A Place To Call Home

July and August are the months when Dubai empties out. With the majority of the population being expatriate and the schools closed , the people head back to their home countries for the summer. I too join the hordes at the Dubai Airport every year (the airport also issues a travel advisory keeping in the mind the sheer number of people who fly at that time).Once a friendly immigration official asked my sons if they were going “home”; my sons were confused, for them “home” was Dubai and they were going for a vacation to India. For me however even though I had been living in Dubai for many years, whenever I fly to India I always think I am going home.

This set me thinking, as an expat what is home?

Is home the country I was born, raised and educated in? Or is it the country I have made a life in, given birth, brought up my children?

The roots spread like tentacles in the soil of my birthplace. Love of family and friends keeps bringing me back, ensnaring me. Similar roots hold me down in Dubai. Whenever the plane touches down in New Delhi the sights, smells and sounds are familiar. More so in Dehradun, I know where the roads will take, if I go walking I might meet a familiar face speaking a familiar tongue. When I touch down in Dubai the same familiarity assails me. “I am home” is the sentence that plays in my head in both the places.  Both the countries hold me close.

Which brings me back to where is home?

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When you are an expat in the gulf one thing that stands out is that life here is very transient. The only thing constant here is that one day we will have to go back to India (no, we don’t get citizenship here). Like my son was explaining to me that we are “residents” of UAE and “citizens” of India.

The transient lifestyle makes everything uncertain. You make friends, good friends and then suddenly out of the blue you or they might have to shift. I have bid adieu to many good friends and I know I will have to do it again, even though I hate good byes. However this also means that we get together more often, celebrate even the miniscule happenings in life. As expats your friends become your support system whom you bank on and call on in times of crisis.  If you are lucky enough to have family as well then you are doubly blessed (Like I am). Thus when your friends move away you feel something missing in your life. A huge chunk is taken away and you start building your support system again.

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As an expat you start giving more precedence to holding on to your religious and cultural identity , Especially if you are the first generation to move out of India. Festivals are specially marked and celebrated. The rituals and the symbolism are explained over and over again to the children. Somehow we try to make sure that they understand and not be an alien to their religion. Similarly the sense of Indianness and Indian identity is instilled in them with the thought that they should retain their Indian identity even though the children themselves think of India as vacation home. We try and teach them all things Indian, sightseeing  becomes a history lesson and mealtimes become a discourse on Indian spices and their uses. We somehow want that the sense of patriotism and pride that we have towards India should also be in them.Or maybe it is our way of holding on to our roots. The children get pulled by the country they know as home and the country their parents belong too. Somehow in trying to hold on to their identities we expats become more religious, more patriotic somehow more fervent than the Indians back home ( see again the word “home” being used for India).

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It is the lure of money that took us away from our motherland. The promise of a safer place, a place filled with opportunities for the deserving, place with an easy life without any struggle for bijli, pani and sadak.

But even though we leave the country, the country retains a hold on us. Our bosoms still swell with pride when we hear the Indian National Anthem, we still feel happy when our sportsmen do well, we still feel ashamed when a horrific act is committed in our country, and we still defend it when someone criticizes it.

What is this hold that India has over us that even though we may try out cuisines from around the world, the pleasure in simple dal, roti and chawal remains unparralled?

 

2 thoughts on “A Place To Call Home

  1. Like they say, you can take an Indian out of India, but not India out of an Indian. And I definitely believe all Indians out of India are a lot, lot more patriotic than the Indians in India (except for may be the army guys! ) Come home soon

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