I spent the first twenty-six years of my life in India—the spiritual epicentre of this planet or so the west may have us believe. I left to cure my wanderlust and over the years fell into that age-old NRI rhythm of returning home for annual holidays to renew family ties, touching base with the playing fields of Bombay—the city where I grew up and which has most influenced my writing. Each year I am struck anew by the change. Over dinner table with my parents, at lunch at the brand new Thai restaurant with friends, on the annual new-year’s eve trip to Goa with siblings, the inevitable topic that dominates every conversation is how to make money on the stock market, how to make your money appreciate by booking apartments off plan and then selling on appreciation, how to build assets in order to start a new business to make more money to buy another house....you get it! Greed is God and it is well and truly alive, here and now, in the transcendental East.
On the other side, back in London, the hot topic of discussion as always is how to leave the city for the countryside, how to travel, to downsize in order to find true meaning in life, how to eject out of the day job to pursue that elusive passionate dream of doing what one truly loves. In fact I have come to the conclusion that the true reason behind the real estate obsession in the UK is to sell up and make money in order to start a yoga centre in Spain, or perhaps to go on that retreat to the ashram of Amma – the hugging saint or to find the funds to retrain as a life coach. Perhaps you are like my friend Neil, a reformed junkie turned tarot card reader or Nina, who gave up her day job to become a NLP therapist, or like me who hopes to find a way to keep the bills paid – miraculously – so as to write full time? Now you know why we are surrounded by psychics in this city. For we all want a seer who can look into the future and assure us that there will be a time when we can find ourselves, it’s not all in vain, for the west is the new east is the west.
Many Londoners laugh in disbelief when I tell them that I live here because it is peaceful, has a slower pace and is not as overwhelming as many of the cities in the East. All through the year, I am never too far from a green space in this city and I find as I grow older that nature plays a very important role in nourishing my soul. Then come year-end, I land in the crowded, heaving, megapolis of my birth city and all my eight senses flare open. It’s an over-the-top assault of touch, taste, seeing, hearing, wanting, breathing, living, loving and longing. All my childhood angst pours over me slipping down my back in a perspiration of delight. I can feel the pores on my skin burst open as I relive the experiences which made me and new churning, seething prose is squeezed out of me. It is then I realise that I am fortunate to have my feet in the East and my soul in the West. I can reach for the economy quotient in the reality of Bombay—the city which is the seat of the universal goddess of wealth and of my own goddess of words, the currency capital of the new world; I am brave too, to search for my emotional quotient, in the intangible, connected spirit of London — the Mind Body Spirit centre of this universe which is at the heart of some strange awakening movement; where so many of us are on the quest for that elusive something.
Do you agree? What has been your experience of the west is the new east phenomenon? Do write in and let me know.
Photo credit: unfpa.org