Its been a few weeks now, since I have been wondering about how certain things in Australia are in complete contrast to how it is in India. Small little things keep coming to me every now and then, about how diametrically opposite the two countries are in their social set up. I have neither lived here long enough, nor do I know enough people to know it all, and hence these are just my minimal observations, no absolutes, and definitely no judgments.
I was talking to one of the BB's carers at the day care centre he attends, when I went to drop him. She was talking to me and mentioned the GP as, 'your partner'. It took me a second to let it sink in. And there have been a few other occasions, when I was asked if I had a partner, or who is my partner and such like. When we were newly married, it used to take both the GP and me quite a bit of effort to use the words husband and wife, to talk about each other to others, but over seven years, that has kind of sunk in. Though I still prefer mentioning the GP by his name, instead of as 'my husband', but the 'husband' has infact become a familiar territory. And now it goes to partner. I can imagine in my head going back to India and mentioning to the GP as my 'partner' and getting the looks, and sniggers. (Just to mention, not everyone I know in India is open minded, liberated and ultra modern.) Infact back in India, if anyone mentioned someone as their partner, I would not really know what exactly to make of it. What I am still not clear about here, is whether, 'partner' is the general umbrella term for anyone who is a boyfriend/girlfriend/live-in-partner/husband, or is it just about someone one lives with. Whatever it is, I will need to now condition myself to accept the fact that I have a 'partner'!
Having grown up in India, in the era of Doordarshan, population control is ingrained in every cell of my being. Remember the seedy ads of Nirodh and Mala D? Pseudo intellectuals like me, thrive on the illusion of being 'educated' and aware of our birth control needs. People who go beyond the two child limit, set by the hum do hamaare do(Two of us and two of ours) slogan of the government agencies quite seem like nincompoops, who can only claim to be lame. And then there are financial constraints ofcourse, each child born would require donations for admissions from the around-the-corner playschool right up to their PhD degree if they wish to slog till then. That is what my mind is used to thinking as the way to be. And here I come to Australia, a land where the government pours in huge amounts of money in the hands of parents, each time they add to the population of the country. Pretty much every mother I meet here has three children or more, almost every time I see families out on weekends and holidays, they are with three or four kids. And it has yet to stop striking me as being in such stark contrast to urban India, where we usually have atleast one and in many cases two parents per child. Coming from a country which is bursting at seams, with the amount of people it has, to a country, that is desperately trying to increase its population, the difference would not be lost even on the blind.
One of the things I am loving here, is greeting or atleast smiling at people, we pass by, on the streets or parks, and even if its a male, my smiling at him does not mean anything more than a polite greeting. Its easier to just nod or smile, than to force my line of sight elsewhere, when another human being is in close proximity. I used to hate having to do that earlier, that or stony stares returned in the like, smiling at an unknown male was quite out of the question of course. A friend, who brought in his Indian bride here, was rather worried at how she would blend in, since she never smiled at unknown people, or even the people handling the cash counters at different stores, which is quite the norm around here. And the reason was simple enough, we don't really go around smiling at everyone back home, because its not taken well in the Indian social structure. And to change a habit held for close to three decades in a few months, is not a mean task. While a girl or woman smiling at random strangers maybe taken as a definition of bad character somewhere, not doing the same is perceived as being rude some place else.
The one thing I am desperately missing here though, is my favourite juice, the orange-carrot blend, without additives. Its crazy to see how every damn bottle/tetra-pack of juice that I pick up, has additives. The funniest was, one that boldly claimed 'no added sugar', and had sucrose in its ingredients. Even the ones without preservatives or sugar, have added vitamins and taste enhancers. There is virtually no option of buying additive-free juice. So even the possibly healthy drink option of a juice, is not quite that healthy, once you do look at the contents. If there is some place that sells, additive-free, plain and simple juice, I am still to find it. In fact, for the first time in my life, I have actually started looking at labels and the ingredients before buying the products.
And with each passing day, these little things are feeling a little less different to me, hopefully a sign that I am settling in. And yet it is quite impossible to not always be able to spot the difference, when I have grown up in society which varies so much in certain ways. I am making a new home here, but the one I have grown up in, will always hold a special place in my heart!