Monday, August 15, 2005

Jai Hind!

It was around this time, nine years ago, that I realized that I had an option to go abroad (foreign jaana, we used to call it then) for my education. And after a lot of debate with myself, using arguments I can only describe as juvenile, I decided to take off.

All the years of studying abroad have made me realize - your home is never entirely your choice, at least not at the conscious level. I have grown mostly outside India and there is simply no denying that I have seen sights, gained education, and lived in comforts beyond what would probably have been possible back home. The words of my aunt who told me when I left: "You'll find no reason to come back when you've settled down there" should make sense. They never have.

At first, when I used to tell people back home that I'll get back and settle in India eventually, people used to laugh and tell me I just wasn't settled enough yet. When I tell them the same thing today - some of them think I'm lying, even to myself. Others think that the tide has turned and after all, with the progress in India, NRIs would definitely want to come back. What's the reality?

For me, the reality is that my mindspace is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that fits in only in one place. While I can hang my hat anywhere from Bangkok to Boston and sleep off in an instant, the feeling of belonging and perfect peace I find nowhere but on Indian soil. Its in the things that people think little about these days. When I go back to Mumbai, I make it a point to commute by the fast train during rush hour - I get the strangest thrill out of an exercise that frustrates even many Mumbaikars daily. Illogically, I eat street vada pav every day for a month because it tastes better than the juiciest butter chicken the best restaurants in Singapore can prepare. When someone tells me its impossible to tell that I've lived abroad for so long - I feel a sense of pride that I would still describe as juvenile. If I find myself in Delhi I still look up my favourite old bookstores in Chandni Chowk. I actually feel more comfortable in crowded places than spacious ones. Not a week goes by without me calculating and recalculating when I can finish my education, fulfill my obligations because of it, and get home where I belong. Like many in India, I'll gladly live there and be happy without apparent reason.

To the most delightful nation there can ever be - Happy Independence Day!