Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Indian? American? Earthian? Who am I?

It was time to head back home.

As much as the three weeks with family and friends was wonderful, I could always feel that my home was on the other side of the planet.  In almost every aspect of life, it is that way--when it comes to music or movies or sports or religion, there is pretty much nothing in common anymore.  I look Indian, talk like an Indian, but am an American.

But, we coexisted quite happily.  We all had fun talking about the old days.  I got to know more about the family history.  Including the darker parts.

Mother's "erisheri" and "pitla" and "sirukizhangu" and .... yes, they were all even tastier than how I remembered them.

But then, there comes the time to leave.

Mother asked me whether I was planning to take any "murukku" or "thattai"  or at least "kadala mittai" with me.  It was an emphatic no.

"Why not?" she asked.

"I enjoy them when I am here" I said.  "I eat puri with shrikhand when I am in Bombay, When I was working in Calcutta, I ate Bengali food and sweets.  Back in the US, I eat other stuff.  I seem to prefer it that way."

A collage of some of my food creations!
She seemed sad that I was not taking with me that much more of India.

But, mother and father know it all too well that there is a great deal of India within me.  The stories of my people.  The photographs that I cherish. The wall clock that once chimed the time at grandma's home, which now is a loud tick-tock in my quiet home.. I don't have to tell them that I am a product of the old country.

"You know I will always remember you, the grandparents, the great-grandparents" I told them once.  I know I didn't have to tell them that, and yet such re-affirmations can be reassuring, I suppose.

There is so much India within me that it reflects in so many things I think and act.  Even in my application for promotion, where I had quoted Kalidasa.  I could have talked about all these, too, but the older I get, the more I understand the difference between intellectual reasoning in such contexts versus understanding and responding to the emotional need.

Thanks to the intellectual and physical wanderings, there is a lot within me from different parts of the world, too.  As all these begin to accumulate within, and change me for the better, the less perhaps is the proportion of the Indian-ness.  I have come a long way, in so many ways, from the roots in Sengottai and Pattamadai.

As Rudyard Kipling observed, we can physically live only at one place that we call home.  In modern times, many of us are fortunate in being able to choose from a great number of options, in contrast to our ancestors who almost always didn't stray much from their places of birth.. To Kipling, it was finally Sussex, which he wrote about:
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!
As much as Kipling treasured his corner in England, it does appear that I have made myself a home in this part of the world, far away from Sengottai and Pattamadai and Neyveli and Madras.

Looking into my kitchen, with grandma's clock on the far wall

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Wonderful wistful post. You've travelled a great road my friend - and travelled it honourably, imbibing the best of everywhere you go. May you travel a lot more, figuratively, if not literally !