Whiplash is defined as, “injury caused by a severe jerk to the head, typically in a car accident.”
I am convinced that India is the motherland of whiplash and I’ll place a bet that there isn’t a single brace out there that would be enough to withstand the daily whiplash I never saw coming. The whiplash that has torn me apart again and again, the whiplash that is everything but gentle. The whiplash that leaves me at a loss of words and on the brink of tears. The whiplash of India. Hailing in at a population of over 1.1 billion survivors, I am now amongst them, or trying to be. I too, have successfully survived for almost two months. An act of survival, the do or die, or so it feels like every time I cross the street. Why did Tatiana cross the road? Simply, to get to the other side. There’s no catch. Yet, I’d choose crossing the street to be much more of a manageable task in comparison to the start of my journey here in India.
I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. In my head, it was all rehearsed. I would be surrounded by honking cars, the air would be thick, I wouldn’t be able to understand anything anyone was saying, I was going to roast under the sun. The food would be promising of taste. There would be cows in the street, the night wouldn’t be any less hectic than the day. It was going to be loud and make for great photography. This is all true, there are cows in the middle of an intersection and the streets are congested beyond belief. Yet, that’s not what is responsible for the whiplash. Whiplash in India can occur at any moment, multiple times in under an hour. One minute, I’m going off in my head about how amazing India is and the next I’m disoriented with no hope of ever feeling like I belong. It’s funny, it’s actually almost embarrassing that I entirely disregarded the fact that this whole experience was going to make me feel something. I haven’t just felt “something” I have felt it all to the point of being overwhelmed. I’ve found myself at loss of words, waking up in the morning and my heart is racing. The afternoon creeps in and I feel emotionally exhausted, numb to the very place that once excited me. Whiplash.
This is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I no longer have to contemplate whether or not if that statement is true, it reeks of honesty. I have seen myself react under new lights, I have watched myself dig my own ditch, I’ve heard my thoughts wander into a part of my mind I never knew existed. I’ve brought myself to the point of surrender. I have given into the whiplash, into India. There isn’t much left for me to hold onto. Everything you could think of, is different. I want to fall back on myself, run into my own arms and ask “Tati, what now? How do you feel about this?” but there’s never an answer. Just a blank stare. Past experiences have been silenced as they are incomparable to the one before me, I don’t have any advantage here. My safety-net is over 8,000 miles away. I’m on my own with this one. This is the notorious, stretch-zone.
Legend has it, in April of the year 2016, this will all be worth it. Fellows and Global Citizen Year staff predict there will a plane landing in California filled of revamped human beings. I’m going to go ahead and not won’t argue with that. It sounds like a deal to me. Even if I’m chewed up and spat back out, something—someone, will come out of these moments of unfamiliarity and that someone is going to be me. I have no idea what “me” will look like, sound like, what the stories she’ll hold will be, but it is clear that you don’t come out of India the same. I learn something new about myself and the world around me, everyday. The madness, the chaos, the smell of chai in the morning, it’s all a part of something so much much bigger than myself. The whiplash even has it’s good intentions. India, has secrets to share.