Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out of sight, out of mind ...

Like most people living outside their country, I often struggle with the question of whether I would like to live in the US or in India in the long run. Which one is my real home? Now for some it is natural that they should feel the need to make a choice - perhaps because they're not very happy about where they're living, or are lonely and miss their home country too much. But in my case it's not. Because as the years have gone by, I have come to love this country, more so New York, and the lines have blurred a little between the country I grew up in and the country I live in now. So this need to know - where my loyalties are, or if deep down I have a favorite - is rather irrational. But, surely I must love one more than the other? Just a little?

So this time around when I visited India, I did some soul-searching. I treated my visit like a test-run of some kind, to see how I feel about the many things that those who have experienced the comforts of living in a developed nation typically complain about - like the weather, the traffic, the lack of organization, etc etc. I observed things a lot more closely and made mental notes of all the things that were good (the clothes are sooo lovely!) and those that aren't (what's with the constant honking!).

There were some strange things I noted. I did not once miss New York while I was there. Granted it was a vacation, but New York really felt like a distant planet, like it was another life, and it felt so far away and so unrelatable the moment I landed in India - what with all the noise and the chaos and the colorful boisterousness that makes India such a lively and interesting place.

I also did not complain about the things I thought I would. Often, when I'm in the US, I tend to compare the two countries, and say "Now if only India had something this good...". But what is strange is that we drove past the slums and old buildings of Mumbai ( a stark contrast to the plush and expensive New York buildings), I never once felt like saying 'Wow, New York is so much better!'. Everything, with all its flaws, seemed normal, and relatable and just fine.

So at the end of 3 weeks, I thought that maybe, I had found the answer. India had won. It was my real home, that once there I was so perfectly happy that I did not care how much "better" New York was.

That feeling did not last very long. As soon as I landed in New York, I felt oddly at comfort. You know the feeling when you return home from a vacation? No matter how wonderful your getaway was, you are just happy to be back in the security, familiarity and comfort of the place you live in? Thats exactly how I felt, driving back to our place amidst the New York bridges and the familiar buildings and the yellow cabs. And as I settle back in after my vacation, while I miss my family and such, I am perfectly at peace living in New York.

So I have concluded that it now seems like I have two homes now - both of which I am very fond of. I cannot possibly pick a favorite, but it appears, that when one's out of sight, the other immediately takes its place. To end with a cheesy line - home is where the heart is, and my heart is in two places and I have made my peace with it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hello from India!

This post is from India. Been here for the past 5 days or so. After the usual last minute harried packing and stuff, we were off to India on the 29th, in time to ring in the New Year with family.

Strange as it may sound, these days when I visit India, I almost feel like a tourist. It's not because I've been living out of India for a while, or because I want to pretend that it's alien to me now, but because India is so very dynamic and every time I'm here, I find it very, very changed.

Just the other day we went to a departmental store here. While, I'm very impressed with the new supermarkets and all the stuff you can buy here, I was somewhat alarmed to find Kellogs Special K cereal, Betty Crocker cake mix , Olay products, etc. in the store. Call me a hypocrite (who very much appreciates Special K otherwise), but I was suddenly yearning for the old India, where we had Indian brands and Indian food in every departmental or the corner-of-the-street-grocery store, complete with the familiar soothing smell of dals and soap and such. It's hard to explain the emotion, but I felt somewhat cheated - like India had suddenly changed on me while I was sleeping or something. And at the risk of sounding like a "stuck up NRI", I was suddenly worried that India would no longer be unique and that eventually everything would end up looking like a Walmart or Target.

While I was thinking these dismal thoughts standing in line for the cash register, I was told that freshly made dosa and idly batter was also being sold at the store, and suddenly I felt at ease . Somethings never change, and that's a real comfort!

Happy New Year everyone!