Always an Outsider
Juggernaut attended a 4-year agricultural college in Bapatla, a rural town without drinking water supply. On the campus, some students from the peasant background despite their effluent life style were boorish. Disagreement during a quiet conversation could turn into a shouting match or worse a brawl for no reason at all to the surprise of Juggernaut. Some of these behavioral problems perhaps reflect their countryside upbringing. Coming from an urban professional family, Juggernaut felt as an outsider among them. For four years Juggernaut felt as if was living in an overcrowded barracoon from the unsanitary hostel conditions and bad cafeteria food. After graduation he was happy to leave with a feeling of good riddance.
In 1970, when Juggernaut joined graduate program briefly at the Banaras Hindu University in Banaras, one of the holiest places in the country on the banks of river Ganges, he knew he was an outsider with no knowledge of local language. Among the several students on the campus were few from his own state already in attendance for several years. Juggernaut had a rude awakening from this particular group of students that treated him like an outsider and worse hostile at times. In retrospect, these students badly needed a group therapy to resolve their inner conflict.
Juggernaut was happy to leave the confused group for a different program at a different University in different cultural setting in Bhubaneswar, a city known for Buddhist monuments and temples. Here things got worse; the local students were hostile to the out of state students like Juggernaut. The locals suffered from a phobia of outsiders taking over and few students on the campus carried this sentiment too far. In the same city of Bhubaneswar, few decades ago, the local politicians were responsible for pelting stones at former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi causing her bloody nose.
After completing graduate school, Juggernaut took up a job as teaching instructor at the same college where he was an undergraduate student. At his department, some staff was clannish and judgmental in their views. “I am sure the children of these men would have a different view of the society,” thought Juggernaut on leaving the teaching job.
Juggernaut lived in the Caribbean islands working in Trinidad and Jamaica for 12 years and the interaction with local Indians was baffling. The local Indians referred to as Caribbean Indians identify themselves strongly with culture of mother India through faith, food habits and music and yet appear shy to be associated with Indian culture. Some of the Caribbean Indians suffer from some form of identity conflict. As native sons of the Caribbean, they should feel comfortable with their Indian identity like Japanese, Chinese, Indian or other ethnic Americans strongly identify themselves with their ethnic background and yet lived in the United States for generations as Americans.
Living in the United States for almost three decades, in a job that took Juggernaut around the country several times over in a period of 15 years, he understood he was a person of interest at the airports, hotels, restaurants, government agencies and importantly at his work place. He understood that his outsider status was inevitable and travels with him. Again and again, the same theme comes back whether it is in a different state in India or a different country in the world. At some point, the outsider feeling has to wear off, but with some this never happens.
The wide ethnic diversity on the Big Island in Hawaii particularly from the Pacific Islands created an environment of inclusiveness; Juggernaut for the very first time was not an outsider on the Big Island. Some people could never feel comfortable outside their culture, but as long as it won’t manifest into undesirable behavior, people like Juggernaut could always live comfortably on the outside.
Having left native country India four decades ago, on occasional visits to his native town when street vendors tried to stiff him thinking Juggernaut was an outsider, “ I am not an outsider, your hear me, I born here,” shouts Juggernaut at them leaving the vendors baffle for his outburst.