A Whole New World

At the halfway mark and there’s so much to say but also not much to say at all.

Sesame Workshop has given us basically no work. Our on-going petitions for work have been met with empty promises and trite excuses since really before we even arrived to the office. It all finally made sense a few days ago. The education/research/content teams had been dissolved and mass lay-offs in the office took place: our three supervisors became one. The remaining one stayed true to form and kept us in the dark; we had to learn about it all from people who’d been fired and returned to collect their belongings. One of them being our former supervisor who confessed, “I wanted to warn you and tell you to look elsewhere but I couldn’t.”

Living in Delhi certainly demands its share of adjustments- not the least of which is the mass carousal of people in all directions at all times. This trend translates even into smaller spaces. For example, overnight buses tend to have beds and should you chose to reserve one, you are likely to be assigned only half of a twin bed, the other half belongings to a total stranger. I learned this the hard way.

You know when you’re in the sauna at the gym with your phone and it gets so hot that it disables until it can “cool down”? That happens just by being outside in Delhi for more than 10 minutes. The heat is only slightly more aggressive than the stares, though.

In most spaces I occupy, I am the only shore person, and the remaining occupants make sure I know it. People’s eyes unabashedly affix to me and usually stops there but it’s gone as far as asking to touch my blonde hair. People ask to take pictures with me at least once every other day and I’ve abridged, until recently.

See, the reason behind the pictures stems from a certain type of coolness and almost fetishizing of whiteness. If I take the picture, I contribute to the cycle. If I don’t, I, a white person, am telling a person of color that I don’t want to be seen with him or her (even when that’s not my intent). Until I figure out what’s the “best” way to negotiate my feelings on the matter, I’ve adopted a new policy: you want my picture? Sure! I get yours too. While it may not feel punitive, my hope is for people to feel like I’m as excited to see them as they are me.

Despite some hiccups with accommodations early on, my newest (and final?) home in India is wonderful with the exception of four flights of stairs to scale every day. My favorite part is it’s juxtaposition to the metro and activities, such a movie theatre where they had one matinee showing of the Aladdin remake left and we caught it! Pro tip: See Aladdin in India, but beware- movies have (unannounced) intermission. How dare they interpret “You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me”?!

Speaking of,  Pro tip: Get you a friend like La India. Nobody can negotiate a price or navigate transportation like her. This whole trip has been a rollercoaster so far but having her as a constant has been so grounding. It takes a special kind of friend to tolerate all these handstand pic requests. 🙂



4 thoughts on “A Whole New World

  1. The photo thing is something I navigated (successfully and unsuccessfully) for two years in Indonesia. My 2 cents: embrace it when you can (as you’ve been doing!) and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your photo trick! I understand your dilemma and I think asking a picture with them is a very thoughtful response. Remember to stay hydrated!


  3. I’m intrigued by the “fetishizing of whiteness” that you talk about, and how different versions of cultural fetishization manifest in other contexts too. For example, and I only know this from friends’ stories, but black folks in the U.S. (women in particular) are asked frequently if someone else (strangers, too) can touch their hair. As a Latina in the U.S., I’m asked way too often to “say something in Spanish”, which when I oblige, is usually followed-up with a comment on my “spiciness” or sex appeal. Obviously, none of this (or your experiences) feels good or is okay. But perhaps it’s a reminder that folks experience this kind of otherizing every day, including in our own home country (this isn’t news to you, I know, especially since the community that you’re so dedicated to serving is often on the margins/otherized). As uncomfortable as it feels, as so much of our IEDP experiences have been maybe its bigger purpose is to leave you with an even more expansive sense of empathy (maybe adding a layer of intersectionality?) for folks who are otherized. Just a thought! 🙂

    P.S. You might remember that I can talk about these identity-related questions all day, so if you’re looking for another person to unpack these experiences with, let me know!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s