Society & Lifestyle
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No Personal Space
|by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati|
After living in India for nearly 15 years, I have realized that there is no concept of personal space here, the way we understand it in the West. In the West, there is a universally accepted 'buffer zone', physically and emotionally, which can be trespassed only by very close friends and relatives. If two people perforce get too close for comfort — unless of course there is romance brewing — social mores dictate that a respectable distance is immediately established.
India is not a country which can be seen from a distance. It is not a country which can be captured through the lens of a camera. It is a country which can only be experienced. And it can be understood only once it has entered and affected every single cell of your being. To try to hold India at arm's length is like holding back a tsunami. And that's the beauty of India. You need to see India, not from the outside, but from the inside — from an Indian perspective. It is then that its soul shines through. Once the real India has entered your being, it will turn you upside down, inside out and you'll be able to appreciate its real beauty.
When I came to India, I took to wearing sarees, and I wore them badly, so badly in fact, that every time I went out of the ashram, some woman or the other would come up to me, grab the badly done pleats, re-do them and tuck them back neatly into the petticoat. The first time it happened, I was flabbergasted. I thought: "Oh my God. That woman just stuck her hands into my underwear."
Instead of feeling violated, I felt adopted. Day after day, I was adopted in various ways by any number of Indian women, and I loved it.
India is a country where everyone is family. Everyone you meet is either an uncle or aunty, a bhai or behen — these are ubiquitous suffixes to every name. The concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that the world is one family, is not just a trite platitude. It is truly the way India operates. If she's my aunt, then there's nothing wrong with her sitting half-way into my lap. If she is my mataji she can put her hands in my underwear to fix my saree.
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