Sunday, September 07, 2008

KBCI Kerala-Born Confused Individual

My non Indian friends may get confused with the place names, languages and Indian culture-specific references. So read at your own risk :-)

Some of you may have heard about ABCDs, American-Born Confused Desis.
I am a Keralite by birth, though I have never felt like a true Malayalee. Maybe it is because I have lived there only for less than a fifth of my life. I have lived in Kerala, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Chennai, Bangalore and New Jersey. Somewhat in that order.

I love Kerala, the smells, the sights and the people. I love our sing song Malayalam language, the rich religious atmosphere, the gorgeous backwaters and the food, oh the food. But I do not like living in Kerala. It is too stifling. How can I live in a place where people go to sleep at 8 pm? How could I live in a place where TV soaps are the primary source of entertainment? How can I live in a place where all women should be inside their house by 6pm or they are automatically considered *loose*? And the hartals? Let us not forget the hartals; Keralites automatically work less than their fellow Indians because they get atleast three days off every month thanks to politicians. There is a lot of political unrest in Kerala and political activist is always getting insulted or killed. Now how do they protest this? Is it by writing in memorium letters in the national papers like we expect a fully literate state to do? No, we declare ourselves a holiday. We stay home from schools and work and vehicles are not allowed on roads. Every state level hartal apparently costs Kerala 4000 crore each time, which is money we do not have. Sorry for going off on a tangent but ask any Keralite about hartals and that is what she would say.

Anyways, getting back to the places I have lived. The next place is Dubai, in the UAE. Most people know Dubai as just a popular shopping destination. I spent the majority of my life there so I obviously I have a different prespective on it. When I first came to Dubai, I remember seeing a lot of tired brown faces-most of them poor Indians and Bangladeshis. It used to be called 'The Gulf' by the poor Malayalees back home, it was a place where they could maybe make some money to send back home to their family. An opportunity for a better life. But by the time I left Dubai, it had changed too much, it was too garish, too money oriented. It was developing like a country on steroids, too fast and probably unhealthy.

The next spot is Abu Dhabi, also in the UAE. My stay in Abu Dhabi was very brief. I think of Abu Dhabi as Dubai's plain big sister. Dubai gets all the attention even though Abu Dhabi is actually the elder sister(leader of the Emirates) and she does feel a little neglected.

Then back to India for a while. I moved to Chennai in search of a job. I hated living in Chennai. I do not know Tamil, so that makes automatically makes me half a person there. And temperatures of 110 °F without air conditioning? No thank you.

After that, a good long stay in Bangalore. I was very comfortable in Bangalore. You can be yourself in Bangalore. I had my first taste of independent life in Bangalore, the place has done more for my development as a person than any other place. On the other hand, Bangalore does has terrible traffic problems and terrible crime rates. And there is no way I could afford to buy a home in Bangalore at the real estate rates there. So I have no plans of settling down there either.

Then I moved to the United States. Or specifically New Jersey. New Jersey has been nice to me but has a way of making me feel out of place. I do not think I will feel comfortable enough to settle down here. It is a great place but it does not feel like home.

So there! Are there similar people out there who do not really know what to call themselves. What are your experiences?


Happy Kitten said...

If a Keralite is to be called KBCI, it is definitely not U!

Nice reading you...

I grew up in Kerala but after having lived in the comforts of Kuwait, it is sometimes difficult to accept the laid back approach of those in Kerala.

Nish said...

I've lived most of my life in Trivandrum - and I've never known anyone who went to sleep at 8 PM :-)

I am not sure where in Kerala you lived in, and I know Trivandrum is not representative of the whole state, but that 8 PM figure is definitely an exaggeration.

Oh btw I found this blog entry via Google blog search when I was searching for information on hartals in Kerala.

If there is one reason a lot of non-resident Mallus don't want to go back to Kerala it's the regular flow of hartals :-(

Nice blog by the way. Must remember to check again for updates.

Deepa said...

We do live in separate Keralas. I live in a village 30 kms from Tiruvalla. I guess that it is probably not representative of most of Kerala, but that is my experience, do forgive my exaggeration :-)

Thanks for coming over and commenting, you are absolutely right about the hartals.

Deepa said...

Happy Kitten,
I agree with what you have said. Laid back is exactly what we Keralites are.. only once we are in Kerala. In other states and countries, we do not mind working as hard as the job requires. Wonder why that is...

Thanks for coming over and commenting.