Monday, December 14, 2009

Living in an Uptown World

I just got back from Pune recently. Had gone to take a test to prove my proficiency in English. Could I not have sent them my blog link I wondered? But then that’s as good as wanting to send a link to your facebook profile to demonstrate personality facets. Come to think of it, it does seem rather efficient to do no?

Pune gave me what Mumbai hasn’t in many years... A cold winter morning. To think that I was dropped to the station in the biting cold in a two wheeler that only served to intensify the chattering of teeth, is strangely a delicious thought. It was great fun. Of course, being a typical low immunity Mumbaikar I was wrapped in ONLY about 4 layers of clothes and socks. The plurality of weather in the same day – the chilly wind meets mid afternoon sun makes one want to dance between shadows and sun. And this is only Pune, a few hundred kilometres from Mumbai. I remember my Delhi stint as a child – thats where the real winters are.

I have relatives in Pune, the closest to Mumbai. My folks are not from this city, and we moved here on dads posting and have been here ever since. Relatives interaction was restricted to vacations and there has little or no influence of extended family in my life. No societal pressure, no obligations whatsoever. Its strange then, that I envy friends who envy me. Friends who have large circles of family scattered around them in the city they live, often in the same buildings. Friends whose families all gather on occasions for gregarious parties, whose cousins are roughly the same age and who keep each other’s secrets, whose extended families are a wonderful, secure safety net, whose presence is redolent of a nourishing growing up and a symbiotic life.

Sometimes I don’t envy my privacy, the distance from family you meet once in 2-3 years, the family who doesn’t know your life and your formative years. I find myself in an extremely difficult conundrum – my parents, and therefore me have extremely modest backgrounds, as do most children of the post liberalization era. My life and identity with my extended family I feel, is another side of me, a mask I don when I’m around them. From not going out partying to when my granny’s visiting to not being vocal about how much time I exactly spend outside my house, how much money Id spend on apparel or a cocktail I like (or that I like cocktails, for that matter)its all a careful composition of the Serendipity that they’d expect from a branch of the family tree. Not to sound as though I have a very flashy lifestyle or that Im a social butterfly with her daily dose of cosmo’s, but I am a Mumbai girl after all – who likes her coffee shops, shoes, clothes, bags and shades. I almost fear that If I were to completely be me in my natural avatar, they wouldn’t associate with the external me. The congruence in core values among us, however is never an act or an enhancement, the fruit never falls far from the tree after all.

A lot of people my age in today’s day and age have grown up in an India of the free economy and are the post liberalisation generation (well almost, Im not THAT old), we have a multitude of opportunities for education, career, we have brands spoiling us silly, companies paying us more at a younger age, we’re not afraid of consumption – in fact we live by it. In short, we’ve not seen the frugal, thrifty side of India. The one our parents grew up in. The one my parents and relatives still live in. Luckily my parents have found a wonderful middle ground of modernity and traditionalism and embraced and imbibed it into our lives. They grew out of their small town roots and suffused all restricting thoughts and beliefs and have grown to be parents of the new India, striking a harmonious balance between luxuries accorded to us and other do’s and dont’s.

A major metro and small(er) town upbringing also plays its part in augmenting in dissimilar backdrops and hence differing attitudes. Again, not to say that I have differences with my EF, we get along just fine, its the feeling of not being as integrated into one another’s lives that I refer to here.

When we were planning my wedding a thought of how my metro crowd and my relatives would gel together would keep cropping up. A distinct difference between can be noticed even by the most ignorant of people – the affluence of the metro-folk and the modesty of the smaller-town folk. How the confluence of the two would play out at my wedding would play on my mind. Both would, in their right would enjoy the wedding I know, but how would cousins who’re used to speaking the native tongue most often gel with my friends with their articulate English? Minor inconsistencies and major ranting, I realize. But what’s on my mind is on my mind right?

8 comments:

The knife said...

Very interesting post. I found prelib India difficult to settle in after UK and Iran. Luckily I was just 8 then so one got used to things. I prefer post lib India.

What our earlier generations did was admirable. But times have changed. Which is better? Its like those snail mail versus e mail debates. Difficult to resolve.

I don't have any small town relatives that I am touch in but consumer aspirations seem to be across cities and social classes. What do you think?

Just another Indian said...

sophistication and westernization kills....

Serendipity said...

@ the knife - difficult to resolve is right. While I enjoy my simple 'have some, want a little' growing up i wonder where this new 'have lots want more' generation will go. Marketers dream no doubt, but at the cost of dissolution of our culture / values maybe.

@JAIndian - :) your settling in a small tan village na, shouldnt be a problem!

perplexed said...

I totally envy my friends who have big families too.. I never was (and doesn't look like I ever will)be close to my relatives.. not even my first cousins. But I guess, it is a good in a way. We all live such different lives, even if we tried, we would fail to get along with each other anyway!

Aniket said...

Yello! First things first: Belated Happy Birthday!

I'm right here in Powai(Mumbai). I quit my job coz I didn't like what I was doing there. So have to work doubly hard to make as much money doing what I like. Who said life was easy, right?

And I totally get what you're saying here. My dad is a self made man. He worked to pay for his own college and strived to give us the best of education and endless opportunities.

Leave alone distant relatives, my parents having seen tough times don't approve many things of me and my bro's lifestyle. And that is from what little they KNOW we do.

They keep saying to remember where we came from and we keep urging them to imagine where we can go from here.

That struggle will never end. And don't ever get me started on the wedding. I don't want my friends to be on my big-fat-gujju-wedding. It'll be too embarrassing. I'd rather have a pseudo wedding with my close friends in Goa or some place like it! :)

Tongue-fu Lady said...

Oh! I love my EF specially my cousins.. though we are ages apart, its amazing how we gel in together.. Now that they are scattered all over the world.. we hardly get to meet.. But thanks to Skype and FB! Its really awesome when all of us meet(online)and its like "baki duniya bhad mein jaye" types, we just have ball of a time..of course I am grateful they let me maintain my privacy at the same time =)

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