Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

The Lonely, Sometimes-Patient Sleuth

Happy to have arrived safely in Chennai, ensconced in a comfortable, 8th floor room looking out at the Marina Beach.  I’m renting an Air B&B room with bath in a family home with access to their simple kitchen.  It’s nice to be with a friendly hostess and her daughter and maid.

But your sleuth is lonely!  The “informant” contacts I came with have been elusive.  However, it is a long holiday season for many, especially families with students, so folks are traveling and otherwise occupied.  My law student contact is ill and “under observation”, she said.  I wasn’t able to determine from her school’s website when the new semester begins.  A former friend and college professor, Romila, has rushed to Madurai because her granddad is ill.  The well-known journalist I located through an article of hers I read hasn’t responded to my WhatsApp texts.  I imagine she is busy with work or holiday gatherings?  And my old friend Srini is also out of town.

Not surprisingly, I’ve not received any responses to my several emails to gay advocacy groups and to individual queer writers I found on the internet.  Is it the result of homophobia?  Perhaps they haven’t trusted my queries?  Or I just haven’t found the right contacts yet.

But I have accomplished a few things!  Got over jet lag with lots of sleep over a period of days.  Bought a few Western groceries to supplement the Indian diet, which I can’t seem to handle three times a day: purchased unsatisfying bread, questionable cheese, peanut butter, but delicious fruits.  Enjoyed several delicious vegetarian meals of dosai, idli, sambar, and coconut chutney- a vegetarian’s heaven.  Re-learned how to take a satisfying bath with a bucket (the shower doesn’t work).  Found my way to a classical flute concert.  Navigated both “auto rickshaws” and Uber vehicles to get around town, closing my eyes frequently to avoid panic as the vehicles weave wildly in and out of the crowded river of traffic.  Walked the paved beach path three times so far for a one-hour, sweaty walk with other walkers and joggers, noting how many Indians have become overweight with Western lifestyles and foods.  The walk involved dodging cows, stray dogs, vendors, beggars, youngsters with headphones, elders with their ears covered due to the “cold” of winter, and lots of feces on the ground.

Perhaps the most important lesson here is the importance of patience, especially in India!  I am not the center of the universe.  I chose to arrive during a holiday season.  And I have plenty of time to find my interviewees.  So many topics to discuss:  law education, LGBT rights, rural life, death rituals in the case of suicide, etc.  I did finally sit down to edit a short story yesterday and submit it to an Indian literary journal- and made a list of others to consider.

The lonely sleuth is practicing patience today!

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Lovely prose, dear Cynthia! Congratulations on editing a story to submit to an Indian literary journal- and making a list of others to consider. I, too, find creative work helps lift those lonely blues.

Thanks Cynthia for keeping us updated on your activities in India. I appreciate your honesty and self-reflection. Perhaps you’ll be able to connect with some of your contacts soon. Hang in there.

My patience has worked- suddenly I’m welcomed into the local law school’s gates and will be visiting law classes today. Yeah! Cynthia

Being in a foreign country as a solo traveler always has its moments. All experiences are part of the journey and patience becomes your best friend. I spent a month in Istanbul and other Turkish locations as a single lesbian white womyn…during the month of Ramadan!! Those lessons remain with me. Even in New Mexico, where few emails are returned as I network with nonprofits, I’ve refocused to meet face-to-face and found greater traction. Your people will be there when the time is right. ????
Trust and Patience.

My patience is paying off! I have been quickly welcomed into the local law school and will be visiting classes today! Yeah! Cynthia

You’re right, Yatma. Slowly, relationships are developing and information is arising. It’s always good for me to work on patience! Cynthia

Well, that sounds quite adventurous if not discouraging some times. Hope you make some contacts soon.
Keep on truckin’ as they used to say!

Cynthia, I ordered the book about Third Culture Kids today after reading your comments about Pail Nelson .I had herd of the book, but never read it. So would I be a 4th culture kid? I was born in a Indian village, My father Australian, and my mother from the USA.

The term “third culture kid” was first coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem in the 1950s, who used it to describe the children of American citizens working and living abroad.[4] Ruth Useem first used the term after her second year-long visit to India with her fellow sociologist/anthropologist husband and three children. According to her analysis, the term depicts individuals who have undergone such an experience as having distinct standards of interpersonal behavior, work-related norms, codes of lifestyle and perspectives, and communication. This creates a new cultural group that does not fall into their home or host culture, but rather share a culture with all other TCKs.[9] In 1993 she wrote:

In summarizing that which we had observed in our cross-cultural encounters, we began to use the term “third culture” as a generic term to cover the styles of life created, shared, and learned by persons who are in the process of relating their societies, or sections thereof, to each other. The term “Third Culture Kids” or TCKs was coined to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society.
— Ruth Hill Useem, TCK World: The Official Home of Third Culture Kids

The term is now used a lot more broadly as cultures and nationalities mix through marriage and migration. Many global citizens, especially these days, have parents from more than one country and have lived in more than one country. So the original meaning (a white kid in a brown country) has expanded greatly. I would say you’re still a Third Culture Kid even if your parents were mixed, as they likely raised you in a largely Western manner. Is that right? So you probably don’t feel entirely at home in the West or in India. Those are all generalities, of course. But I do think we “Kodai kids” are of a third culture, not really belonging anywhere. A lot of children of military, foreign service and missionary families fall into this traditional definition. Hope you’ll subscribe to follow my blog- I enjoy sharing my current adventures with my old Third Culture buddies! Cynthia

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