Sunday, January 09, 2005

The freedom to choose
I really enjoyed this trip to India. Met up with lots of friends - partied a fair amount and spent some awesome time at home. Things are very different in San Diego. I spend a lot more time on my own, reminiscing about things. I have said it before and shall repeat it again - I work best when I am in the company of friends. What then is the difference in making friends in India and US?

The answer I believe is "the freedom to choose". All of us choose our friends. In school we have a set of 50 classmates and we choose our group of 5-10 from them, in college we have a hundred batch mates that we get introduced to and we make our own group of 5-10 again; at work we have 50 odd colleagues and once again we form our own little group. This ability to choose is very important - because this automatically leads to mutual respect. Not just you, your friends choose too. So we respect the fact that we were chosen. No obligations, no coercion - it's our own choice.

Sadly in a foreign land things are often very different. I'm aware that US is too diverse a place to generalize. A lot depends on the size, location and demographics of the place you are in. I can only comment abt San Diego. I find the social circle in San Diego well established. There is not much room for a graduate student from India to come and fit in. He has to choose from fellow students. The seniors have already formed their friend groups - your batch is not large enough - so there is very little choice to start with. So it's often like the selection of football players for the National League - you choose people quickly often with the fear of them joining others. So there isn't much option of a choice and you try to ensure that you don’t screw up things with the few friends you have. The whole atmosphere becomes somewhat different from what you (maybe it' just me) have grown up with. Blah blah blah!

I am no saying I don't have good friends in SD. I really enjoy my time with Vipul, Sid, Alok and Preeti. I miss the times when Rishi, Vineet and I reveled every night. It's just that I still miss my friends from India - I miss Ronny calling up in an hour's notice and setting out without any agenda and still having tons to do for the whole day; I miss Abhik and I making incessant rounds of our locality because we wouldn't run out of things to talk; I miss walking into Ari's room in college where he would be wondering whether to study for an A or B and then decide that it's more fun generally chatting than fighting trying for an A. Yes, bottom line - I miss my friends.

Agree completely. I must admit, though, that I have been lucky to find a 'desi group' that actually included people I would have hung out with anyway. May have had something to do with the fact that most of them are from the same colleges as me.

But I can appreciate the plight of someone from Bhopal (say) who can't speak Bangla who lands up in Kellogg to do a PhD.
hmm...i empathise. i never made that many non desi friends in oxford and don't have that many in harvard. in oxford the problem was simple- i was living with undergrads but i was a grad. so just couldn't get on with them...they were very literally from another planet. although i did make friends with some in my final year, most of it was bonding over exam stressing..not real friendship.

harvard's been diff. ppl are friendlier and so i have some more friends in general. although i had tons of desi friends, mostly american desis in oxford, i have exactly TWO desi friends at harvard, and one at MIT. the ppl i get along with, and i don't know if this is duplicated elsewhere are the chinese-americans or the chinese-brits. esp the women. i rarely get along with too many desi women, but i get along famously with asian women...wonder why...
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