Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Culture Trail Mix

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Travelin' Thru

At 3 pm (Eastern Time), my relative will receive the pathology report, which will show the latest on my relative's cancer. I should be asleep by then, as it will be 1:30 am (India time).

I've the urge to treat myself to blogging as a distraction from the wondering.

This week, I have felt unusually aware of the culture I'm in and the one from which I hail. Dolly Parton's "Travelin' Thru" feels apt; all of us are on a journey and God made us for a reason, I agree.

Om Noel Om

Tonight, Pat and I were invited to a colleague's home for a farewell dinner; Pat didn't feel well and I went alone. The family are observant Hindus and yet they had a little Christmas tree, including cotton-snow.

"You're so flexible," I said and asked what inspired them to post it. My colleague pointed at her young child and said, "He likes the idea of getting gifts."

Even in a Hindu home, where I took off my shoes upon entering, Christmas was a guest-star.

I said, "You know, right after we got that e-mail message today, encouraging us to be inclusive and simply wish colleagues "Happy Holidays," rather than naming a specific one, I received Christmas wishes from a colleague in Singapore.

We laughed and then I said, "During Diwali, I didn't mind being wished a Happy Diwali at all, as I was certain that few people assumed me to be Hindu, whereas whenever someone wishes me, "Merry Christmas," I believe it's because they assume I'm among the majority of Americans and am Christian."

"I very much identify with what you're saying. It's a matter of identity," my colleague said. I felt better.

Nanu nininda agalootidene

(This is Kannada for, "I will miss you," according to my driver Channa.) I will not miss the cat outside our house that is crying through her heat, but I will miss the authenticity of daily life otherwise -- the constant motion, the continuous enterprise; yesterday, I saw a man pedaling a woman and a baby -- his family probably -- on a Hercules bicycle, not even a motorcycle, and earlier this week, I noticed that even the pickle shed near our home read, "Shashi Enterprises" over the tiny awning.

I will miss my colleagues and Channa, and Kavitha, our maid, but I won't miss feeling isolated from my Jewish and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

The first Friday we're home, we're meeting our dear colleague, friends and fellow congregants for dinner and then synagogue. I wonder if I'll be over-stimulated there the way I was here for so long by the sheer number of people, animals and vehicles in one form or another of action here.

Yesterday, two men traversed the traffic on a small scooter, the one in the back, holding onto two, tall sheets of plate-glass, and the day before that, two men on a motorcycle passed us, one holding a slim cardboard box that read, "Anglo-Indian Toilet Seat Cover."

This morning, I heard Sarah McClachlan's "I Will Remember You" and verged on feeling maudlin, but kept it at bay. At my colleague's house, she said goodbye, sending me off with two exquisite gifts -- a black and red wool shawl in a pattern I'm dubbing Indian tweed, and a pair of moonstone and peridot silver earrings from Rajasthan.

Putting on the earrings and wrapping the shawl in the way she recommended, I felt transformed from my western self in sweater and jeans into someone almost Indian. Almost....

Once home, I checked my e-mail accounts and found a new video from Princeton and IBM alumna Sandra Grace. It was refreshing in its ample lesbian imagery and felt so foreign compared to Pat's and my daily low-key existence here in Bangalore.

Sandra Grace's tragicomic "Do You Have a Lover?" tune (see her web site) was like food to someone starving for lesbian culture, including the tongue-in-cheek variety.

And now, it's about 60 minutes till the test results come back. I distracted myself with Rajasthani jewelry description and a replay of a bit of dinner dialogue, and ultimately with lesbian pop, and yet, the distraction is incomplete.


Maybe sleep will distract me further...but first, last night, I dreamt that Channa drove us out to the middle of a huge lake that had "Steel" in its name in Hindi or Kannada. The water was serenely calm and gorgeous, almost as though it were meant to be lapped up, and yet it was disconcerting that we could see only water in every direction. The car stayed aloft and I watched Channa swim back to it to put away a notebook in which he keeps my daily transportation bills.

I returned to the edge of the water to remove my shoes and socks, so that I could swim freely, but I never got back to the center -- just remained at the edge, continuously preparing to plunge in.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you'll be home soon.

Nanu nininda agalootidene.

See you very soon,

Sarah Siegel said...

Till then!

David & Gerard said...

I hope I'm using this correctly, I have no idea what the proper grammar should be, but I'll wing it:

B'hatzlichah for your flights home going smoothly and comfortably!

Sarah Siegel said...

Your use of "b'hatzlichah" (good luck) was perfect! Thanks.

See you soon.