There are times like today when it’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada that I take a “walk in my mind” in the fall forest ablaze with colours in the crisp fall air with a faint smell of wood smoke wafting in from logs burning in a fireplace. Yup. It could also be pouring rain. The romanticized image is easier because I’m feeling homesick. But more than anything I’m missing those walks outdoors…getting out into the fresh air on a nice hike!
Well, I started my day in the lovely pool that’s part of this block of flats. Greeting the only morning swimmer-come to think of it – the ONLY other swimmer I ever see in that pool – an older man. Women don’t seem to swim here alone, only with their kids who are playing in the pool in the hot season. Older women simply do not get into swim suits and dive into pools. Older women here sit on balconies…judging by the numbers of them I see doing just that. Why am I not surprised to hear then that so many Indians develop diabetes and heart disease in their 50’s? Diabetes is literally a national epidemic here.
There is so much to be said about the positives of an extended family–the warmth and love that is bestowed upon children that allow them to grow into trusting and caring adults and decent human beings. I know all that since I grew up in one myself, albeit in another culture. With uncles, aunts and cousins galore around me. Except that mine was in the working class family and meant that my mom and my aunts always worked outside the home. It was definitely a sign of “wealth” if a wife could stay home and not work. A stay at home mom meant the family had moved up a notch on social ladder.
In India the women in middle class families are definitely expected to stay home and stay as homemakers. Here the man is the main provider, so women are relegated into the private sphere of home. The more traditional the setting, the more common it still is that a wife also takes care of in-laws in the same house. While the cooking and cleaning are handled by maids, the wife rules the roost on the home front. With the decades passing, these wives gain weight, especially with the diet rich on ghee, sugar and tons of simple carbs of rice and rotis. They now sit in the balconies of my apartment complex and watch the world go by. I don’t envy them; I feel sad because they’ve definitely “let themselves go”. I sometimes wonder if anyone in India is doing research of the mental and physical health of women, especially past 50?
Eventually, I’ll return to Canada a few years older. Already want to make sure I can get back to going on walks in the fall forest feeling physically and mentally fit. Maybe it’s that approach that I miss here – the thinking that is not limiting the choices we make but allows us to make our own and not be limited by roles or status or traditions. It’s also the main difference between the two cultures – one that relies heavily on collectivism and the other on individualism…hmm. I’m obviously living in the cracks between the two in India. I need to go on more walks, wherever it’s possible!