WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

“Are you from Durban? What about your family? Are they all in Durban as well?” At some point or the other I have been annoyed and irritated by these questions during my time in South Africa in the last 14 years. I used to ask myself why the locals couldn’t see I am different? I wouldn’t say I was insecure about my Eastern origins but more frustrated that the locals were ignorant enough not to realise that Indians all over were not the same. This can even be said more so for those 1st and 2nd generation Indians coming from India.

Durban 21.08.2009 12-27-33

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I have been fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to travel during my lifetime. Travelling is a great source of learning and discovery for me. I realised some of my cosmopolitan outlook was derived from my travelling experiences and my encounters with people from all walks of life, different traditions and cultures. These experiences have provided added meaning and made me take note of every new encounter I have with someone who is different from me in terms of race  and creed. But something recently has been taking significance in my observations! It relates to my current environment and random struggles I have identifying myself in this Western society in South Africa. How was I able to fuse my strong Eastern beliefs with this Western world? I can say for sure the road has not been easy! Call it an identity crisis or whatever you fancy. I come from a middle class family that has strong values and beliefs entrenched within them. Living in a Western world has sometimes forced me to recognise who I truly am and whether I was just blindly following what I was taught as a child. Don’t get me wrong. I still respect certain traditions and values, for which without I am the lesser. The Western world though has shown me aspects which I tend to identify with individually. Independence is a trait I truly cherish especially since it is valued highly in the Western world. This independence has laid a foundation for me from which I evolved into the person I am today. Some may have seen it as the rebellious nature coming out from a confused Indian man, but I believe it has allowed me to become a stronger individual. I have seen families from the Eastern world that appear excluded and conformed to their ideals, sometimes to their own detriment. This is where I believe the recognition of individuality is lost in the realms. Yes, every society is different, but at what cost will one forgo their individuality for the sake of a conformist society?

My dilemma has also been observed from a relationship perspective. I have discovered in my last few years that I have often blocked myself from entering into something meaningful, regardless of the woman’s ethnic origins. The block may have originated in my subconscious, but it steadily arose from a conflict; a conflict on making a choice between being with someone from my ancestral routes or a Western lady with whom I would feel comfortable with. There’s no denying that family plays a significant role in marriage and its institutional applications. This is particularly so in the Indian context. But what if I don’t ‘conform’ to the traditions? What if I meet someone who on the soul level I can connect with deeply, yet who has a Western background? My mother has always believed that it all has to do with the mutual comfort level. As encouraging as that may sound family respect and honour still languish in the minds of Eastern families; lest you make a decision to follow outside of tradition, you may be seen as rebellious.  I do have family members that have followed their hearts and married outside of tradition…I may have to consider my decision carefully given my dilemma. Part of me understands how the dynamics would work in a relationship with someone who originates from the same background as me. I can see the comfort in the relationship and the overall happiness that my family would feel if I was to take this step. Momentarily it would give me satisfaction. On the contrary, I would not be following my ideals and beliefs. It would take great courage and faith from my side to take a step where I go for what I truly believe in. It would fulfill my soul and provide inner peace. I wonder then why so many people in a similar position would sacrifice so much for the sake of their family’s happiness? We all came in this world as unique souls and I believe we eventually go as these unique souls without any attachments.

You may then ask me what would I really do? Am I just saying all this to make myself feel better and relieved? I know one thing is for sure…my soul will allow me to follow my heart!

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved

LOVERS RETURNING

She waited with bated breath, her hands clasping with impatience. Sounds of the crowd’s constant chatter and busyness surrounded her. Excitement brewed with the anticipation of a loved one stepping out of that arrival door! The arrival hall though seemed like any other normal place at the moment for Kylie. She thought constantly… What would Dev be like? Would he still feel the same way about me! She was nervous yet excited at the same time – her one true love was returning ‘home’ after a gap of 2 years being away from Jo’burg. Dev was away pursuing his MBA in his homeland India, yet home seemed to be back here in Jo’burg.

***

5 years ago a small function was taking place at the Michelangelo in Sandton. Celebrities and socialites alike attended in grandeur! Kylie, an heir to a rich fashion mogul, was in her prime helping her father in the family business. She’s a beautiful blonde South African with English roots. She has stunning blue eyes and is a tall yet appealing figure. Men gasped at the very sight of her! Brent, the man she supposedly loved and knew since childhood was a roughshod Afrikaner. He was born and bred in the farm areas of Benoni. His family had accumulated vast wealth over time and owned significant properties in central Jo’burg. Kylie and Brent’s initial meeting was one borne of physical attraction, yet over the years Kylie increasingly grew out of any emotional attachment to Brent. There were times she dreaded being with him. Kylie always thought of this relationship as a comfort zone, one to fall back on for pure security. Both were bound to be engaged at some point, especially since it was both their parents’ long term desire.

On that very night at the Michelangelo one of Brent’s mutual friends brought along an entourage. One man though seemed uniquely different and interesting. A tall 6″1′ handsome looking Indian man had entered the room. Kylie glance at him…there was something there that caught her attention. Their eyes locked briefly with each others. It was Dev. Dev seemed to have this persona and aura about him, one that drew Kylie towards him and created an instant attraction. Dev’s Indian features were particularly appealing to Kylie.  His dark eyebrows, lush black hair and big round eyes. He was a well-groomed man and appeared very well-mannered, polite and extremely intelligent – something Kylie loved and was attracted to in all men that exhibited these characteristics. But Kylie felt there was still something different about Dev. She couldn’t quite make out at first what it was.

Dev was a Punjabi immigrant that had settled in Jo’burg for the last 14-15 years since he was a teenager. His family engaged in various business interests. Dev though battled over the last few years trying to fuse his Eastern beliefs and traditions with this pretentious Western society he constantly engaged in. Dev was also attracted to Kylie. He thought she was stunning, yet felt something deeper resonate it in him when he first saw her.

Kylie approached him slowly. Her thoughts rand wildly. What would he think of me? Would he be interesting? Could it be, finally I have found someone I can share some feeling with. As Kylie approached she reached her hand out to Dev…he paused slightly before he slowly reached his hand out to meet her’s. ”Hi, my name is Dev!” Kylie was taken aback. Her body seemed to be momentarily in a trance, butterflies running through her. Here was this attractive and handsome Punjabi man who had a strong mix of a Western/British accent and a deep resonating voice. Yet all this seemed irrelevant to Kylie, she was still fixed in a trance! She wanted to hear his voice again…this was strange but Kylie hoped this feeling could last well into the night. As the night progressed, Kylie and Dev got on like a house on fire!

As the next few years progressed Dev and Kylie’s friendship grew ever stronger. This was further consummated by their first kiss which was passionate and romantic. Kylie was slowly beginning to lose interest in Brent. Dev and Kylie’s new love affair would continue to bring them bliss. Sometimes they would sneak away from work and go for a quick coffee. At other times they would meet at social gatherings with friends. Both could not get enough of each other. They often exchanged mundane smses but these were more as an excuse to be in touch even when they were not physically in front of each other. Some smses would even be very romantic in nature. There was always a constant connection between them. Even though each loved being in the other’s company, Kylie struggled to play the happy girlfriend role whenever she had to be by Brent’s side. Dev’s frustrations sometimes grew because of Kylie’s relationship with Brent, though at times he seemed to be content with the situation between Kylie and Brent. Once in a while though Dev would ignore Kylie just to get her attention focussed back on him. But the passion was so strong that Dev often occasionally expressed how he felt about Kylie and him being soul mates.

The time had come for Dev to follow in the family tradition and pursue an MBA. Dev had his own business interests and always wanted to venture on his own so he felt this was the right approach. There were other reasons though that Dev wanted to leave Jo’burg. He wanted a change of scenery, even though he was not sure how he would feel to leave Kylie. He increasingly grew weary of the pretentious society, and the childishness and immaturity of some of his friends; he found it hard though to express these issues to them directly in fear he would hurt them badly. He couldn’t bear leaving Kylie, his one true lover and soul mate. Yet Dev was ruthless as a person when it came to his ambitions. Dev made his mind up to go. When Dev first told Kylie of his plans to go abroad for a couple of years Kylie was less than impressed. She practically ignored him for a couple of weeks. Dev then feared he had lost her for good. Kylie eventually came and said a painful goodbye to him at his time of departure, even though deep down both knew they would meet again. They both promised each other to write and call whenever and as often as they could. Kylie though had doubts if Dev would keep his promise to keep in touch. Then again she remembered Dev was a man full of surprises so anything was possible! Eventually Dev did keep his promises over the 2 years that elapsed before his return.

***

The airport announcer abruptly ends the hollowness that Kylie was beginning to endure. It’s been 15 minutes since Dev’s flight landed. What’s taking him long? as Kylie glanced around for him. She wasn’t sure how he was going to approach her. She waited for this day with expectation. She wondered curiously though how many women Dev met while he was away. The thought of some other woman across the Indian ocean waiting for Dev to return just made Kylie a little apprehensive.

Suddenly a tall gentleman appeared, dressed in a casual blazer and dark denim jeans. He was wearing some branded shades. He looked very familiar to Kylie. The shades were then whipped off to reveal the identity of this man. It was Dev! He appeared to have some kind of glow about him; Kylie’s heart began to race. The moment had arrived. All those wonderful memories spent with Dev came flooding back. She ran towards him and jumped up to hug him with a firm grip. She didn’t let go for a while…

Kylie felt a warm sensation being embraced in the arms of Dev. She could feel Dev’s new physical strength, something she loved. Dev lifted the palm of his left hand as he looked into Kylie’s eyes. He brushed aside a strand of her blond hair that seemed to disturb her slightly. Kylie didn’t want to let go; the passion was still there, exhilarating as ever. “I missed you my love” she said as she began to calm down. Dev with a soothing smile replied “I did too my baby!”

Kylie and Dev walked arm in arm as they left the airport to head home. The drive back seemed awkward with brief moments of silence in between. But Kylie loved every minute she had with Dev now. He had become even more attractive in her eyes. Maybe it was his long absence that made Kylie long for him, both in mind and body.

Kylie suddenly pulled up at a five-star hotel in the Sandton area. Dev seemed bemused at first…Kylie smiled at him and said “Babe this is a surprise for you!” Kylie had booked a special suite just to be engrossed with her lover for the day; besides 2 years had passed since she last saw him. Nothing was going to separate her from her lover now. Dev though seemed a little confused. Something seemed to have troubled him.

The two lovers were excited at the sight of their room suite. Dev seemed more relaxed now. He felt he was back at home; what better than to spend it with the one he passionately loved all those few years ago. They both cuddled and made passionate love throughout the afternoon. 3 hours had passed and Dev decided to go for a long soothing shower. Kylie lay in bed deep in thought as she caressed the silken bed linen. She knew it was over with Brent, yet feared Dev may have changed too much in the last 2 years to pursue something serious with him. She wrestled with some doubts. She turned and saw a box on the dressing table. The box was solid and covered in blue felt material. She inquisitively opened the box while Dev still lingered in his hot shower. As the clip of the box clicked and opened a beaming white light shot straight into Kylie’s eyes. It was a huge diamond studded ring, beautifully crafted and cut. Kylie couldn’t believe it, confused and excited at the same time! Was Dev going to propose to her? What about Brent as she pondered? Dev then walked out of the bathroom. She quickly glanced at him. It didn’t matter to her because there were no feelings left for Brent. Her lover had returned. She had made her decision!

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved

FREEDOM!

Ah, that word, one that everyone cherishes daily! The pure thought of it brings a smile or a feeling of peace to a person. We have all heard that cliche saying that freedom is taken for granted. Well maybe but then I feel it’s a case of apples being compared to apples. Take for example the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan. Freedom comes at a high price in those locations, often with sacrifice and tragic consequences. How can I compare my freedom to a person who lives in such terrifying situations? It’s almost stupid to think and mention that I take my freedom for granted; true I am able to move around in a free society without much restriction or hassle! But freedom I think comes in different degrees and varies according to different situations and choices.

For instance I could be bold and say I made such a choice to be in a society where I could feel freedom. Oh no, did I use that word ‘choice’? Well technically we all decide whether we want to maintain our freedom in a particular society. But then you might ask what about that poor Afghani woman who is trapped and cannot escape the evils of those fundamentalists who want to use their power and abuse her? She has the choice to escape! Escape from that society and make the choice to lead a better life. But then you might say that it might be dangerous. What’s more dangerous, knowing you could die living in the hands of tyranny or making the choice to escape and lead a better life should you succeed? I don’t intend to sound sexist here or a bit harsh, but what I am purely stating is that freedom seems to come at a choice.

You can think of countless examples and stories where you knew someone who had to make a choice in order to be free; some of the situations pan out with the right results, some pan out disasterously. In today’s world somehow the media projects freedom as something that has to be paid for at a high price! Why, I find that ironic. If media didn’t have the kind of freedom they were exposed to they would be paying an extremly high price, both figuratively and fundamentally. We choose as well which media we want to follow. There is freedom to choose the media, and we can make the choices.

Often freedom seems to be the opposite of imprisonment. What I will state though is that freedom is all in the mind. If we make the choice to be free in our thoughts, we will be able to take actions that ultimately lead to physical freedom. So, it’s freedom versus imprisonment – the choice is yours!

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved