Tag Archives: not-for-profit

Homesick for India

Standard

It’s been two and a half months since I left India. Time has moved both immensely slowly, as it seems like forever ago that I was surrounded by autos and cows, and motorcycles trying to run me over on the pavements, and yet it’s also gone too quick. I don’t know how I’ve managed to squeeze in so much: writing endless job applications, becoming an Avon lady (needs must, and the makeup is cheap :P), getting a job on my first interview with a London-based charity, starting the job, and finally becoming one of those irritating London commuters who gets frustrated when a tube doesn’t turn up within thirty seconds.

“I heart India”

I’m where I was aiming to be. This was the plan all along – to reach India, get some experience and spend some time away delving deeper into the culture I love so much, and eventually return to land my first real job towards my career in the charity sector. Done. Box ticked.

But that craving and gnawing absence is starting to creep up on me again. It’s the same feeling I had after leaving India the first time in 2009, like an addiction that cannot be numbed or forgotten by anything other than re-immersion in the thing that first caused it.

Indian-born French Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin…aka me, obviously

I don’t even know what it is that I am missing – surely not the lecherous little men, the misogyny, the hopeless inefficiency of every government office…? This time on returning to the UK from a starkly different culture, more strongly than any time before, I can almost taste my own frustration at the banality of some people’s worries and conversation topics. But that’s not it. Everyone becomes absorbed in their daily lives, and the issues relevant to their own bubbles. Indians are definitely guilty of doing it too.

When you’re trying to essentialise a feeling of longing though, for a place, a thing, an idea, it’s like trying to strip down what defines an entire culture to its bare bones. I can’t say what exactly it is about India that has me so hooked, but perhaps it can be most simply put as a sense of belonging, of being home. So many little things which come automatically to me are not shared with those around me in the UK. If I start humming a Bollywood tune, people won’t complain that I’ve got it stuck in their heads all day; when I try and cram myself into (what looks to me) a half-empty tube, people gawp at me; a freudian slip of ‘auntie’ in addressing a stranger makes you weird.

“…Excuse me, auntie…auntie!”

It seems natural to express the very Indian body language of bending my head side-to-side, or flicking out hand from forehead to emphasise a point. My syntax has been irrevocably changed, isn’t it. The non-verbal cues and signals I’ve internalised are now entirely void from the culture that presently surrounds me.

Perhaps then, it is these little everyday embellishments to human interaction which I miss. Without them, the act of conversing seems to fall flat. There’s an absence of nuance, of drama, of the complex social dance that constantly shifts and changes between two people in navigating and judging each other’s social status.

Body language

Whilst histrionics and tantrums can be symptomatic of how many Indians tend to deal with unwanted outcomes, they are part of a tapestry of lively and socially stimulating interactions, without which your life becomes filled with empty time. That dull task of catching your bus is suddenly a thrilling race to nab the driver’s attention, of listening with all your senses for information, a whisper of “is it that one” from the crowd, the satisfaction of navigating the confusing cacphony with practised ease. Like a boss.

Or maybe in England it’s that we’ve forgotten what significant problems really look like against the backdrop of the world. I recently read an article on Armpit August (or something like that), challenging the biased misconception that it’s unfeminine for women to grow out their underarm hair. Fine, go ahead. You actually already have the choice to do it anyway, so you’re not really changing anything, except your own self-acceptance of a certain body image. It’s a little bit sickening against the relentless conveyor-belt of honour crimes, trafficking, rapes, sexual harassment, incest, and gendered poverty that I was fighting whilst with SICHREM. I can’t help feeling disenchanted after having actively battled against such degrees of violence and for seemingly futile gain.

This is perhaps just a rant on my part, and so I shall end on a positive note: instead of grieving for something I know I can’t have right now, I’ll instead try to engage others in all that I find makes India amazing, and special, and irritating but hilarious as hell. Good job it’s Diwali coming up.

Advertisements

Fundraising Target

Standard

So I got a letter in the post on Friday from the village parish council, saying that they wanted to sponsor me with £50! I’m so happy! That equates to nearly 6 months of anti-malarials, or 1/6 of my visa. I didn’t expect such a quick response, having only sent a request to them the week before. Following on from this success I’ve now just finished another application to my regional council, which would make a massive difference to my fundraising target if I got it as their standard amount to give to individuals is £500.

This also made me think perhaps I should let more people know what the money is actually going towards, and the sort of target I’m aiming for. Obviously I’m hoping to fund as much as possible from my own pocket, but unfortunately minimum wage waitressing/betting assistant/mystery shopper/avon sales rep/busker just doesn’t cut it in the savings stakes. So here, for you perusal, is my budget for the year:

Item Total cost
Return flight London-Bangalore £500
Employment visa (working unpaid with a charity) £310
Anti-malarials (12 months) £120
Travel insurance (12 months) £450
Accommodation (12 months) £2000
Living costs (est. £30/week) £1560
10% contingency £494
Total project cost £5434

…about £5400, which is cheaper than you can live on in the UK for a year.

The Ball is Rolling

Standard

Wow! Things are really starting to pick up now. My day-by-day to-do list has extended into a two week deadline sheet, and I have so many people to contact and liase with I am in danger of needing to make an excel spreadsheet.

I also had my first online donation today, at a fantastic £20! This was however after I realised that the first site I had been using worked in US dollars, and thus came out at around twelve pounds. My tech-savvy brother then pointed me towards another blog site where you can manipulate the html code, allowing me to post my very own paypal buttons onto the page!!! I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but at the moment it makes me feel very accomplished and professional. The “sponsor me” link from this blog remains the same. Here’s the site: donatetoabigail.blogspot.co.uk.

I implemented my cake plan at work too, and by the time I left at lunch there was already £3 exactly in the little collection tin I cobbled together. Pictures will ensue soon. For now, here is one of the collection bucket I made for my cake sale yesterday.

Image