Developed or Developing

2 min

The world is sometimes divided into so-called developed and developing nations. Anees Chamarty contemplates the difference between her native and adopted countries.

I fastened my seat belt and brought my seat upright. The plane was about to land in India, my birthplace. As the flight descended, I thought of my first landing in the USA, 20 years ago, to pursue higher studies.

I had chosen my professor and courses based on my interest; whereas in India, I had witnessed a caste based structure and bias on the campus, even in dorm assignments.

In America, I could wear what I wanted without being ogled or judged. I could smile with all my teeth showing without projecting that as an invitation to touch me. I could go to the cinemas and not feel unsafe and enjoy the entire movie; without being groped.

It felt weird being free, almost intimidating. I learnt that in America I am accountable for my actions and responsible for the choices I make.

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In my first job, I was the only woman engineer and it was hard to digest a culture of “humor” that was dominated by racial and sexual slurs. Even though disappointing, it was good to know there were laws to protect me if I felt uncomfortable. In India, a girl’s audacious claim of freedom is usually responsible for the sexual harassment.

As I was contemplating this contrast between a “developing” nation and a “developed” nation, the plane landed  and my vacation started with cattle on the roads, vehicles swarming invisible lanes and men urinating casually on the streets. Not much had changed in India. Then one day an Indian woman led mission Chandrayaan to the moon.

I returned from my vacation, to my home in the Bay Area. My workplace in south city is sophisticated with many women engineers. And one day, as I was driving to work, listening to the radio, there was another shooting. This time, at Gilroy. Then El Paso. Then Dayton.

Not much has changed in America.

I don’t remember worrying about getting shot in India.

And I wonder, which nation is developed, and which is developing?

With a Perspective, I’m Anees Chamarty.

Anees Chamarty is an automation engineer. She lives in Sunnyvale.

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