‘The West’ is one of the commonly used phrases back home. The developed West, the quality conscious West, the West of fairness & equality. Where there is dignity of labour and no one starves. Where there is almost no corruption. Where things run on time & people keep their promises. Where things happen 20 years before they reach our shores. Where there are more cars than people. Where children earn their pocket money & move out of their parents’ home before they are 20. Where people prefer divorce to a life of forced togetherness. Where sports other than cricket can be a profession (!), where getting a shirt laundered is more expensive than buying it, where sunny weather is good weather & people think of chicken as vegetarian food. The accent is all the same (basically Brit).. (okay this changed after the wave of American sitcoms filled our evenings)…
They are all the same. Blond hair, blue eyes (okay maybe even green or grey, but really just blue for us), tall and strong. One mass of whiteness with highlights of pale blue and corn yellow and a great life. The West.
Okay so this is a dramatic way to say it, but not completely untrue. Back home, I really did think of the West as one large lump. At most, you could say that Europe was the classier, more expensive version & US was the more commercialized one. But that is about it in terms of being able to see the diversity in the ‘West’.
And as I have realized before, the closer you are to the ground, the more chance you have to appreciate the variety. I realize that grouping all of the Westerners together is as pointless as deliberately clubbing Punjus, Tams, Bongs & Gujjus in the same basket.
I can hardly claim to know all the intricacies of how the different people in the ‘West’ differ. But atleast I have now the awareness that they do. If I keep my eyes & ears, and more importantly, my mind open, I will understand these people better. I will probably abandon the use of the word ‘West’ too :). Learning action item # 1657568, urgent & important!