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Posts Tagged ‘privilege’

From my journal two weeks ago:

I find it amazing that even though I have only just set out on this journey, I have already left a place behind. I want to carry Chennai with me; I will haul the authentic feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness of that place as I recognize my tendency of reaching for abstractions and generalizations to make this experience more packageable, more portable, and more impartable. I have to decolonize the part of my brain that sees it all as a mess, restrain and admonish the lobe that identifies problems and dreams up solutions.

I am not sure how to do this yet beyond acknowledging these motivations as things I carry, for better or for worse, that I pack and unpack when I leave and return to the haven of my room and reflections; they are things that take up room in my luggage like anything else, and like anything else they take up space that could otherwise be filled with other essential tools and toys of a travelling mind or body.

After sleeping in nine different towns and two trains in the 13 nights since that entry, I am used to the refrain from rickshaw drivers as they see us carrying packs near the train or bus station: “Coming or going, coming or going?” And I am still haunted by the problem of fishing authenticity out of constant migration. What am I trying to accomplish as I live for a short time in these places?

In Pondicherry, I buy Indian rubber monsoon sandals and a longi, but it would be laughable for me to harbour illusions that I can fit in. Am I trying to elevate myself above the status of interloper? Is it possible to overcome my reductive mind and cultivate a type of temporary belonging that does not hinge on pretending, but rather on me acting as my imperfect self? This probably is not possible, since my thoughts and actions inherently exist firmly in the greater narratives of labels such as white, Western, tourist, etc. (more…)

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Of Tribes and Tribulations

Deepak, whom we met on the train, led us to the temple in the village of Koraput, his home town that is deemed too minor to be listed in our comprehensive 1000+ page India travel guide book. We were only transferring in this village, killing time before our overnight train to Balugaon left in the evening. Across the street from the temple, there was a crowd gathered for some sort of festival with a performance going on. I asked if it was okay to watch, so Deepak organized some plastic chairs for us, then he left, promising to see us off at the train station in the evening.

Koraput dancers

We were distracting. Now, instead of watching the stage, the audience was watching us. Minutes later, distinguished middle aged men stepped down from the official reception area and asked us to come up to where the important people sit, an elevated viewing area. They greeted us as if we were special honored guests and asked us where we were from and why we had come to the Koraput District Tribal Dance Competition. They were so thrilled that we had come, that it was difficult to explain that it was all just a coincidence, that we just happened to walk by. From their glowing faces and their emphatic grateful gestures, it seemed that we were what they had been waiting for. A miracle had taken place; we had arrived in Koraput. (more…)

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