The contrasts hit me. A long time ago, a friend who had returned from abroad had told me "The culture shock is not as much as when you get there. Its when you come back".
Second day in Bangalore and I'm going to watch Sting perform live. As I reach Palace Grounds, through loads of traffic, we park a distance away and decide to walk up. There are some chaps cleaning the streets. The parking lot is just a huge area, with makeshift markers. There's a lot of dust all around. Past it as we walk through the drive, there are Pepsi hoardings everywhere. They are the official sponsors of the show. There're also vendors in cane baskets selling peanuts in paper cones. I guess this is the only place in the world where you can watch Sting perform live with a handful of charcoal heated peanuts!
As I watch the show, I forget where I am. I look up, the sky looks the same. I can see Orion and his belt. I see trees all around. This could as well have been Central Park in New York. But as I look around, there're people from all walks of life. To the cops minding the crowds, I wonder, what does Sting mean to them?
Sometimes, the whole thing feels too surreal. This juxtaposition of the extreme modern into the extreme primitive. As if different times and worlds have somehow collided and everybody is just doing fine! I feel like screaming to break down the barriers of the different worlds, the different eras. I feel like screaming at the rock swaying crowd and point out the inequalities all around. I feel like screaming at the others to point them out the differences to make them want better. But slowly I realise, this is not a clash of worlds, neither is this a fusion of mindsets. This is a people living in many worlds at the same time.
People who enjoy Zakir Hussain as much as Sting. People who are as comfortable with Andrew Lloyd Webber as with A.R. Rehman. Along with the young and urban there are also people who will shake their heads as they watch teenagers swaying to music on their headphones, but the same people who will want a better future for their children than they ever hoped to have. Time travel is not fiction in this land. All you need to do is change focus.
This is my country. This surreal, mixed-up, confusing, chaotic, enervating, energising land is my home. Struggle is not a part of life here. Struggle is life here. That's what enriches us, makes us stronger. That's what makes us get up after a tsunami hits, dust off our clothes and get back to work the next day. Because tsunamis hit everyday here. Not just of water, but of ideas, cultures, paradigms. And in the midst of it all, we sometimes put forth our hands to shake and sometimes join them together in a Namaskar. That's us. And we're happy doing both.
As the famous Bangalorean saying goes - "We are like this only!"