Social Commentary at the Mumbai Airport

Note: I wrote this post on my way to Sri Lanka on December 19th, 2012. I didn’t hear about the Gang Rape Case till I landed. I didn’t realize how relevant my words about Gender Equality would be. Also, I sound a little angry in this post. No offence to India or Indians- it’s just a personal rant.

My distaste for India only occured upon living here for 6 months. So when a “gang” of about 15 young men in dark pants and tucked in shirts walked into the Gate where I sat I couldn’t help laughing. They all stood with their hands in their pockets. More like herd of beasts with different ties and shirts. The 3 lone females that joined this group stood apart from them but trying so hard to be a part of the group. The herd would never accept the female kind of course.. Not without some derision or inequality.

Don’t ask me how I know that. Nothing happened while they were here.. It’s just the impression I got when I lived in India.

Even as the look and feel of gender equality is reached in India.. It’s no where near to be being the reality.

Stomache rumbles. This is the last leg of my journey.

Hippies are everywhere. Diagonally from me sits one of these. He wears paisely socks with yellow sandals. A blue hoodie and a shawl around his neck. His hair is overgrown and scruffy but not long. When I got here his entire face was wrapped in the checked pattern shawl and he looked to be in a deep slumber. The Bangkok flight leaving at 155am began boarding and someone woke him up. That’s when I saw him pick up his plastic bag. It seems in this, my first impression, the Hippie is carrying his passport and other belongings in a plastic bag. He also had adorned his hands with a unnecessary number of religious bands and strings commonly found in Hindu, Buddhist and even Muslim places of worship. Typical.

May be I criticize him because I have some of his qualities. The religion thing for sure. Sometimes I think “Follow one religion with conviction than many with none really.” That’s what the Hippie ( and hippies across the world) is guilty of.

Anyway, if you picked Hippie boy up and plopped him on the streets of San francisco I feel he would fit in just as well.

I’m going home in 4 hours. After being away for 1 year. Crazy.

Hippie boy is going to colombo. Not sure if it’s transit though..

Overall Mumbai airport experience has been a pleasent one. There is something stark and bare necessities about the decor in the gates- tile and granite with chairs. No fuss no fancy. But the duty free area is pleasent and food selection is considerable. If we compare it to Chennai, its paradise. Think I’ll request Mumbai or Delhi going forward.

There is something typically green when I think of India. When I look around I feel like there is a green tint to all I see. Not a vibrant verdant green, but a pale sickly fatigued green; accompanied by the typical indian smell (unwashed bathrooms and heavy duty disinfectant) my overall impression is clearly tainted from my stay.

I recall being in vibrant, glamorous areas of India and feeling like its a big facade, a show, its like the one dimentional sets on a movie. Walk 5 minutes that way (that way being any direction you choose) and you’ll find poverty, filth and the general cumbersome of being a normal person in India. I think what bothered me most was the filter, the selective vision. Of course I don’t mean to generalize. It’s 2am and my good sense isn’t all with me. But still, that’s what bothered me most about India. I find I don’t watch as many Bollywood movies for the pure fact that its so fake.

I knew that before. I used to make excuses for Bollywood explaining how Bollywood is an escapist business. But that’s before I realized its not Bollywood that is escapist but the entire upper echelons of Indian society are escapist. They are numbed and blind to the reality around them.

It’s not just India. I see this all the time in Sri Lanka too. But to a lesser degree. I regained my faith in Colombo society when I met the people who later became my friends. The boys and girls while priviledged in many ways still stayed close to the ground, who wasted mornings on the bus and were affected by changes in petrol prices.

Perhaps if I met such people, such young people in India I would have a better clearer even fairer impression of Indian society. But I didn’t. Even the students at the university lived in a world blind to the slums 5 minutes away from the campus grounds.

India is tainted to me. I enjoyed my time here, and would like to see more of it, more of the south- may be I will gain a better esteem for the people- beyond the unpleasent interactions with the young men, beyond the unpleasent feeling of being a woman, beyond the unpleasent disparity of wealth and how the wealthy handle poverty.

It’s interesting this outburst comes more than a year since my visit. Perhaps I’ve had time to mull it over and being here at the Mumbai airport stirred some emotions in me.

I’m wearing a t-shirt that says, ” 100% Made in Sri Lanka” I find consciously or subconsciously this is the t-shirt I wear whenever I travel. So I declare openly this is who I am, and don’t you dare mistake me for someone else.

100% Made In Sri Lanka. That’s me.

100% opinionated, rather prejudicial and a hard core judger. I don’t deny that I take my first impressions rather seriously- the fact that I acknowledge it and embrace it I think is a strength because it also makes me more than open to having my impressions changed, my prejudice unjustified and generally having my mind blown.

I’m still waiting for any of the above from India.

We’re taking off and my mind leaves behind this rant and speeds off to happier thoughts, plans, expectations, hopes and the reservoir of love waiting for me on island paradise.

Home of my heart. Here I come.

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