This ‘Indianness’

When you have been away from homeland too long, you get to learn yourself better. You discover those aspects of your personality that you never thought you possessed. Then you realise, may be you did, but these feelings were hibernating while you were busy taking things in homeland for granted.

Unexpected things and random experiences are known to trigger a wave of nostalgia, taking you down the memory lane, making you teary-eyed and happy at the same time. One thought leads to another, and before long, you are lost in the awesomeness that is homeland. Time seems to slow down while you walk through this beautiful garden of memories. A small smile plays on your lips, much to the wonderment of your co-workers. When asked what you are smiling about, you say ‘nothing’. How do you explain to them what brought the smile on? It’s hard. They wouldn’t understand. They haven’t had common experiences growing up with you. They are not on the same page. And you are in too happy a space to even bother explaining them.

How do you explain endless hours spent playing lagori, shaakli, chupa-chupi, langdi?

How do you explain the joy you felt on enjoying the coolness of kalakhatta, orange or keri flavoured gola on your lips on a sweltering hot summer day?

KalaKhatta Gola Picture Courtesy - Ahujaboy

KalaKhatta Gola Picture Courtesy – Ahujaboy

How do you explain the fun you had playing holi, pelting water balloons on random people?

How do you explain what’s all the fuss about Pani-puri?

 

Pani-Puri Picture Courtesy www.bubblews.com

Pani-Puri Picture Courtesy http://www.bubblews.com

How do you explain DDLJ, Hum Aapke Hain Kauna and the likes have been an important part of you growing up? How do you explain you miss drama sometimes?

How do you explain what’s the deal about maa ke haath ka gaajar ka halwa?

How do you explain those many fun-filled moments you have shared with your cousins, or for that matter even your mama, mami, kaka, kaki, mausa, mausi, bua, nana, nani, dada, dadi? Heck, we don’t even have English words for these uncles and aunties. In Pardes, you realise how impersonal English language really is, you crave to talk in your mother tongue. You try filling the hole by watching Bollywood movies. Bollywood movies remain your closest connection to India. Every once in a while you feel a strong desire to watch some classic movie for the nth time, just so you could relive those memories. Just so that you could take the cheapest ticket back to India for a wee-while. Just for a while, you want to be transported back to India.

In a foreign country, you are constantly battling feelings of ‘neither here’ & ‘nor there’. There are days when you feel like giving it all up and heading straight home. Damn career, Damn pardes.

It’s then when you learn to acknowledge how big a part India is of you. You can take an Indian out of India, but you can’t take India out of an Indian. So true that.

The good thing is you learn to value your roots a lot more. You learn a great deal about yourself. You have plenty of opportunities to pause and reflect. You feel like you have grown years wiser in a small time. You learn new perspectives, you become more flexible. You become more aware of differences in people around you. As much as I have seen, heard or read, I can say every Indian settling abroad inadvertently goes through this unique, one-of-its-kind tug-of-war. Every one feels homesick once the novelty wears off. Because culture, traditions and way of life in India are nothing like in any other countries. There is a whole world within India itself, and it is difficult to explain this “Indianness” to a non-Indian.

All my friends gearing up for a new life outside India; be ready to be challenged. Be ready to unlearn and be ready to learn. All the best.

 

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Growing Homesick

You can take an Indian out of India, but you cannot take India out of an Indian.

Having lived away from my beloved home for more than half a year now, I can’t help but nod in complete agreement to the above. May be it’s the distance that is making my heart grow fonder, but the fact is…it is growing fonder.

Isn’t it paradoxical that we realise how valuable some things are to us, only when we have lost them? I now realise how I have (like many others) taken so many things for granted back home. Small joys, small conveniences, family, friends, flavourful food…the list could well go on.

In most cases, people get homesick once the initial frenzy of new life, new city, new country, new friends die down. Once the initial excitement fizzles out, they begin to miss the old life, the old country, the old city and the old friends. Old is after all, gold.

In my case, I knew from the start…that no matter how well I embrace the new, the old in me is so deeply rooted that it will always be on the ‘snooze’ mode. It will keep resurfacing time and again, reminding me of what I have left behind. It can get so overwhelming sometimes. You can actually watch movies like ‘Swades’ and go all teary eyed. Because you can relate to the story so-darn-well. Not an hour passes by, without thinking about India in someway or the other. No Kidding!

It is a complex set of emotions. I am so happy to be with TCG, to be experiencing everything new, to be enjoying every bit of it, yet at the same time there always is this longing to be at home. Every time I see something new, get to experience something beautiful, see a picture-perfect scene of the endless sky in the myriad of colours, gorgeously contrasted by clear green waters of the sea, I wish I could be with my family. I wish they could see what I am seeing. I wish they were here to enjoy the marvellous view. I wish they were here to comment on how beautiful everything here is. What I am meaning to tell is, all the beauty and all the new experiences that otherwise should have been counted amongst the ‘best experiences of life’ are not so best without having shared them with my friends and family.

It’s funny but every time I hear the word India, my heart skips a beat. Every time we pass an Indian restaurant and see the locals going gaga over ‘butter chicken and garlic naan’, I feel my heart swell up with a teeny weeny bit of pride for my country, though I have nothing to do whatsoever with the evolution of Indian cuisine. I feel like telling each one of them, “hey that’s our food from our humble country, isn’t it delicious?”  May be because there is something beautiful about seeing ‘other’ people experiencing and appreciating what you have experienced and taken for granted all your life.

Every time I read about India in local papers, I inadvertently feel a small tug at my heart. Every time I hear someone saying positive things about India, I feel good about myself. Every time someone shares a negative experience, I feel sorry about it and feel obliged to correct the misdoing. It’s like that figure of speech we learnt in our grammar classes in school – part for the whole. When something is said or discussed about India, I can’t help but take it personally.

Indian food, Indian customs, beautiful Indian clothes (haven’t wore them for 7 months?! What?!! Really?!), Indian movies, Indian festivals, Indian ways, Indian attitude, Indian spirit, Indian jokes…I miss it all. I have tried to keep it alive here, inside me. The Indian inside me is too proud to let all these things just disappear into thin air.

India might have its problems. Its inconveniences, its issues, its peculiarities. But then, which country doesn’t? It is what makes us who we are.  I am so grateful to be born Indian. Things I am grateful for: Reason # 21

I miss you India. I will see you very soon.