Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ten-acity

"O Bhai...where art thou???"

Suddenly this comment from Nidhi on my last post woke me up and got me to write the post that I actually should have written on the 18th of July 2008.

Ten years. It's a long time. Longer than any of the cities in India I lived in. Flitting from city to city every two years due to Dad's transfers made it easy, easy for me to leave everything behind and head out of India at the age of 18 to live in a totally alien land. It wasn't easy, but to tell the truth, it wasn't too difficult either. Perhaps that was because on some levels, it felt like yet another transfer, except that I was by myself. I did not have a single acquaintance in Singapore, not a friend, not a relative (phew actually!), not a soul.

Start. From scratch.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had not got the scholarship, and decided to stay on in India and take up the Engineering or the Medical course. Me, a doctor? Naah, not so much. Me, an engineer? Naah, not so much either. Even though that's what I ended up studying here - the damn scholarship people had pretty much picked everything for me. But then, as I like to believe, the coolest people in the world are the electrical and electronics engineers who are not working as engineers. Ahem.

If I'd done that engineering course in India, would I have had the guts to quit my first job after three months and declare war on the world?

"I will not be an engineer I will not be an engineer I will not be an engineer."

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Perhaps not. I'd be too scared, too scared of what my parents would have to answer to relatives' questions. I was safe here, away from all of them, who did not need to know where I was working and as what. "She's working in Singapore." was sufficient to satisfy them. I would not be in the publishing industry for sure. I would not have had the guts to start from the very bottom - as an assistant editor - and work my way up. I would not have written the kids' books that I wrote. I would have been a miserable engineer somewhere. Or maybe not. Maybe I would have been happy. Because I wouldn't have known otherwise.

Whatever happened, it worked out fine for me. I am happy and most importantly, aware of it.

But is Singapore home?

Everytime I ask myself this question, I squirm. There are things I love about it, and things I hate about it. There are things I am so used to, that I can't do without them. It's safe. It's clean. The system actually works. The chilli crab is out of the world. The job keeps me happy. And then there are the things I could do without. The Singlish. The MSG. The occasional racial stereotypes. But then maybe it's still better than other places where racism is in your face? Then why does it bug me when someone asks me, "Oh you cook dinner every day? But how many different types of curry can there be anyway??" There you go. That's the image. The IT geeks who eat curry for all three meals every day and hang out at Little India in weekends. My friend was actually asked by someone, "So what do you guys do in the weekends? Hang out at Little India?" My friend replied, "Yup! Just like how you guys hang out at Chinatown." Totally awesome comeback. Left the guy speechless. Sometimes I want to do that. Leave them speechless. At other times, it feels like a defensive strategy. An "us" versus "them" thing. I have been here for ten years. Is there really an "us" versus "them"? Aren't I part of "them" by now? Shouldn't I be part of them by now?

Sometimes, I look at my life and think, "I should be so thankful." At other times, I look around and think, "I should be home." But what is home really? Is India home? Can I see myself moving and settling there? Not so much. Can I see myself settling here forever? Maybe. I don't know. Don't ask me that question. Don't. It makes me nervous.

"Are you applying for citizenship?" a colleague asked. Citizenship. Singapore citizenship. The gateway to a visa-free, hassle-free world of privileges. But here's the catch - I'd have to apply for a visa to go to India. A visa application to go back home. And that thought just breaks my heart. So no, I'm not ready for citizenship. Yet.

India is India, and Singapore is Singapore. Both have their pluses and both have their minuses. When I'm here, I can't stand anyone speaking unreasonably ill of India, and when I'm there, the same holds for Singapore. I have the best of both worlds. I'm happy. I'm comfortable. I'm just hours away from my parents. Then why isn't it home? How do we define home anyway? And just why can't I have two homes? What is stopping me from calling Singapore home?

Maybe, it's true. Maybe it really is that simple. That on some levels, I'm just taking Singapore for granted.

Isn't that what defines 'home'?

Well, I guess it's home then.



27 comments:

chirpy-paaro said...

Gold...:)
Agreed on every single word of urs...
Somehow i also feel the same...that no matter where i sty India is India...

aequo animo said...

Home!!! (Gold!!! :D)
and whats July 18 got to do with it?

Sanchit said...

hey have u heard the song "home" by micheal buble.. hear it once..

and yea.. silver on the "post of the decade" :)

Nidhi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nidhi said...

I agree with all that you said...

Take the best of the both worlds and enjoy life :)

One is a home where you were raised... and one is the home where you got to discover yourself :)

Keep exploring yourself and feel the love for both your homes all the time :)

P.S. "Bronze" is mine :)

shub said...

Funny that you should post this today...this morning when I landed I was smsing people that I've reached home safely...while I did the same when I reached my Blore home last week as well :)

And I always end up mulling over the exact same things on the ride back home. I was gonna make a similar "what is home" kinda post as well...will hold that for a little later :)

nits said...

hmmm... interesting thought... gets me thinking how do u define home... is it a place where ur parents stay... or is it a place where u spent ur childhood... or is it a place where u r living these day... probably for a long time... its really difficult to answer this question..

but, i would agree to you, probably a home is a place that u can take for granted, a place that makes u feel a sense of ownership... i stayed in different hostels all my life (Ok!.. almost)... I would be really happy to call my rooms (my bed at school time) as my home... i had complete ownership of that... i could also take that for granted... and most importantly that was the place i felt most comfortable... most 'at ease'...

Stupidosaur said...

Hah I have lived in 14 houses.
So when few days ago someone aked, which is your "Home Town", I honestly asked, "Define home town".

Left me alone.

??! said...

I'd have to apply for a visa to go to India
Actually,not under the new Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme. Which would give you permanent residency in India (with almost all rights except the right to vote) even if you are a citizen of another country. Might be worth your while.

Also, hello. Commenting after reading you for a while, after landing up here via....not sure where.

sumgum said...

Very Nice...Totally agree on India is India....:)

India is home...but the Q what r ur plans? where do u wanna settle? Are u looking to get a citizenship?....yes yes....makes me nervous every time....

Its strange...India is home....India is where i belong....but the thot of going bak leaving behind wat i have gotten so used to...i like to call it my "new home"...scares the shit out of me...:(

maxdavinci said...

you made me think as well!

I have no place to call home as well thanks to the constant moving.

but then detroit ho ya dilli, india toh india hota hain!

Urv said...

//A visa application to go back home

:)

(Got nothing to say. You've said it all in the post yaar)

Padma said...

I have been going through this kind of confusion for quite some time now. Where do I settle down...? In the north where I had spent half my life or in the south where I have spent the other half? Where do I really belong? When I am in the north, I can't tolerate people making fun of south Indians and when I am in the south, I feel bad when people make fun of north indians. Where do I belong?

Well, I think one is "maike" and the other is "sasural" and we belong to both!!

Nemo said...

Nice post. I would like to read some of your kids' books. Can you name some? Thanks.

anshuj said...

I have heard this before. Here in US also, I have a lot of friends who are ambivalent on the issue. Not bale to decide yet. Although I have never had many doubts on where I stand, I can perfectly understand the indecision. I would say, if we let go of the feelings for a while and consider the place where we live as our home, for the time being and just live in the moment, it should be ok. I would think it is easier for you than others because you kept moving through your childhood.
But yeah that wouldn't solve the problem of applying/not applying or citizenship.

parikrama said...

Well it's time once again to listen "Mein Jahan Rahoon" (Namaste London) in endless loop :)



p.s. : Another annoying question that Sgporeans ask : Ahh! you must be a millionaire in your home town by now, eh ?

To which I reply, if staying in 1 Room Kitchen apartment, in a distant suburb of Mumbai sounds like being a millionaire,then yes I am a millionaire ;-)

ursjina said...

good u reached a verdict..i was eagerly racing tru for that..:)
and congrats on surviving or living..whichvr that is

Stone said...

Home is where....TV is.

On a serious note -- I think home is an imaginary place.

Bivas said...

To use a cliche...'Home is where the heart is'
So y wonder on such things...mast rehneka...zindagi jeeneka :-)

rt said...

agreee... "the coolest people in the world are the electrical and electronics engineers who are not working as engineers.."

Home is where the heart is...

Nidhi said...

O Bhai...you made my day!!!

After refreshing ur site every day for 2-3 times and not finding any new post...apun toh "haar-maan gaya" tha. Thats when I decided to post the comment "O Bhai...where art thou???" which actually forms the "Bottom of the barrel" of the comments section of ur previous post.

But when I checked ur blog two days back, I received "A warm reception" and was surprised to see that my comment is "The one" which Bhai has used as the 1st line of her new post.

The way you write is no "Child's Play" and ur blog made "Instant impression" on me when I first read it.

Bahut "Be-car ki baatein" kar li maine...keep up the good work!

-Nidhi

mathew said...

Hey this post makes me ask difficult questions..which every young working guy/gal would find difficult to answer..where do you want to settle down finally!!..hmm..introspection cant wait isnt?

sparx said...

u summed it up beautifully..
"a visa to go back to india"..nah prolly not worth the hassle

Rukmani Ram said...

you've just beautifully articulated what many people wonder!

Sayesha said...

#Chirpy-paaro,
Thanks. :)

#Aequo animo,
18th July is when I completed the decade. :)

#Sanchit,
I'm not big on English songs, but I like Buble. Will get hold of that song. :)

#Nidhi,
Yup, that's the plan. For now. ;)

#Shub,
Will look out for that post. :)

#nits,
:)

#Stupidosaur,
14 houses? Holy cow! I thought my 7 schools thingie was bad enough. :)

#??!,
Ooh that sounds interesting. Will check it up. Thanks! :)

#sumgum,
I totally identify with what you feel... :)

#maxdavinci,
True true. Hindustan meri jaan, main jaan-e-Hindustan! Marhabaaaaa hooo marhabaaaa! :D

Urv,
:)
PS: What happened to our 20-Q game yaar? You gave up? :P

#Padma,
//Well, I think one is "maike" and the other is "sasural" and we belong to both!!

Hahaha! That's an interesting way to put it! :D

#Nemo,
You want to read the kids' books I've written? Hahahaha! Holy cow. Well, let me name a few and you'll know why I'm laughing like a maniac. "Primary Science Challenging Questions" (for 11-12-year-olds), "Primary Science Home Practice." (for 9-10-year-olds) Sexy titles, huh? Do you still wanna read 'em? ;)

#anshuj,
Yeah, that's what I'm gonna do for now. Not think too much and spend more time enjoying the moment. :)

#parikrama,
Hahahaha! :D

#ursjina,
Thanks. :)

#Stone,
Agreed on both counts! :D

#Bivas,
Hahaha... I thought about that cliche too, but I think my non-committal heart just roamed all over and jumped right back into my body saying "You decided baba." :D

#rt,
:)

#Nidhi,
Baap re... creative comment! Momgambo khush hua... :P
PS: Thanks for waking me up yaar... I was almost neglecting my blog! :O

#mathew,
Yup yup... strikes without warning I say! :/

#sparx,
Thanks. :)

#Rukmani,
Thank you. :)

Urv said...

U-u-uh. I will strike back soon :D

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