It appears to me that these days I walk in a state of semi-detachment from the world. I cross traffic-clogged roads dreamily without looking at either sides. I board and alight buses and trains with my eyes firmly lodged on my IPhone.
What happened to me? You may wonder. Well nothing out of the ordinary. I am just being an NRI. My feet have gotten accustomed to pedestrian crossings and queues at bus-stops. My eyes and ears have taken a backseat, both lavishing all their attention to the Facebook app on my IPhone now.
Flashback to 4 years ago, I was like the female version of ‘Tarzan’. Sprinting after buses, elbowing fellow-passengers, trampling feet that obstructed a path to a possible empty seat, warding off curious hands and cheeky grins with a dark stare or under more unbearable conditions with a handy safety-pin. And do I need to mention, I lived in India back then? Living the Desi life to the core.
I crossed roads, dodging Godzilla size truckers and rickshaws driven by drivers with an evil glint in their eye. My heart never skipped a beat in the midst of such peril. At college, I even scaled brick walls to reach a shortcut path to my classes. And mind you, all this donning very non-gymnastic attire of the salwar-khameez paired with the flowing dupatta.
Where did that person disappear? Where is that girl in me, who haggled with auto-drivers and street-vendors, devoured chaats and Frooti fearlessly and skipped past gutters and potholes with the grace of a ballerina?
My senses used to be alert. Hand casually but firmly gripped onto the handbag and mobile when in the midst of crowds. Eyes watching out for puddles and abruptly ending footpaths and beggars sprawled on these footpaths. Nostrils diverting me from possible nasal terrors in the form of walls which sadly serve as public latrinals for the majority Indian men.
These days, my hands and eyes are either busy with the pages of a book, or fiddling with my phone. The sense of smell has gone to sleep, only to be rudely awakened by some fellow-passenger’s astonishing choice of perfume mingled with sweat. I am an invisible entity in the throng of commuters. Catcalls and pokes are a thing of the past. The invisibility is strangely comforting and yet eerie. In India, people can’t get enough of looking at you and here people can’t get enough of looking at their PS3 or more recently their IPads. There’s a calming monotony to life. The predictability of each step I take is reassuring and yet sometimes, I want to prance and hop instead of sail and glide.
How many of you NRIs miss that aspect of ‘home’ sometimes?
Curiosity versus Indifference. Unpredictability versus Predictability. Adventure versus Routine. India versus The rest of the world.