Friday, August 17, 2012

Where is Home?

I have mixed feelings about the exodus of our brethren from the North East going back to their respective states after the reprehensible attack on some of them in what would perhaps be the most cosmopolitan cities of India, Pune and Bangalore.

I do not for one moment condone their reaction - that of leaving these cities that are part of their Motherland to return to their "homes".  Yes, when there is a presumable threat on the lives of ordinary people based purely on their state of origin, it is but human to pack up your bags and head home.

When I think deeper, the feeling I really have is that of envy. Because these, my fellow citizens, have a place called home to go back to.

I am a marwari who was born and raised in Kerala and who has lived more than half her life in several parts of the country (courtesy that husband was in the Defence). So ask me what is home to me and I don't have a better answer than India.

My forefathers belonged to Rajasthan but had migrated to Haryana long before my father was born. Does that make Haryana home to me? A state where my father no longer lives, nor has any family, property, or connections...is that my "home"?

I was born and raised in Kerala where my father chose to move to, to earn his living almost 45 years ago. We have blended in enough to speak the language and adopt various facets of their culture and cuisine....to the extent that comfort food for my siblings and I is avial and red rice. But since we don't look like them we are branded as "non-Malayalis".  Even if I, as a young adult introduced myself to a class full of students in Delhi University as a Keralite, the reality is that we are not treated or considered as one of them. And perhaps we never will. So what then is "home" for us - my parents and siblings?

Today I live in Pune - a city I have chosen to live in for the last six years. But just because I cannot speak Marathi as well as the locals, or because I drive a car that was registered in Delhi, I am a "non-Maharashtrian"... So I have to accept that this, my favourite city in the whole world, is not "home" to me either.

When Raj Thackeray, at the peak of his anti-North Indian rhetoric had urged us to go "home", I often discussed with my South Indian husband, the absurdity of it all. Where would I go, if push had come to shove and if all North Indians REALLY did have to go back?  I had no place called "home" to go to...

I am just an ordinary Indian, who has grown up to emulate the languages and cultures of all the places I have lived in. For me, India is home....which is clearly not enough. When such threats raise their ugly heads time and again, its the ordinary citizen like me, a marwari-malayali who lives in Maharashtra, displaced, without a concrete 'identity' or home state, who has no where to run or hide.

Because today clearly, in our land of diversity, it is not enough to call my Motherland my Home!

Yes, I envy my North East fellow citizens because when they felt the pressure of threat they decided to return to their "homes"...leaving behind their colleges, careers, job opportunities etc. They have a place where they will not be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or looks. They have a safe haven, where their loved ones wait for them.

While the rest of the country laments this unnecessary 'migration' back to their homes, I can only see the silver lining. Lucky them, I say!

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