Ode to Idyllic Places

Why is it that idyllic places that are green everywhere the eye can see, with no glass monstrosities marring beauty, why is it that these places are also the most explicit in their misogyny? The West does a good job of hiding hate beneath layers of talk about equality and anti-discrimination and diversity. Idyllic places show no such artifice, and a part of me admires this honest cruelty – it seems easier to battle something that is visible and out-in-the-open. I come from an idyllic place and everytime I take my husband and kids there, I feel pride and yearning and I want them to love-this-place-like-I-do, and I spend much time translating away all the weirdness, and equal time cringing in horror, angry at all the unnecessary ignorance. If I give directions to the taxi driver while my husband stands silent, the taxi driver becomes monosyllabic and rude and finds it hard to answer basic questions like the rate and how long it will take to reach; at the temple, if I step forward ahead of the husband (yes, I do that, badly bought up that I am) and ask the priest what time the darshan will start, he averts his eyes and mumbles to the floor since talking to me, a woman, will risk…I don’t know what…something horrific is sure to happen; oh and then there are the countless men at every store who speak to my chest (I am flat chested but that does not seem to discourage them); at the ancestral home, my aunts are sweet and motherly and stand as we eat, waiting to serve us, and then they ask me later what my husband does (and I tell them, failing to mention what I do, filling in all the empty spaces with much talk about the kids – why spoil a perfectly smooth interaction and the yummiest meal I’ve had in years); at the neighbour’s house, the girl whispers and asks me how I snagged him, my husband (because he is fair and I am not, and my parents must have paid a bomb to purchase such a fair husband for me); and all the advertisements for cholis and dhotis and elaborate silk sarees have happy-looking white people modelling them (tis better to be white, even when wearing a fully embroidered gold and red colored Ghagra and Cholli); and then on our last day in my idyllic homeland, a kindly aunt compliments me that my daughter is fair – she is being nice – it is much harder to marry off a dark-skinned girl and all the marriage ads are full of “wheatish” skinned prospects – no one of marriageable age in Kerala is brown. Let’s not even get started about racism and homophobia, and all the sly comments about “those people”…..

No. Idyllic places cannot be accused of pretence – hate is all very explicit and clear.

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2 thoughts on “Ode to Idyllic Places

  1. I realize this is not the exact point of your post, but this makes me think of something I’ve been thinking about lately (and will write about this week): the very particular way that you “can’t go home again” as a critical feminist sociologist.

    AND I realize how little I actually know about where you are from. I want to hear more about it! (and I’ll also cop to my white, US privilege in not knowing hardly anything at all already)

  2. hmm….your comment (“the very particular way that you can’t go home again as a critical feminist sociologist”) feels like a revelation to me. I guess I should know that I can’t go back but somehow I always think I can and am always disappointed. I think it might be some inability to learn from the past and some form of unrelenting hope/optimism.
    Thanks for being curious about where I’m from…my baseline assumption was always that it is uninteresting to anyone except me.

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