Raincoats in the summer, Pyramids in the Thar Desert, Penguins in Vandalur Zoo, salt in paayasam, and Tom Cruise eating thayir saadam - this is exactly what my life has become since my parents decided that I finally had to move to Chennai to pursue Engineering at Anna University.
For most of my life, I have lived in a place where my freedom was restricted in terms of mobility and curfew. If I wanted to go somewhere, I had to go only by car as public transport was not a very safe alternative. But now, all I have to do is run down the stairs (because walking is very un-Indian), stop the auto that skipped the red signal, jump into it, and yell “ANNA PONGA SEEKIRAM TIME AAYIDUCHU”, wildly hoping that he would take me to the right destination.
Let me give you a little more insight on the country I hail from- Nigeria. I often wonder why Indians have such a weird perception of Nigeria. When I introduce myself, some give me a look that says, “Oh poor thing, she has somehow managed to survive through all that terrorism.”. Meanwhile, the rest assume that since Nigeria is in Africa, I resided in a tree house in a jungle where tribal people roam around half-naked with bamboo sticks. Let me make it clear for those of you who are confused- I lived in a city (a developing one) where people roamed around in “full clothes”.
During the first day of my bus journey in India, I was confused as to why a guy would not sit next to a female passenger even if there was a vacant seat. When I asked my mom, she told me that that was the ladies section and where men were not allowed to sit. Hearing this I was puzzled at first, then amused, and finally, surprised. Nigerians don’t care about gender as long as they had a seat for themselves, even if it meant that the other person had to be trampled upon. On the contrary, amidst such clamour for space here, people are respectful enough to leave a seat vacant. I was surprised that reservation exists even while commuting.
Back at my school in Nigeria, it’s completely normal for boys and girls to sit together in class, hangout, and have fun. But here in India, when I entered my class on the first day of college I was shocked to see boys occupying the left row and girls on the right. It was more like they repelled each other whereas, according to laws of nature, it must be otherwise.
One more thing that I fail to understand about Indians is why they seem to care so much about what other people do. Back in Nigeria, people are the least bit bothered about what you wear, whom you talk to or what you do. But here people tend to 'overcare'. I mean, I feel my mother would be worried about what our neighbour’s watchman thinks!
In Nigeria, if ever I went to the market place, all the locals would hoot “Aah fine Indiaan girl eh!“, in pidgin English. Here people whistle and holler “Semma da machan” !
Another fascinating thing about Nigeria is that you’ll get robbed only when people are at home. If thieves break into a house and discover it to be empty, they will leave it untouched. The logic being it saves them time to look for valuables if someone is at home. How lazy is that?
Even though I haven’t really explored Chennai much in the little time that I have had, I can sense that so much has changed in my life from then and now – from “bro” to “machan”; from “Yam fries” to “Sambar Vadai”; from English Movies to Kabali; from “goslow” to “traffic jam”; from “aah-aah” to “aiyyo” and finally from Non-Resident Indian (NRI) to Now Residing in India (NRI). So much has changed, indeed!
Well, this is home now and hopefully in the next four years I will be writing another piece from a completely different perspective!