Relationships…dontcha love ’em?? However, the relationship I’m about to ponder isn’t one with a guy…it’s with a country: India. I first travelled to India at the end of 2006 and it’s been a rough and ready ride. I travel there for my business and it just doesn’t seem to be getting easier or more pleasant even though I’ve had the most amazing time there. How does that contradiction work? Well….
I’ve travelled and explored India and my interests have take me to wonderful cities and villages where I have met weavers and wonderful organisations helping creative artisans. I base myself in Delhi and have an apartment there in a lush, quiet, tropical paradise and have created a lovely bubble around myself and yet I am often incredibly lonely there while I get on with my incredibly stressful work.
I hate moaners and expats that arrive in Delhi wanting it to have the facilities of an advanced economy and constantly whining about this and that. Delhi has shown me luxury and creativity that far surpasses the ‘first world’, it has shown me poverty that makes me ashamed to be human and everything in between. I always said to moaners: leave, you don’t have to live here so if you don’t like it pack your bags. And now after all this time I find my eternally optimistic and positive, humourous nature eroding and being nibbled at.
I always took the craziness in my stride but as I find myself dreading each return trip I think and say to myself it’s just the seven year itch, once I pass it I will be in another place. Fingers crossed!
I have made and lost the most wonderful friends in Delhi but it is with a speed and intensity I have never experienced before and in ways I have never experienced before. I have had experiences with Indian women and men of different religions and age groups that I would struggle to describe and as I shut myself down emotionally I feel like I’m losing myself and have to be a different Bubbly in India and a different Bubbly in London.
As a single, 36 year old woman with her own business, living and travelling alone in Delhi I am often misunderstood by people who encounter me. One much older friend articulated this during my last trip:
‘…I don’t understand you…you’re from a loving and caring family, you’re confident and brave, you don’t have any emotional baggage, you’re not married/divorced… and yet you’re here.’ Well, yes I am.
And it’s not just him, I know that every person I meet in Delhi all go through a similar thought process. The assumption really is that I’ve run away from a broken home, I’m a Bad Girl, I don’t love my family, I’m poor…why else would I be unmarried and in India right?
And a girlfriend: How can you live here for six months without SEX??? With who? Kids or old men?? There are no single men in my age group in Delhi, this is a fact. It is also a fact that most Indians my age have been married for at least ten years and probably have children. It is then an interesting fact that the men I meet who are around my age are ripe for an affair and often lie about their age and about being married. But they are quite bad at telling lies and I’m not desperate. I know a few expat women who are having affairs and good luck to them, it’s not for me.
I didn’t need to read the World Health Organisation’s alarming report that Delhi has the world’s worst air pollution, that is evident in particular pockets of Delhi. I avoid those parts as I seldom need to go there but then this concern for air quality extends to my socialising: only one of my friends smoke in the UK yet ALL of my friends smoke in Delhi. They chain smoke and tell me crazy things like aloe vera can prevent lung cancer, there’s no such thing as second hand smoke and that I should start smoking to fit in. So…I started avoiding evenings out as I’d be sitting alone in a bar while everyone was in a smoking room or they’d smoke around me if we were sitting outdoors. Am I making myself miserable?
But it’s not only this aspect that gets me down, it’s the work ethic. It’s the shrug-your-shoulders-not-my-problem attitudes at offices, the can’t-be-bothered and blatant lack of interest in working to a time schedule and responsibility that gets to me. I can change my suppliers as I have many times over the last 6 years but it doesn’t make a difference as the same negative patterns repeat themselves and unless I move there permanently there is no solution (I’ve tried hiring mangers here it doesn’t work plus I would need to marry someone to get the residency). And yet, it is India I want to work in so I have to make it work. Keep. Smiling.
I have to get through this year guys…watch this space!!