0293 – Should East really meet West?

Being in India, coupled with my friend holding the book Fury by the Indian author Salman Rushdie, I thought about the book East, West (by Rushdie) that I read in high school–and never really understood. In fact, back then I never really understood literature. It’s not until I grew up a little bit that I started to grasp the beauty of words and culture.

Being from Thailand and having experienced Singapore (a prime East meets West) and the US of A, I think about the East-West dichotomy a fair amount. As globalization continues, it seems as if the Western way of life has infiltrated the world.

Today I went to explore the city of Bangalore for the first time. Here’s the few pictures that I took:

It doesn’t tell much, but there weren’t really much to tell. It’s another city, heavily influenced by the influx of technology and Western culture, establishing itself as a popular spot for Westerners in India.

And somehow, this doesn’t seem okay. I didn’t know what I expected coming in, but this just doesn’t feel right. The sights and sounds provoked a profound sorrow within me, sending me into another abyss of existential frustrations.

The East, culturally speaking, seems to be disappearing.

I wanted to see traditional buildings. I wanted to see simplicity. I wanted to see peace. And truthfully, I wanted to see a little less technology. Instead, I was greeted by constant honking (which–in my current state of mind–I have allowed to annoy the * out of me), shops like Lee, Levi’s, Bossini, Sony, and many more.

I feel a little selfish for not wanting the Western influences for anybody, especially since I myself has acclimated and fully embraced the Western lifestyle. I even feel nervous and dread when I know that I have to go to an unfamiliar place. I guess I’ve always thought of India as a country so rich with culture and beauty, and I wanted to see that. Yet, I also know that the social inequality is increasingly apparent in the country. And this is not what I came to see. I want to see the disparity. I want to see the slums. I want to see the different lifestyle, not the similar one. I’ll definitely get to see different angles as I visit different parts of India, but it’s still sad to feel that the local context here has been kicked away by things we’re too familiar with.

There’s a lot of ‘I’s in those two paragraphs. That’s a sign that my ego is flaring. You know… I really haven’t been very happy of late. Even as I spend time to advocate for happiness, I’m not happy. It’s probably time that I address it here on this blog – next post!

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0289 – First taste of India

It’s Sunday evening here in India and I am well into my first full day in the 2nd most populated country in the world. It’s been uneventful so far. I came in with a little trepidation, not really knowing what to expect. So I’m not complaining too much that not much has happened.

Few thoughts:

– My luggage took forever to come out. Apparently they didn’t care that my bag has priority baggage tag on it. In general, people here seem to care less about order and more about getting through things quickly. The  taxi driver was waiting for me when I came out though, and I had a good conversation with him during the 1.5 hr car ride. Outside, I was greeted with the night time temperature of 20 C. Not complaining. Not complaining at all. Supposed to be about 30 C during the day. Not too shabby.

– Most of the billboard signs here are in English! The taxi driver told me that there’re a lot of foreigners here. Lots of construction too. Land cost has skyrocketed with the influx of foreigners and IT companies. I’m glad Infy is housing me on their campus!

 

 

 

This is my room: It’s an 18×10 single. I had an 11×15 double at Michigan. So no complaints here. Attached bath too!

 

 

 

 

 

View from the room. Nothing to write home about. Glad to see the green though.

 

 

 

– Security here’s tight. They asked me to declare all my electronics, and took forever before they let me go. For some reason they had an issue with my laptop charger.

– I’m still having a tough time adjusting to their accent. They speak so fast it’s tough for me to follow.

– This is just the first day so I haven’t met any of the other interns. Most of the locals here seem… apathetic to my presence. I was the only non-Indian in the restaurant during lunch today. Good that they’re not staring, but I kinda wish someone would be kind enough to strike up a conversation.

– Just had my first meal. This may not turn out well. haha.

Well, it’s my first day and I’m still trying to find my way. It’s definitely going to be a different experience. I keep thinking about this:

The only journey is the journey within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

I’m going to be doing some introspection and meditation here. Trying to find myself away from the rush back home and in the US. Still daunted by it all.

Deep breath, and off I go.

0288 – On Thailand + departure for India

It’s been really hard to get out of bed these days…

I don’t have to!!! Gotta love the summer break.

There’s been a lot to do though. Top of my list is to reunite my tummy with the favorite dishes it had been deprived of for oh so long. I didn’t take pictures this time, but I should’ve. My favorite food comprises of really simple Thai dishes that rarely highlight the best Thailand has to offer, but I’ll give you a glimpse anyway the next time I get back to Thailand.

Every time I get back here, I never know how to feel about the lifestyle change. In Thailand, we have less expectations about things running on time, there aren’t as big a dependency on technology everywhere, and people somehow walk slower here. It’s kinda nice, but also frustrating.

I went on a Thai river taxi for the first time this past weekend (Bangkok has a river running right through the city and many locals use the boat to get from place to place. Here’s a good video of a foreigner’s experience) and snapped this picture on the right. There are quite a few things that trouble me when I took this picture. 1) The Chao Phraya River’s water is really really… not clean. 2) The dichotomy between the out-of-place modern commercial space and the surrounding old-fashioned vicinity. 3) I had no idea where I was. ha. I did find my way at the end.

It’s kinda weird for me to think about how I’ve been switching back and forth between the two lifestyles. Is one better than the other? Or is one lesser of the two evils? The world is so different everywhere. Who knows what awaits me next. When I asked myself which would make me the most comfortable, I’d say  it’s probably the western lifestyle. But when I asked which would make me happy, I really can’t answer that one. But happiness isn’t really about place, is it? I don’t know, but @Eric_Weiner probably has something to say about that. Anyhow, this happiness dilemma is one that I will continue to think about for some time.

Now, I’m going to be adding one more lifestyle this summer. I’m flying off to Bangalore this Saturday to start my internship. All this traveling’s taking a toll on me, but I’m actually pretty excited about the gig I have lined up in India. Stumbled open this interview of Rohan Parikh, the head of Green Initiatives at Infosys (Apparently the nickname’s “Infy.” Sounds like a cartoon character.). Jokes aside, their efforts look pretty impressive on paper. Renewable energy, composting, education programs, green building, biogas, etc. I’m intrigued. We’ll see how my experience turns out. Anyway, I’ve been flipping through my friends’ travel blogs and decided that I really do need to take more pictures and better document my experiences. So I promise I’ll try to update this blog at least weekly.

Back this weekend when I settle down in India!