Friday, April 6, 2012

I'm back

I've been back from India for awhile now but I found it difficult to blog about the experience. The trip was incredible in so many ways. I had anticipated the chaos, flight problems, crazy traffic, prices jacked up 10 times for the stupid tourists who don't know how to bargain (that would be me), food/water not agreeing with my gastrointestinal system, too much heat/sun, etc, etc. I got ripped off quite a few times by taxi drivers, tourist shops, travel agents and more. That was no surprise. What was totally surprising was the hospitality, friendship, and a deep sense of empathy that the locals warmly shared with me.

When I was in Taiwan, relatives would keep pushing hospitality gestures at me, even if I bluntly declined. I got used to just accepting whatever they offered me, and they always looked pleased if I accepted the offers. It seemed like nobody was capable of noticing the dismayed look I had on my face, or if they did, they pretended they didn't notice, probably thinking in their heads, "How rude and ungrateful of this girl for not happily appreciating my efforts! I'm just going to do the appropriate thing as a host and serve it to her anyways, whether she likes it or not".

I was staying at the same small beach in South India for a whole month, so I ended up seeing familiar faces every day. After a few days, people would tell me that I looked nervous when I first arrived and now I looked more relaxed. Or they would point out to me that I seemed unhappy.. why? Sometimes I didn't realize even I was tense or thinking unhappy thoughts until they pointed it out to me.  Even people who didn't know me at all, say, a waiter of restaurant that I visited the first time, would have concerned look on their faces if I looked like I was having a bad day. What's more, people would also express to me if they felt I looked happier the next time they saw me. Most of the time I also didn't recognize that until they told me, so I did a internal scan of how my body felt whenever people noted my emotional "aura", kind of like in a yoga class. A couple people I became friends with even told me that I always mechanically answered I was doing well when they asked me if I was okay, but they could tell from my body language that I wasn't doing okay at that point in time. This made me realize how mentally ill I have been to not be able recognize my own emotions and current state of being. For as long as I can remember, my family have purposely ignored how I feel and made me do things I didn't want to. Since expressing how I felt didn't change the outcome in most situations, I eventually learned to ignore my feelings when possible, to make the situation easier. I have always been unsuccessful wiping the reluctant look off of my face though, and this always made the elders unhappy, even though I did what I was told. I realized that everyone else in my family would put on this exaggerated act with unnaturally big smiles, loud laughs, tell jokes that made everyone else laugh loudly, but their body language unmistakably tell me that they are actually unhappy too. I know you want to hear about all the crazy stories of India, but the biggest lesson that I learned from my trip to India is that there is something really wrong with my extended family. I wasn't sure before, but when I went back to Taiwan after my India trip, I started noting some behaviours of certain family members as OCD. The purpose of OCD behaviours is to try to alleviate underlying anxiety feelings, but if one chooses not to acknowledge the feelings, then the anxiety will only be temporarily suppressed but never fully go away. Unlike me who has been actively trying to figure out what's wrong with me, everyone else has been trying with all their might to pretend that they are okay the way they are right now. Any slight suggestion that they might not be doing well sets off a landmine, as they furiously maintain they are all right, that something's wrong with me instead. And I believed them without noticing their own issues.

Recognition of my problems is only step one. I was kind of being pampered in India because I was a paying customer to most people whom I interacted with. ie. People didn't just note that I looked a bit moody. They would actively try to do something to make me laugh and feel better. A few of them treated me more like a guest from abroad than a customer, and went out of their ways to make me feel at home. I am deeply grateful for their hospitality and friendship. In fact I kind of wish I was back there right now, LOL. Seriously, now that I'm back to reality, I have to deal with my issues and get on with life again.

What about the yoga, you ask? Well, I'll have to say I think of yoga, especially Ashtanga yoga very differently now. Let me start by saying that most Indians don't do yoga. Many can't afford the yoga classes. Some just don't feel like learning it. The idea that yoga is for women only seems to be prevalent in India too, to my surprise. A lot of them don't know that much about yoga but like to offer me their opinions about it anyways. Some see it as solely as a means to make money. So please don't go to India and randomly sign up for yoga classes with any Indian teachers (as a lot of tourists seem to do on this beach). Some may have only done yoga for a few years (or a few months) but already offer teacher training programs to poor tourists who don't know any better. "When you go back to your country, you can open your own studio and become rich!"

More about yoga in another post.


  1. Great to hear from you again! I was wondering if you were alright. Thanks for sharing, especially that last paragraph about India. It's very useful for me, as I'm just starting to plan my Mysore trip (I've never been to India before).

    I also get the sense that most Indians don't do yoga. The Indian people I know see yoga as this quasi-religious activity that is primarily done by old people and/or in temples by renunciants. It also doesn't help that many Bollywood movies portray yoga in an unflattering light (typical characters include: boring guy with no life who gets up at 5 a.m. just to do yoga (actually, this sounds suspiciously like me, come to think of it :-)), sleazy female yoga teacher who has affair with married man, etc.). Many of my Indian friends don't even know there is such a thing called Ashtanga Yoga, which is vigorous and athletically challenging.

    Anyway, I'm ranting. Glad to hear from you again :-)

    1. Wow, I guess I don't watch enough Bollywood movies (I don't watch any, come to think of it). Had no idea yoga was portrayed so negatively to Indians! I'm sure Indians in Mysore think of yoga differently though (perhaps "yoga is for rich westerners only and I hope they shop at my store/eat at my restaurant") :P