Then Deep and I started talking about our friendship, and she said we did not understand each other well; I was a little stunned because I felt close to her. Of course I inquired about why she felt this way, and Deepika starts telling me in a frank way about all the things she cannot understand about me, beginning with what she sees as a preoccupation with money. What began as a nice chat over chai was turning into an impromptu counseling session, and I was not going to leave until it was over.
I don't recall all the details about the conversation, but by the end, I felt like I needed to do some shuffling of my cards. After we were talking about all of these things she saw in me (I was asking her too, it wasn't like she was just reading off an endless list of bad things she noticed), she could read my face, she could tell I was a little bummed. "Oh, shoot, I'm sorry. Should I not have said those things?" she asked. She said she didn't mean to upset me, she thought I was a "strong girl," and I told her that I appreciated her honesty and bluntness, though I was just a little deflated after hearing these things from someone who I want to like me, someone who I admire very much. She said sometimes she has trouble holding her tongue, and I told her she needs to continue being honest, though maybe in the future it could help to make her criticism more positive, especially when dealing with people who might not understand she was merely trying to help.
For the past couple of years, I have been the butt of countless jokes by my brothers and Dad about my cheapness, but I have never heard these things said by friends. When I did, I realized that something serious was up, not because I don't respect my family, but because there's something different about friends' criticism, especially when it's that of a petite Indian girl whom I respect a great deal. I now realize that there's no use in putting stress on a friendship because of a small amount of money, or making a big deal out of 200 rupees.
While I still catch myself in exasperation responding, "50 rupees!," like yesterday at the concessions stand before seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, when I had to pay 50 rupees for a normally 25 rupee can of diet Pepsi, I do my best to joke about this strange phenomenon with friends; in fact, I am not the only one of us Americans who has become so accustomed to Indian prices that s/he becomes shocked when the rupee price is much more than expected, even though the price difference actually comes out to be very little in American money!
Deepika, Ren, Stevie, Liz, and I behind the Taj Mahal during Fall Break
I guess that's the best way to do it, to turn individual weaknesses into group issues so that people can help each other see themselves better. This is one of the essential reasons why we need good friends, to point out those things about ourselves which we have conditioned ourselves to overlook, and to help us laugh out our old moldy parts to make room for the light.
Stevie, Deepika, and I trying to make one of those silly jumping pictures in front of the Taj Mahal!