Saturday, 30 June 2012

Choosing your community

Strangely, even though I grew up in India, the idea of 'community' didn't really enter my consciousness until I was in England. This may be because I grew up in a certain type of Indian household: liberal, nuclear, English-speaking? I don't know. I don't want to suggest that all such households grow more individualised children than is the Indian norm.  But I am certainly more individualised than the Indian norm.  

In India, the notion of 'community' was something that felt stifling.  It was invariably put to me in the context of rules and judgement. I felt like community meant being born into or choosing a bounded set of rules. The group who were bounded by these common rules were a 'community'.  Of course, I witnessed some of the positive elements as well: sharing, being able to help one another, laughing together, mourning together. But I always felt a bit 'outside' because I refused the 'rules'. Which led me to think that the essential element of community was that whole 'rules' bit. 

When I told people I was coming to England, those who knew me  often commented that they thought this 'society' would suit me better because I was so 'outside'. Their notion was that since I much preferred setting my own rules (or so I thought at the time - but that's another post) I would be happier in the 'West', where individual choices are thought to be weighted over community rules (again, this is only partially true, and that's another post too). 

I agreed at the time, and still kind of do.  But I have also started to see and appreciate a whole new idea of 'community'. Not as a bunch of rules binding people but as a bunch of shared values which can actually be quite flexible. Maybe that's because the 'communities' I am now starting to identify with are not constituted the same way as I thought communities in India are.  At home, I thought of 'communities' primarily as religious and caste-based groups. Because that is often what people mean by 'your community' in India. Over here, people say 'community' about a group of people living in the same area or sharing something they value. So the 'community' I am part of is my University. I see it as a group of people (thousands strong!) all living and working in a multicultural, multilingual 'community'. We are a community inasmuch as we are situated on the campus together, but also because no matter what our differences (and glory be to God for those!), we have a sense of a shared something. Of course, we are also bound by shared rules; violation of those rules can get us kicked out. But more visible than the rules (to me) is the sense of that 'shared something'. And that is what makes me feel like I am part of the community. That's what makes it a community I want to belong to. It makes me love it, and want to cherish it, and wish it well. The 'rules' are not even part of what I think about. And crucially, the rules do not infringe in any way with my ability to express myself. We are a 'community' of tens of thousands of individuals (and are free to express this individuality as much or as little as we like - or so it appears to me). 

I wonder if, should I choose to move back to India, I will be able to find that balance between a sense of belonging and a sense of individual freedom. When I'm on the University campus, I genuinely feel the power and magic of both, simultaneously, and one does not cancel the other out. I love that. It makes me bright-eyed and adventurous and open. Here's to more of the same please, Universe! 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The recurring P wasn't intentional!

In a break from the utterly maudlin reflections which have been peppering my blog! 
Here are some of the non-maudlin things I've been immersed in over the past few days.   

Pilates!  I've signed up for my first class.  You know how you know you'll like something before you even try it, and when you try it, you really know you knew?  I had/have something like that with Pilates.  I had my first 'taster' session today and oh wow.  If your local gym offers it, I strongly suggest booking yourself in!  I hope to post pictures of washboard abs and serene stretches presently. 

Postcrossing! I came across this utterly randomly (in the manner of all things great about the Internet). Within five minutes of first reading about it, I was signed up and turning my desk over feverishly, looking for the one postcard I knew was on there. Something I intended for a friend but never got around to sending.  A picture of the facade of the Anokhi Museum in Amber. I composed a message, addressed it, and it's sitting next to me now. I absolutely love this idea, for so many reasons!  There's so much magical about it. 

Persimmons.  I discovered these in the local weekday market.  I hadn't tasted them before. Oh my God.  Apparently, they're very, very good for you.  Who cares.  I'm still coasting on the taste. 

I've been luxuriating in all these things over the past few days. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

C.S. Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 

C.S. Lewis 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A man is sharing a beautiful, warm, loving night in bed with his wife, telling her how much he fancies her (this is important: he still fancies her. Stomach flip. Tingly spine. Sparks.) The next day, at a routine day at work, he gets a phonecall from the lobby.
His first love is here to see him, unexpectedly.
She's been in Canada for the last 13 years. No explanation as to why she's back, but she wanted to say hi while she was here.
When she leaves, he walks into the bathroom, thunderstruck, out of breath, calling on Jesus.

[Watch the rest of it here]

Know that feeling?
That little nudge, the sensation of the ground shifting ever so slightly (or not) beneath your feet just when you've hit a good stride on a smooth path?
That little push from the Universe, to remind you, you're not in control of much, puppy.

You know how cats preen and yawn and stretch? 
Did you know that bunnies do the same

The Man and I were completely entranced the other day when, standing by the window of my office, we saw a baby bunny stretching out its front paws, curving its back and yawning luxuriantly. He used his rear legs to scratch behind his ears, and fumbled around his face with his front paws, washing his mouth in between mouthfuls of grass. 
It was a completely enchanting, captivating spectacle and we christened him Cat-Bunny. Or, more succinctly, Cabbit