For a long time, I felt like I was “neither here nor there,” a feeling that I am sure will be mutual with my friends/peers from India. I was in the US for a relatively long time, 8 years and finally took the plunge to chose “here (India)” over “there (US).” I guess the prime motivator behind this decision was the overwhelming desire to “connect back to my roots.” Every time I visited “home, a.k.a Madras (yes, I still cannot come to terms with the name change),” I tried or atleast made an effort to absorb all that I can w.r.t to my roots.
One might think, what does she mean by connecting back to my roots? Well, every time I think about India, Madras in particular and what it’s like to be there, I remember the relaxation and the feeling of connectedness and community, their welcoming and hospitable nature that makes a complete stranger feel that home, something that I felt was lacking when I first came to the US. I guess that happens with anyone who moves from their own country to a foreign country. Words like ‘privacy,’ ‘soulmate,’ ‘searching for that perfect partner (as if that exists),’ mean different things and there was a huge adjustment phase. Now, people everywhere have stopped looking at superficial things and are trying to connect more with the nature and with themselves, which I think is a good thing.
In Madras or Bangalore or anywhere City, India, there are always people around, there’s not much quiet and the concept of personal space takes a different meaning. With all the hustling and bustling of people, street vendors, people of bikes, cycles, cars and pedestrians, it’s a vibrant environment. The house carries smells of fragrant coffee, cumin, turmeric, curry powder, rice, and we can make out the veggies that are being cooked based on the smell…….And there are certain rituals we follow at home that take us out of our normal everyday routine and transport us to our roots.
For example, my parents always woke up early and always finished their chores early to help them leave early. They also had a distinct separation between work and personal life and never ever brought their work home. We were taught that a happy home takes teamwork and acceptance and as kids, we were also expected to do our part in running the family. It really did “take a village” to run a family. My parents taught me and my brother that actions – good ones and bad ones – have consequences and that we have to be true to our conscience more than anything. More than anything, my parents taught me about honesty, integrity, and loyalty, or work and relationship ethics. I believed in making a conscious effort to practice both, but it was coming to the US that made me appreciate all that I took from my roots.
Of course, living in a place that was not your home is always difficult but the amazing network of Indian population in the US opened up new possibilities where family meant an extended circle of friends (Thank god for GOOD FRIENDS!!!), created opportunities for weekend get-togethers, cultural events, going on long drives and doing things without any inhibitions whatsoever. But as time came to pass, there was a certain emptiness that craved the warmth and closeness of my roots (CUE to me singing in Simbu style………
தொலை தூரத்தில் வெளிச்சம் நீ (ie home)
உன்னை நோக்கியே எனை ஈர்க்கிராயே
மேலும் மேலும் உருகி உருகி
உன்னை எண்ணி ஏங்கும் இதயத்தை என்ன செய்வேன்
ஒ உன்னை எண்ணி ஏங்கும் இதயத்தை என்ன செய்வேன் !!!………hehe)
Now that we are back, I feel that the transformation of the city is not what I had expected esp. with respect to the vertical development, range of cosmopolitan and western attire and cuisine peacefully coexisting with the saris and the anandha bhavans/ sagars or dhabaas. I am also seeing a conscious attitude change towards healthy lifestyle and living and looking to go beyond one’s good to the good of the society which is a step in the right direction.
However, sometimes the utter lack of civic and traffic sense, chasing behind material comforts at the cost of one’s health and family displayed by a good part of the population baffles me. In this respect I do respect and miss US for its people and their friendly and unobtrusive nature, civic sense and cleanliness. I respect and applaud the firms whose work culture helped me to have a balanced family and a successful career life. I really do detest the corruption, lack of infrastructure, the discrimination of the sexes (YES, it is still prevalent here) and the CORRUPT POLITICAL system that has made the democratic political system of India more like FAMILY business……….
But, the diverse people, the culture, being close to family and teaching your kids about your heritage and culture, seeing your kids really enjoy their time with their grandparents (and not as weekly phone calls between strangers or through photos), enjoying your festivals and celebrations is irreplaceable. Despite the wide array of changes, the heart of our cities still remain the same and they have managed to retain the spirit of their foundation and that is ALL THAT MATTERS!!!