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Culture Shock is a Two Way Street

I spoke previously of the surprises my new home of Agra gave me. Every day I saw some thing new from camel carts on the streets to women in full garb covering their face and head. People didn’t usually eat rice with their meals as we did in the South, but rather bread made of wheat like roti or chappati.

Interestingly I realized that people in the North also had some things to learn from me as I was for that time, an exotic stranger in their midst. For example my friend Achinth, one of the younger daughters of our neighbor Mr. Mehta, once asked me about the ocean and how it looked. Her conception of the ocean was as a larger version of the Yamuna River which flows through Agra. Coming from near the tip of the Indian peninsula, the sea was something we had always grown up with so I hadn’t realized that people in the middle of the subcontinent could live their lives without ever seeing it.

Another time Achinth told me she had a surprise for me as she was going to introduce me to Madarasi girl. In those days people in the North used to refer to everyone from South India as Madarasi, not realizing that a diversity of cultures had flourished in the South, sheltered from invasions by the Vindhya Mountains.

The dress, the food and even the language vary in each of the four states making for a diverse population all different from each other as they were with the North. Sure enough the Madarasi girl turned out to be from Andra Pradesh and therefore spoke Telugu while I spoke only Tamil. This led to our holding the conversation in my imperfect Hindi, despite my friend’s repeated urgings to speak our common language of Madarasi.



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Photograph from airpaharganj.com