Some days I wake up excited to find myself living in India, conscious of my good fortune at being able to make this dream come true, and eager to see what the day will hold. And some days . . . I don’t.
Some days I wake up crushed by the weight of a thousand tiny irksome things that I can’t change or don’t understand. I don’t like my enormous hair, somehow inflated to twice its normal size by the humidity. I’m sick of the relentlessly itchy bugbites on my legs and shoulders (and last week on my right cheek). I’m tired of the frequent vague nausea that never actually results in anything, but somehow can’t be entirely ignored. The scaly rash on my eyelids is tremendously irritating. I don’t want to brush my teeth with bottled water. I don’t want to deal with the expense of a harrowing taxi ride to go anywhere. Neither do I want to walk along the filthy, smelly, noisy street to get to anything. I don’t want to use “toned” milk or part-buffalo milk butter or soak all of my fruits and vegetables in vinegar before eating them. And I want the stupid power to stay on, leaving the internet functional through the entire length of a TV show.
There are also particular challenges for a white American introvert in Bengaluru. I’ve found that I really kind of like the invisibility of middle age in America. I go out for a walk in Portland knowing that I can choose to be noticed, but am otherwise unnoticed and unremarked. Here, I do not blend. People will stop what they’re doing to stare at me as I pass. Strangers ask me to pose for photos with them – I was counting how many times until the numbers got too big. When I walk into a store, I draw a crowd of people trying to help me, all standing uncomfortably close and trying to interact intensively while we discuss rice cookers or mattress toppers or whatever I was vaguely interested in, but suddenly want to escape. I don’t want to be a jerky stranger in a strange land so I engage with everyone who attempts to engage with me, but it takes a toll and I generally arrive home exhausted.
The hardest part of the difficult days is acknowledging my own deficiency. I pictured myself living serenely in India, engaging happily with community, always up for any challenge that arose. I don’t like the reality that my nerves can fray and my tolerance for adversity is less than I’d like. But I know that in time I will grow a thicker skin and find it easier to deal with the challenges that life In Bengaluru throws my way. And even on the difficult days, I know I’ll probably wake up happy tomorrow, once again excited to find myself living in India.