Tag Archives: alien

Reverse Culture Shock

Standard

Whilst at first the tea tastes watery, the food has no (spice) flavour, and there are too many middle class boys with hipster haircuts overly happy to share their yelled conversations with the street, I am glad to be back. Now that I’m into my fifth day back in England I feel much more at ease with all things England.

High tea

That’s not to say that I didn’t have some problems. Even driving to Bangalore airport at 2am in a taxi on Tuesday morning, a strange nausea started creeping up on me and a dizzying feeling – which I assumed to be the result of hunger (I’m always hungry) and tiredness. After landing and reuniting with my boyfriend however, and with a good night’s sleep, the next day it happened again. We were in one of Woking’s indoor shopping centres when I started feeling inexplicably exhausted and dizzy. He sat me down in the open cafe area where I felt a little comforted by the sight of a ‘Spice House’, and waited for him to get me something sugary.

Nom nom nom

After wolfing down a Gregg’s doughnut though, I realised it wasn’t just a bout of low blood sugar I periodically experience, but the onset of a growing sense of panic. Everywhere I looked, people were walking around in shorts, and spaghetti strap tops, and bras were hanging out all over the place. Given that it could have been no more than 25 degrees that kind of clothing was clearly absurd.

But it was more than that. I felt suffocated by the silence, the absence of traffic beeping and revving, the empty streets, the conspicuous void of incense-pollution-rotting refuse-cow dung-garam masala mix assaulting the nostrils. It was like being in an alien landscape where all the people had vanished.

Noisy, busy, blissful India

A couple more days in though, and my perception is changing again. Whilst I can’t shake the unsettling sensation that the world before my eyes is a mirage drawn across reality, that Bangalore will re-materialise in due course, it simultaneously feels like I never left. Did I even go to India? Was it all a dream? Though I’m not panicking each time I think about the empty street outside now, and my taste-buds have quickly relished a return to olives, houmous, pizza, and pasta, I’m craving rice and spice, and I’ve been mostly living inside the house of my boyfriend’s parents.

Breathe in that English suburbia

My life is no different being in England. I am still looking for a job, I still too many things to do in inadequately short spaces of time, and I still (apparently) wobble my head all the time. My brother tells me I have an Indian accent – well I pity him for not having one, it’s the best accent in the world.

I think the relative isolation period that I’ve put myself in within the confines of the house is vital to allow my subconcious to adjust. I never fully felt comfortable in India, but I think to some extent I understood it. Whilst I still rail against the misogyny and the corruption, the lack of female autonomy and the stifling social controls on personal movement, I’m finding that home is no longer home. I feel a stranger in my origin culture, and not just at the superficial level. I’m really starting to question the way society is structured in the UK, and gendered behaviours here too. The contrast in how British young men and women behave is too stark against their Indian counterparts not to notice – and I’m not sure I like it anymore. Or perhaps time will erode the harsh edge off my memory, and I’ll quickly come to love my country again.

More than ever though I feel I’ve become part of a British diaspora – a reverse cultural and migrational flow of people, ideals, and values – into modern India. Like anyone whose culture is rooted in one place, as their everyday continues in another, I feel suspended between the two. I cannot go back to being English, but the prejudice and hierarchy of my second home means that neither will I ever become entirely Indian. I want to live in both places, in both cultures, and neither entirely, at the same time. The difficulty lies in negotiating the contradictions between them. What to do, ah? I think several more visits to the land of Gandhi and Shah Rukh Khan, for better or worse.

Bangalore Comic-Con

Standard

comic con express

I wanted Comic-Con to have its own post.

Sowmini and I decided to go as soon as I saw that Bangalore was hosting a Comic-Con event. My room-mate Jadine initially wanted to come too, and as two avid Whovians (Doctor Who fans for those muggles who aren’t so excited by a certain blue box) we entertained the idea of going as different aliens.

Jadine couldn’t make it in the end though, and Sowmini and I were left to fend for ourselves. Then I had it! Why had I never thought of doing Lord of the Rings cosplay before – ever since the films came out (now so long ago) I’ve wanted to be Eowyn…ahem, I mean dress as Eowyn.

So we took a trip to the claustrophobic streets of Shivaji bazaar last weekend in search of fabric and haberdashery. Very pleased with our purchases, we took the stuff to every tailor near to the office in Lingarajapuram, only to be rejected again and again. Turns out most tailors only want to make salwar kameez.

We did manage to dig out a good one back in the depths of the market however, so all was not lost. Late on Friday night, after promises of delivery and wasted trips to pick up items when they weren’t ready, I finally got to view the finished outfits. They looked fantastic. He did such a good job with Eowyn’s dress, and it fit perfectly.

Me in my Thor costume

Our fellow volunteer, and Sowmini’s friend from college, Prarthanna decided to join us at the last minute, so the three of us spent Saturday morning getting ready at my place. We pinned Sowmini’s hair with some silver anklets, and voila – she was Arwen! I rooted out a blond wig from a shop near the apartment, and one more cosplayer – Eowyn-maybe-Heidi. Luckily I’d kept hold of my costume made for the marathon, so Prarthanna donned her papier mache helmet with polystyrene wings, her red curtain cloak, and chainmail top – one Thor!

Comic-Con itself passed in a blur. It was so crowded and hot inside the stadium, moving through the narrow channels was like being part of a shuffling human caterpillar that didn’t know which way to turn its head.

British-pistol-18th-Century

British Pistol, 18th. Century – Flintlocks | Collectors Heritage

There were stalls full of temptation on every side. I almost cried when the ATM refused my card, and I was forced to choose between House Lannister, House Targaryen, and House Stark in buying a sew-on patch. Obviously being Northern and proud I opted for the direwolf.

Then there was the Abigail-heaven-but-I’m-too-poor-stall selling steampunk pistols and replica lotr swords; a gandalf hat and even Sauron’s mailed hand with the One Ring! *fangasm* I couldn’t afford the 5000 rupee price tag though, so moved onto registering myself for the cosplayer competition and got some over-priced food.

Sowmini and Prarthanna had retreated to the stadium benches by that time. They were definitely not used to being constantly harassed and asked for photos. I think at least 20 people must have asked whether I was Daenerys Stormborn, simply because of the wig. I had a couple of “Are you Rapunzel?”s and even one “She’s Snow White!”. Yes, because they look exactly the same.

There was a girl there as the dragon-queen, with a home-made egg, but the guy who won our category was painted up as Darth Maul. A bit uninteresting in my opinion. Why be Darth Maul when you can be Hans Solo, or Jabba the Hut? He didn’t even have the correct colour light saber!

The guy who won overall had a fantastic getup though. He’d spent four months preparing his fully articulated Iron Man suit, and he’d even wired up bulbs in the palms to get the real light effect. Each piece moved individually. Everyone was yelling his name before they announced the winner, he really deserved to win.

Iron Man cosplayer who won the top prize

Finally, we headed home. The day had been awesome. That night I went to bed far too late with a browser full of steampunk ideas, just waiting to burst into creation. Might have to make a visit back to that tailor.