Talking to my friend, Marti, who is American, about what we have gained or lost by transplanting ourselves from one country to another in adulthood:
The sun on my back, I think, that glorious, light and warmth coming to meet me in the mornings. Cold water baths, and when I come out of them, knee-length black hair dripping, the thin thorthu- towel wrapped around it lightly - it's all about me and my hair.
Before I go to school or college the hair has to be dried, with my back to the sun, hands and fingers through the strands, slowly, slowly, many times, till it bounces, comes alive and gathers shape. Sensuous and relaxing.I have all the time in the world. College? World? Who cares!
I have never owned a hair-dryer. In England I look in the mirror at my face, my hair now considerably shorter, and what I see is a part of me that has lost that love-in with the rest of me. I don't dwell on it.
On the odd occasion when I wear a sari in England I feel immediately more feminine, prettier, assured. Also dysfunctional. It catches in the accelerator of my car, gets in the way of my feet when I go up stairs. I hitch it up and manage.
I miss sitting on the veranda watching the world go by, or standing at the edge of my compound and talking to my neighbours. I miss watching the birds going home to roost at dusk and perching on the power lines on their way for a quick chat.
I miss the respect given to me as an elder.
But I can walk away from all that I don't care about in India because I am not there - even when I AM there. The different rules by which women have to live, the treatment of stray animals, which can be heartless, the marriage thamasha, which impoverishes families by its extravagance...
And in England? I am not part of the lack of feeling shown to the vulnerable. I smile in public places and at strangers even when what I get is a look which says, 'Are you mad?' I refuse to go anywhere near the class system or the race discrimination. I am not part of the networks and the nepotism, which would not have me anyway. I am quite 'other.'
I sit on my comfortable fence and watch the world go by. It is not a bad place to be.