August 15th, India’s Independence Day. In the regular run of life I completely forgot, until my feeds on Facebook lighted up with the “tri-color”. How could I forget such an important day, a day which was an integral part of my childhood?
This got me thinking – what made this day important? Was it the date itself or the celebrations, the flag hoisting and the patriotic songs which went with it? Never mind the reason, by forgetting the day have I become “un” Indian?
What makes a person a countryman(woman)? Is it the color and design of one’s passport or the life which is prudently woven? Is it the place you were born in or the place with which you share your successes and failures? Is it the country you “belong to” or the country you “live in”?
After 12 years of migration out of my country, while I may still “belong” to India, I “live” in America. I share my successes and failures here. I Celebrate July 4th with all the zeal and paraphernalia. I enjoy and am part of the fireworks, the three day holiday, the sales inspired shopping spree. I solemnly stand and sing the “land of the brave and country of the free”, holding the red blue and white, albeit, sometimes messing up the lyrics. Still, when someone asks me the customary question of where am I from? I know they are expecting and so I reply, “India”. “un” American?
That’s my misplaced identity and for a lot many like me. Simply put, we belong to a country but we don’t live in it. We live in a country but we don’t belong to it. Alas, human emotions and reality is not always simple and maybe this one time, it’s good.
I may forget dates and lyrics but I remember ME. This “me” which is made up of everything I have in these two countries. One, where I hold sacred my past, my parents and the other, where I shape my future, my kids. It’s not a choice, it can’t be a choice. It’s about embracing the two.
Forgetting my past is selfish, just like forgetting my present is ungrateful. So, while it sometimes feels like a case of misplaced identities, it’s never a situation of misplaced loyalties. I am loyal to both worlds; one given to me and one created by me.
Wrote this piece a month back but couldn’t get myself to share it until today. Would love to hear from at least some of you.