Monday, June 21, 2010

East Is East and West Is West

Part of Fiorella's degree is in Indian Studies--not warpaint and feather headdresses, but fatalism, ahimsa, and friendship. Fio has had experience with all three.

Years ago Fio and two Indian friends were being driven through downtown Chicago, under yellow lights turning red and down one-way streets in the wrong direction. Fio reacted to each near-tragedy with a jerk or wince while her two friends did nothing but placidly pull their pallus across their noses against the fishy odor of the waterfront. "How could you stay so calm?" Fio later asked Friend Uma. Shrugging her shoulders, she gave Fio an answer as old as India: "If it was my time to go, it was my time to go."

Fio also remembers when Friend Sushila pointed out an ant meandering across the page of the Telugu text Fio was laboring to translate. Fiorella, daughter of the West, promptly squashed the interloper flat; Sushila, daughter of the East, uttered a cry of surprise and horror. Sorry--Fio was brought up with a can of Raid under the kitchen sink.

Expressions of friendship could also be problematical. Male and female friends do not hold hands in public in India, although friends of the same sex often do. The American girls in the study program soon adjusted to walking around campus holding hands with their female Indian friends, but the American guys were more reticent.

Namaskaaram-anDi to all.

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