Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not "Nakusa" (Unwanted)

The more I know of this world the more grateful I am for who I am: specifically for which country I was born in and to which parents I was born.  I never got around to finishing and posting my draft of “be thankful you are not an (East) Indian brother.”  It related recent interactions I have had with young East Indian males who are organizing their lives around the large donations and sacrifices they must make to their families in order to wed off their sisters.  Wedding off a sister requires the family to fork over many years worth of salaries to pay for the lengthy, ornate ceremonies (clothes, jewels, priests, musicians, rental of community hall, meals for all the guests, paying off the roaming transvestites who visit the ceremony and demand payment in lieu of disruption, a dowry). 

It is interesting to hear this side of the story after having the grand honor of attending a Hindi wedding in Delhi last fall, as a guest of the bride’s family.  It seemed at the time an extensive investment for the observable lack of wealth of her family.  Yet I so enjoyed every aspect of the wedding and the ceremonies leading up to the wedding itself that I did not dwell on that inconsistency too much at the time. What a unique cultural opportunity to spend the days before the wedding in the bride’s family’s modest two room apartment, bathing the bride in turmeric, getting our wrists banded in red twine by the local priestess, dancing for ceremonial money offerings from the uncles, cooking flat bread with the aunts on the two burner hot plate that was the kitchen, receiving toothless grins from the matriarchal grandmother on the living room couch.  Blissfully naive of the financial setback the traditions in progress were creating.

 I work with a young man who had to borrow large sums of money to front even larger loans required to pay for his sister’s wedding.  Another young Indian male I recently met noted that when he told his father of a trip he wanted to take his father said “you shouldn’t be wasting your money on such things but instead be saving it for your sister’s wedding.” 

 Just when I was thinking how sad it must be to be born an East Indian boy I read here about a girl’s renaming ceremony in India.  In a school ceremony almost three hundred girls who had been given the name “Nakusa” (or variations thereof) at birth got to change their name.  Nakusa means “unwanted” in Hindi.  Can you imagine growing up being called to your face “Unwanted.” [Please just pause and think about that: almost three hundred girls in one school sharing the same name and the name they share is "unwanted."]   I am guessing that part of the unwantedness comes from the future burden of having to pay to marry you off.  It is the daughters of families that have too many daughters and not enough access to cash to pay for their weddings that end up being sold into child labor, the sex trade or matched pre-pubescently with dirty old men. 

 Many of us name ourselves Nakusa in our heads from time to time.  Imagine being given that name for others to call you as well.  The same article talks about the discrepancies in Indian population where, as the result of abortions of female fetuses, or sheer neglect of baby girls, the population numbers tip to the male side.   Something about that level of social engineering scares the begeezus out of me. 

 In this highly multi-cultural setting I live in I interact with families from so many cultures, even if at a very superficial level.  In Lulu’s grocery store the little girls are usually dressed in pretty dresses, their hair cut in yummy thick bobs, with a small tilak (like a bindi) in the middle of their forehead.  The fathers usually patient and adoring in their interactions.  Nothing looks Nakusa about the child.  In Hindi, the tilak symbolizes the third eye, or mind’s eye representing spiritual enlightenment.  It makes me sad to think about what that enlightenment will tell them when they are old enough to understand how their culture has declared so many unwanted.  “Nakusa.”  I don’t get it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Next Chapter

Funny how your whole perspective on a place changes when you realize you can't take it for granted anymore.  The end of my long-term Abu Dhabi assignment is in reach.  I'll be returning home in 58 days.  Not that I'm counting or anything. (Post edit: um, guess it's more like 68 days.  I got ahead of myself)  My step is lighter, my mood has lifted.  I sing in the shower again (quietly of course).  And I am more purposeful about actually doing things than thinking "someday I should.,,."  I really hold out hope that I will get to come back for some shorter term assignments down the road: I have great friends here; know how to get around; understand how to cope with hot weather, and; am (finally) over the culture shock of living in this country. 

It's hard to imagine getting settled back into my home, with my friends and family nearer.  Having my dog back by my side.  And Buttercup to take me places.  As hard as the relocation has been, it has provided me with incredible opportunities to travel and put some wonderful new people in my life.  Arriving in a new life kicks the shit out of you as you have to relearn how to do everything and surrender to the unfamiliar.  Separated from friends and family by space and time (in A.D. we are 11 hours ahead and have different weekend days as well) forced me to deal with myself and God more directly.  That's not all a bad thing. 

Tonight we are having friends and co-workers over for a game night.  Melissa is whipping up good smelling things in the kitchen.  I am making appointments for pedicures and trying to decide on the timing of my nap and shower :)   It's a slow pace here with no garden to tend, no house cleaning or home repairs to do.  No blocks of time set aside for a hike or bike ride as during the day it is still too hot to do aerobic adventuring outdoors.  I know when I return there will be a part of me that will miss this lifestyle too.  Life's my novel and it's time to plan the next chapter.