SLOW DOWN, INDIA

SLOW DOWN, INDIA

Author: jayshree winters Write To Author

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SLOW DOWN, INDIA

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Jayshree Winters
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SLOW DOWN, INDIA

 A Short Story

 

© Jayshree Winters 2010


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The views expressed are those of the author.

 

March 8th, 2010 – I am travelling by Rajdhani Express from Bombay to Baroda – nice train, quite comfortable – bottled water, newspaper, snacks, then lunch. Tea or coffee a couple of times – all served with an expertise, almost fascinating, precise, timely and perfected. Great to watch – somewhat impersonal perhaps but then these guys have to move fast – all in all, a good experience.

I am sitting next to a young man who had bluntly refused to sit next to my travel companion – was I surprised? Greatly so…what had happened to the respect, flexibility of the yester years? Of course the only way to look at this is that the young man was being assertive, had a great self-esteem, and knew what he wanted to do, or not do, I told myself.

Separated from my companion, me being who I am, I started a conversation with the young man – he mumbled a few words and immersed himself into his cell phone. Soon he started making and receiving calls, talking loudly, oblivious to other passengers, let alone me sitting next to him. When not talking he played some games on his phone – nicely dressed, clearly a young businessman from his conversations. In between, I tried again to engage him in small talk, mentioned my trip from New York to Bombay to Baroda, my profession, etc., but he seemed totally disinterested. After a while, I gave up and immersed myself in my book.

Facing me (yes, there are seats like this on the train) was a family who had just started eating some homemade food that had heavenly aromas. Again they seemed fully immersed in what they did. What surprised me is that at no point did they offer me (which would have been politely and thankfully declined) or the young man next to me any food – was this not the usual custom in by gone India? Again I felt like I did not know my own people – was this the new India??

Glancing around the train one could see many passengers talking on their cell phones and reading. Sure there were a few who talked to each other but it felt different.

Maybe I was not looking at things right or expecting too much – after all India has changed tremendously, positively for the most part. In big cities such as Bombay, Delhi, and even Baroda (Vadodara to be more precise) everywhere one sees progress – tall buildings, big malls, many modern technological innovations, and what not. Everybody, of course, has a cell phone and families communicate more by a cell phone throughout the day, thereby sitting than by sitting together at dinner – or so it seems. Dress (more western style dress) and food preferences have changed (my own nieces and nephews prefer pizza, pasta, and McDonald’s to the roti and dals). Nothing wrong with anything – it just felt like I was fast forwarded into an India that felt surreal to my foreign eyes.

Progress is good – it is needed by any individual, group or country. India has done a remarkable job at it and in the process has uplifted the masses. From villages to big cities, one sees and hears of the fruits of change – people seem happier, more financially and materially contented – they seem to travel more and more restaurants are crowded, especially on a Sunday. Such is the power of the country’s financial strength. I do not mean to generalize this to smaller towns, villages or and one person – it may be very different there – I do not know because I travelled only to big cities.

So what am I unhappy about? Why did I feel so ‘lost’? What is missing??

I mulled over this for a few days and then it dawned on me – it was all about small things and big things. In old days when I alighted from the train there would be a crowd of relatives at the platform (station). Smiling, chatting, we would then go to an aunt of uncles home. One of the aunts would be cooking and we all talked endlessly – now just one cousin comes to pick me up because ‘everyone else was busy.’ Now mind you, I have no changed, nor have my relationships, my finances, and so on – we go to my aunt’s house, who of course, welcomes me with love. My cousins soon leave because they have to meet ‘someone.’ Over the next few days I met some cousins, but others were busy with ‘work, you know the stress, meetings, and so on.’ My aunt, who is widowed and quite worldly, talked about the family as if it was ‘then’ and ‘now.’ She also felt lonely, ‘left out’, and missed the old times when she was surrounded by a lot of family. “These are signs of times and now even here in India all are on our own.” “People have become very busy, you know.”

Perhaps a microcosm of lifestyle here, but what really has changed? Are people suddenly so busy? Have cell phones robbed us of our natural human tendencies to talk to one another? Is that not what India has prided itself all along – family ties, hospitality (even to strangers), that easy smile, those quite conversations, that sharing of food??

Perhaps things have not really changed. Perhaps it is just my own experience. Perhaps it is my own expectations. Perhaps the nostalgia of bygone days lingers on. I really do not know. India felt like a beautiful blooming flower but the scent from it seemed to have diminished.

 

Dr. Jayshree Winters is a practicing psychiatrist in New Jersey. She is a caring and compassionate physician, who is held in high esteem by her patients and the medical community. In recognition of her outstanding achievements in her field, the American Psychiatric Association honoured her by naming her a Distinguished Fellow of the Association. Dr. Winters is a tireless advocate of giving back to the society. She volunteers her time to several organizations and serves on the boards of Cancer Care and Health Power for Minorities. She is also an active member of the Rotary International. Dr. Winters is a prolific writer and an eloquent speaker, with frequent radio and TV presentations. She has published numerous articles, and is often sought by the media on coverage related to social, cultural, life adjustment issues, immigrant experiences and mental health issues. Dr. Winters is a Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association, Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is also an accomplished psychoanalyst and holds certification in Disaster Mental Health from the American Red Cross. A graduate of MS University of Baroda, India, she completed her psychiatric training at the New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. Dr. Winters is also an executive producer of the TV show THEDESIDOCTORS aimed at bringing some of the current medical information to the viewers.

 

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