Anniversary Confessions

For some reason, I’ve never liked confessional blogs much. But today, on the one year anniversary of my move back to Madras after my Masters, I feel compelled to write a confessional post of my own.

Looking back on this year, I can’t say that I am satisfied with what I’ve been able to do since I’ve come here. But I saw this draft of a post I never finished from March of this year that I wanted to share with you. Things have gotten much, much better since I wrote this, but maybe my low productivity needs to be viewed in context?

“March 11, 2009: Some of you may be wondering why my frequency of posting has dropped so precipitously in the last few weeks (or not; doesn’t matter, I’m going to tell you anyway). Partly this is because I was busy with work. But mostly it has to do with the fact that the last few weeks have underscored one fact: Nothing particularly bad has happened, but Chennai has certainly beaten me down this trip.

I have been bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes, dozens of red ants, and one dog (I still have the scars). I moved houses thrice in four months, and my new apartment overlooks an open sewage canal / mosquito farm. On International Women’s Day, I was groped by a passing bicyclist as I walked home from work. A week ago, a man on a motorcycle stopped my roommate outside of our gate to ask her for directions, and then squeezed her breasts before he drove off. I’m sick all the time. I’ve taken three courses of antibiotics in the last two months, and I take allergy medicine everyday. If I don’t, I spend the day pathetically scratching my eyes and sneezing, my brain clouded.

I’ve stepped in poop twice, and at least once, it was human.

For a period of about 5 weeks, I had trouble sleeping. I would toss and turn in bed for hours. Whenever I was able to slip into sleep, a stray mosquito would bite my elbows or buzz near my ears and wake me up again. Then I would sit on my bed with the lights on, my legs and arms stretched in front of me as bait for that mosquito, but, ugh!, it never appeared when the lights were on. By four a.m., with the sky lightening, I would be in tears. During the day, the incessant hammering from a nearby auto-rickshaw workshop prevented me from sleeping. At the end of this period I realized that I had many more wrinkles under my eyes than I remembered.

I don’t have an air conditioner or a water heater, but sometimes at night, I really want a hot bath and a cool bedroom. The internet never works, neither at the office or at home. I’ve gained at least five pounds of fat, and lost all my muscle tone. For some reason, my right knee hurts when I go up and down stairs.”

I guess at that point in my mind, where I lived and the way I lived had become a weird moral question. I thought that if I could spend less than Rs. 5000 a month (less than $100) on my apartment, then that’s the way I should live. My boyfriend visited me soon after I wrote this, took one look at my life here, and told me I was making things much harder for myself than they needed to be. I now live in an apartment near the ocean. I haven’t been sick in months, and I exercise almost every day. The internet and the pollution are still awful, but I am far more productive than I was before. I still wonder though: Is there a correct way to live life in a really unequal society? Or maybe that’s not the way to think about it at all, I’m really not sure anymore.

End of confessions – back to politics, policies, and culture from tomorrow onwards. To my readers, thank you for reading, and please do comment or send me an email when you get a chance. I love knowing you’re out there.

  1. Divya said:

    oh god… that does sound like a horrible time. Although I couldnt have helped with the situations… you could have called me at least to vent. Im glad some things are better for you.

    Luv u sis


  2. Suman said:

    hi Nithya, I am SO happy that your life has improved since that March post. It sounded like hell and back. I am glad you live near the ocean now and that you are healthy (very important). It’s funny, isn’t it? If we are all working to improve the quality of life of others and then want to avoid the luxurious quality of life that we have access to (though we don’t avoid all of it)…don’t know the answer to the moral question but i feel that there is no need in denying where you were born, with what and living that life—everyone knows it, they see it regardless of what you give up —-i mean in limits—and working to “help” others —its okay i think…..
    anyways i am in Nairobi now will be here for another week and then Ghana for a few days for work and then back home—–was happy to read your one year anniversary blog–you are a fierce, independent and driven woman who is living out her ideals—not easily said of many people-

  3. McKay said:

    Well liking them or not, thanks for the confessional article because its resonance to many of our own lives helps us also move through similar struggles.

    Glad you’re in a much better situation. I very much understand the questions on, “how basically should I live while in a developing country and working in development” and all the value self-judgements that come with it. And against that are the very points you stacked up: health, balance of life and sanity and by those strength to do your job and be a part of the fabric here. It is not an easy balance. I don’t know where my next round of thought on it lies. So glad to read you (way more trying) account. Thanks!

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