Adam and I had come back to Chennai early as we had an early flight to catch. And this was the first time in a long time that I was at Chennai home without my mom – and that, in other words, means practically rudderless.
For starters, we decided to do laundry and started the washing machine – only to realize the water was flowing into the balcony because the pipe had come loose. And then I went to hang the clothes and was scared witless when a couple of pigeons flew out of the AC unit – in the two weeks we had gone, they had already made a nest. After these two surprises, I decided to make myself some tea. I had to Whatsapp my family to figure out how to turn the gas on – and then I opened up what looked like a tea box only to realize that my mom reuses the plastic bottles, and it had dosa powder instead. After a few hits and misses, I finally had my tea and sat on the couch to the familiar noises of a pressure cooker in my neighbour’s house, dogs barking outside and the ever-present creaking rhythm of the ceiling fan.
Making a cup of tea or doing laundry in the US is so predictable that you can even automate it. Some apps can let you turn on your Washing machine/oven lights etc. There is a reason why self-driving cars are a reality in the US, whereas in India an impossible feat. Because India and Indians embody the fundamental law of nature – ‘The only permanent thing is change.’ Traffic on the roads is unpredictable; even humans have trouble adjusting to it. There may be a hawker selling his stuff in the middle of the road, a cow that has decided not to budge despite horns or just a traffic jam because of two people who chose to chat.
Life is so unpredictable that there is no longer a semblance of control or pretence. You see dead bodies on the street on their way to being cremated, whereas you struggle to see dead in the US, and even if you do, they are in a coffin. Poverty and Extravagance exist side by side in India – in the US, they are segregated. If you live in an affluent suburb, you may never see how the 99% of the population lives in the US. It is impossible not to realize the interconnectedness with others while living in India – a watchman will knock to tell you that a package has arrived, the maid will clean your room while you are meditating, your neighbours will come in to borrow milk, or you have to borrow keys from them. My mom would call the village electrician to complain about why the electricity was off when she had the stuff to do in the kitchen. On the other hand, when my parents came to the US – they were convinced that nobody else lived on our street. Even though it looks pretty with white picket fences and nice-looking houses, not all of us know each other authentically.
There is no right or wrong. It is a cultural thing as well. Living in India is closer to living the actual life where things don’t go the way you want them. You are forced to face how other people live their lives – and to be honest, and this is the essence of meditation and spiritual life.
What kind of a life are you living or want to live?