He Said/She Said: Indian Homesickness

He Said/She Said: Indian Homesickness

Homesickness is surprisingly not a feeling we’ve had on this trip.  Maybe it’s because we don’t have a home to go back to or because we’ve been so excited by our travels, but in India homesickness caught up with us.  Here’s why India has made us homesick.

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HE SAID…

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We talk about “home” often, but it’s generally in an abstract way as we don’t have a place to call home.  We talk about the life we would like to have, where and how we’d like to live.  Home is so far away that it doesn’t even seem real, thus, for me, homesickness comes in the form of missing order, cleanliness and comfort; things that India lacks.

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Big Mac?  Not in India, instead it’s the Maharaja Mac, a chicken burger.  In India not even McDonald’s can offer a piece of home.

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There isn’t much about India I like.  Actually it’s hard for me to say anything nice about the country.  It stands against all I believe in: caring about the world we live in and constantly improving.  In India, I’ve seen people harming others because they are related to government officials, thereby above the law.  I’ve read countless stories of corruption lasting decades that deprived citizens of roads, schools and water.  I’ve passed litter clogged waterways that people need to get drinking water from.  Will India improve?  Probably not, because as the locals say in response to frustrating events, “this is India,” which is doublespeak for “we don’t care”.

Overcoming India and the homesickness it’s created isn’t easy.  We’ve changed our pace to moving slower and staying on the tourist trail to avoid Indian bureaucracy, information scarcity and travel discomfort.  Best of all the tourist trail provides some Western comforts such as decent coffee, great food and comfortable lodging.  This has relieved some homesickness, but not cured it.

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SHE SAID…

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India is home to more than one billion people, yet couldn’t feel farther from home to me.  While I have been able to stave off homesickness in every other country, India has me longing for safe food, a comfortable bed, predictable routine and familiar faces.  The seemingly endless frustration, constant staring and stream of inane questions asked of you, make India difficult even for the most seasoned traveler.  I’ve met few travelers who haven’t had at least a passing urge to run home to their Mom.

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The toilet in our Kolkata bathroom.  It started out a room of two of us…until the 12 cockroaches moved in…

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India is an assault on your senses and a test of your patience from the first moment you land in the sub-continent.  Even something as ubiquitous as McDonald’s is strange, there’s no beef on the menu and people don’t wait in line they savagely elbow their way to the register.  The absence of order, inability to get information and lack of consistency make me wish I was back in the U.S. where strangers are helpful and there are acknowledged norms that everyone follows. There are days here where I dread even the simplest transactions because everything requires bargaining and a hassle.  I have to avoid eye contact because men here take it as an invitation and not once have I been able to walk down the street without oogling Indians trying to take my picture with their cell phone.  At home these things would not happen…

While sometimes I wish I could indulge that feeling of wanting to run home to Mom and Dad  I’m glad I came to India.  It is a perplexing and infuriating country, but makes me realize how lucky I am to have a place to call home (no matter how distant that concept is) that doesn’t smell like garbage and has clean drinking water.  For now that’s how I cure my homesickness, to reflect on how blessed I am to visit this place but not live here.

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YOUR TURN: When have you been homesick?  What did you do?  Share your story in the comments below…

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Comments

» Ayngelina :
Aug 8, 2012

This is exactly why I haven’t been to India…yet. It’s good that you both have each other.
Read Ayngelina’s awesome post Love notes from a graffiti artist

LOCAVORista Reply:

Ayngelina, this is not a place I would put high on the list of a single female traveler. However, it has been quite a trip and one I’m glad we have undertaken!

» Bka :
Aug 16, 2012

Your always welcomed home!…..we too are home sick without you…..love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, how about we come home around this time next year, deal?

» Chris Allbritton :
Oct 6, 2012

I, too, found India fascinating, infuriating and all in all overwhelming for a Western traveler. And I’ve been around in some rough patches. Dirt, a lack of compassion for others and a shrug about the way too many poor people live also stuck in my craw. But it is not a country that should be counted out if you want to understand a great part of the world. Because MOST of the world’s people, I’d hazard, are more like Indians than like Westerners. It’s a tough struggle to survive with limited resources and uncaring governments, so it breeds the attitudes you see in India. (And in much of the rest of the sub-continent; Pakistan is not so different.)

In short, life for most of humanity is nasty, brutish and a scramble to get what you can when you can get it. Visiting India to be reminded of that is a good reason to go, and a good reason to have a safe, predictable Western life to return to. Most of humanity doesn’t have that luxury.
Read Chris Allbritton’s awesome post From Bangkok to the north, and parts beyond

thinkCHUA Reply:

Chris, I think you put things better than I could have myself. It is probably useful to see and experience India. There the flaws/failings of humanity is blatant instead of hidden as it is in better-off places, but still I don’t know if everyone really needs to experience it…

» Shruthi :
Dec 13, 2012

I actually came across this article upon googling homesick + India, but this is the exact opposite of the situation I’m in right now (i.e. I’m in the States, and I miss India). It breaks my heart that your experience of the country I love so much is this negative; one of the reasons I’m so homesick is because I miss the compassion of the people back home. I miss being asked how I am, and having people actually care about my response. You might not like what they did to McDonalds, but I equally do not appreciate what passes off as Indian food here.

I’m sorry about the roach situation, but I looked up the hotel the picture is from, and frankly, did you expect better for $10 a night? You get what you pay for anywhere in the world; India is no exception. For a little more, you could have stayed in a lovely hotel – India is known for its hospitality industry.

This is not intended to be hurtful or attacking in any way, but demonstrative of the fact that there is another (equally valid) perspective.

» Poonam :
Dec 7, 2013

Hey Chris,
I am from india, I cannot disagree with what you said here. I don’t have so much ood to say about my country too! What lacks here the most is compassion towards other human being and a simple respect to others.
I understand that life here can be difficult for you. I am so sorry that you live in Kolkata , it’s one of the dirtiest metropolitan cities if india. Not that I say mumbai is any better, but it has its own air!
Have you ever tried coming to pune? I live an expat live here. I don’t say that it is super clean, it does have its spots and corner of dirt, life is depressing for the poor, be it india or Italy! But do try to make a small part of your life here! We have a lot of Americans, Brits, French, German and a huge mix of population living and working here. The Indians in the city are quite used to seeing foreigners around and not only have they become tolerant but have become friendlier. If course we have a big distinction in the classes but nevertheless life can be easier here. P.s. you still won’t find the double cheese mc. Here! But can find a good honey roast ham, a lot filet mignons some venison, lots of sushi a got amount of mexican ffoods and a lot more.
Bah, I am sorry for the experience you have had so far. I hope ou do come here before the end of your journey in india. I hope you feel a little comforted. Pune isn’t far away from mumbai and you have direct flights from Kolkata to Pune.
Wishing you the best chris, lots of strength
Bon Courage!

» Poonam :
Dec 7, 2013

Sorry, I titled it all to chris! Oops! Pardon!

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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