Today I’m in Pune which is also acceptably spelled Poona. I’m about four hours from Mumbai – in fact it’s hard to tell where Mumbai ends on the train ride to Pune which used to be a vacation capital for those administering the big city of Bombay.
I’ve come halfway around the world to meet a cousin. I don’t think he qualifies as “long-lost” as I’ve always known where he was but when one lives on the East Coast and then has family on the West Coast and one of said cousins from Oregon then moves to India, it makes being in touch a bit tricky. But after a few weeks on the road in a foreign country now it’s nice to feel like you’re truly welcome somewhere and Kevin and his wife Leena (and her family) have done that. I’ve been eating big home cooked meals which are helping me put back on the weight I’ve been losing from eating less and exercising more. And perhaps the best part – they’ve got a shower curtain in the bathroom which makes me feel a little more competent when I shower as most bathrooms here are one enmeshed unit and taking a shower means soaking the entire room.
While Americans tend to be transient and thus break down family bonds, it’s interesting to see how close Indian families remain as they often live together – kids, parents, extended family, etc. It’s kind of nice although you do hear the younger generation trying to balance a desire for more freedom (i.e. moving away from the familial home) with a real appreciation for the value of a close-knit family. So far though it seems that traditional values are winning out. It’s a refrain I hear over and over; Indians like the newfound successes bred by Western economics but they are still, on the whole, resistant to chuck their own culture lock, stock, and barrel for Americana. Having the weight of a billion people and 5000 years of culture certainly helps.