Today was the first day of classes and as part of the introductions, my professor asked us each about our first impressions, expectations, and surprises about India. As we have only been here for 4 days now, it's hardly enough to even understand what's going on. Yet there seemed to be a similarity in responses- we were hardly shocked. There were no epiphanies, no earth-shattering culture shock. There was perhaps even a vague similarity to some of the students, and even I have to admit the walking down these battered streets I am reminded of my experiences contending with street shops and unbelievable traffic in Peru.
To be fair, in the closeted program we are in and as foreign students in general, we have and will be sheltered from the most desperate of situations, just as we are sheltered in the United States. Coming from America/the "West" (however you want to characterize it), India has come to represent a dueling monster, a strange mystical dirty rising star in the international scene. Something (as I unabashedly steal an image from Rusdie's "Midnight's Children") that can only been seen in glimpses, elements as seen in holes of the fabric of global reality. In many ways, the nation has been characterized in three ways: as the magical, colorfully exotic nation that the British fell hard and fast for; as holding one of the poorest populations on the earth, along with the dirt and crime that follows such poverty; and as the "rising star" on the global scene along with Brazil and China as new producers of technology and medicine. With these contrasting beasts of Indian portrayal, we could only expect the best and the worst out of our experiences. Yet reality, as in all things notes Aristotle, lies somewhere in the middle.
I choose not to feed into the characterization of this multi-cultural nation as any of these three beasts, the Cerberus with three heads. Because, as true as these stereotypes may be in parts, it would be unfair to confuse my experience with the assumed and expected. I expect to have unexpected revelations, to be tested in my preconceptions about time, place, and people. I expect my own sheltering and education to remove me from certain understandings and as a young, American female there are shared experiences I will never know. I hope to show you (my invisible readers) my experiences and my thoughts. This will not be a treatise about how to truly "See the Real India". Because no such thing exists. Instead, I hope to be the hole in the sheet; to be a window, though tinted, into this whirlwind of places and peoples. And through these glimpses, I hope to obtain a wider view of the world, and myself.