Alright, so I haven’t lived outside India for too long, only for about two years, but I know many people who have lived outside for way longer. And one thing sticks. We are a fiercely possessive lot. We accept the problems and limitations, but we value the strengths so much more. If someone tries to put us in a mould, we are very happy to show them what we’re made of. Humbly, nicely, but categorically.
I have grown up in one of the nicer parts of South Delhi, went to one of the best (scratch that, THE BEST) school in the city, graduated from an enviable college in the city (you know where I’m going with this, I’ve lived a fortunate, blessed childhood). All this while, I was a cynic, always thought I couldn’t care less who ran the country, didn’t move beyond the Slumdog Millionaire image of my country, and decided that at some point in my life, I’d want to live abroad.
So what do I do after I’ve moved abroad?
- I follow Indian news more closely than ever, in fact I don’t follow local news. I wouldn’t know if there’s a flood warning in my neighbourhood, but I’d know if Kejriwal planned a dharna or if Rahul Gandhi said Suit Boot for the 56th time. Admittedly that’s not particularly bright of me.
- I have precisely one week to watch an Indian movie if I want to, that’s all the time they get released for here. I make time.
- I go to great lengths to relive my Indian-ness. I travelled 2.5 hours for a meal in Saravana Bhawan. It didn’t feel like a waste of time, it felt like the lovely smell of rains in India. Familiar, precious and like a part of me that I had forgotten existed.
- Every time I get invited to a wedding back home I feel terrible for not being able to make it. I’d love to be able to spend an evening with my big family and all my cousins and their children. I dread the day it’ll hit me and my brother that our kids wouldn’t even know each other.
- I make packed itineraries for every trip back home. I try to soak up all the India and bring it back with me. But all that achieves is a bucket load of tears at the airport, followed by failed attempts by my husband to drill some reason into his sobbing wife.
- I pick out things I can do in the UK, and tell myself that if this were India I wouldn’t be able to do this. Going out running without worrying about whether I’d make it back home safe, that’s one I tell myself a lot.
And then there are things that make me love being here. The fact that train authorities apologize for trains being 3 minutes late. Or that the sun sets at 9pm in summers. The iterative sorry/please/thank you routines that make even an argument ever so polite. Or that a ‘heatwave’ doesn’t mean deaths or drought, it simply means it’s too hot to wear a jacket.
Do I want to move back to India? No I don’t think so, I think I’m happy here. See I don’t sound confident, but that dichotomy is the reality of every Indian who moves abroad. We love what we have, and we love what we’ve left behind. Most of us don’t know which one we love more.