of living in a deeply conservative area - "Yes, I wear salwar kameez all the time because people seem to prefer it. In fact they've said they were relieved I didn't run around in tight, plunge neck T-shirts." I never did that in the UK - both the running and the tight T-shirts - but I'm a lazy dresser at the best of times and I really like wearing pyjamas every day. "No, I don't drink in Bhawanipatna. I know where to buy it but the people I know don't like it, so I give it a miss." I have to say, before I left I would have found it difficult to think of a day when I hadn't had a drink so one of the first things I discovered about myself, much to my relief, was that I wasn't a closet alcoholic and could go for weeks without a tipple. I've tried to be a little less assertive. Men, even older ones, visibly shrink if I suggest that maybe they haven't done or said what I might expect. They appear scared rather than angry and it does make you more inclined to fit in with their expectations of how women should behave. I haven't, however, given up my life-long hobby of assertively stating my dis-satisfaction to people in call centres which seems to generate a certain amount of awe amongst my colleagues who come in for the performance. "Well, I won't take No for an answer and I'll keep telling him until he gets the message. You should try it sometime." Living in a small town, people have more time and are more friendly and I realised, walking through town with Irene and Manish, just how many people knew my name. In the restaurant where we were having lunch, Irene seemed quite amused that two young women plonked themselves down in front of me and started chatting. "Are they friends of yours?" - "No, people here just do that – they seem to genuinely want to extend the hand of friendship." Occasionally I do get bored of telling people where I come from, that I eat rice and dhal just like them and that I'm not a missionary but on the whole I quite enjoy it and warm to their inquisitiveness. I'm off to the UK soon for a couple of weeks and, you know, I think I'm going to miss the place.


Who I Want To Be said...

Hi Susie, I enjoy reading your blog. You have a unique style and perspective whatever the subject. However, I'm in Ranchi and recognize the syndrome. If it's not really out of the ordinary, it doesn't seem worth telling people about. It has to be a trip out of town or a neighbour's wedding or meeting an extraordinary person to think others might be interested. Thanks for sharing. Lois Browne

viksdes said...

I like your blogs really and very real!. I must say that I can never do hat you do..stay in small town though being a foreigner to India. I ve stayed in the UK and being back to India I don't appreciate things here ..i then come back to your blog and it inspires surely.