Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Last weekend I got to hang around with 'graduate' students from India as they called themselves. This was this one perspective of life in America which I was missing out on. So when the weekend brought me a chance to attend my former classmate's group dance performance at North-Eastern University's cultural fest, I took it. I met with a number of people who had come in pursuit of the American dream and were all set to live it with nary a nod back to a lifestyle they were leaving behind, probably forever. They couldn't comprehend why I'd want to go back after spending more than 10 months in the land of the free and I was on the opposite side looking for reasons why I'd want to stay here... permanently.

The US of A is a really beautiful country filled with incredible natural beauty and blessed with the best fruits of human ingenuity. The cities are well planned and orderly, the towns and villages form idyllic landscapes with the hills and the mountains, and people have a much friendlier attitude towards a stranger, much more than anything I have experienced in India (maybe that's because I am a foreigner and they want to give the best possible impression of their country). The roads are close to perfect and all public systems/services run smooth as butter. People here still have the time to be polite, smile and take a deep, long breath in life, a luxury that seems to be the privilege of only a handful of people in India. You can really do anything you want to in this country and no one will mock your efforts. Indeed deviation from the run-of-the-mill is so much of a hallowed institution here that it is considered praiseworthy instead of the ridicule that'd be heaped on it back home.

I say home because despite all it's perfections, that is something the USA will never be. I want to be able to walk to the neighbourhood convenience store and talk/argue about Sachin's latest century. I'd very much hop over a couple of banana peels positioned very dangerously on the footpath as long as I can smell some delicious and familiar Indian food being cooked on the streets. I'd rather sweat and curse in the shared misery of a summer time power cut than spend my days in the controlled environments that the US seems to be comprised of. That's because only when I am one with the weather, can I smell the monsoon as it first quenches the fuming earth. The continual honking of horns and the jingle of cycle bells is so much a part of my mental soundscape that without sensing the presence of a hundred odd individuals within a few hundred feet of my house makes me feel like a banished criminal. Peace and quiet are equally good founts of creativity and loneliness induced insanity. The India that I know is full of flaws like these but who am I kidding with my holier-than-thou attitude? I was an active and gleeful participant in that very mayhem and will always be.

I want to voice my anger at the corruption, religious extremism and factionism that is burning down the foundations of my country, but not simply as a passionate comment on an YouTube video. I want to feel proud when someone mentions India for its real values: method within the madness and chaos, a country that has always been the seed of peace and tolerance, merits of which are being seen by the world at long last and the incredible albeit tenuous coalition of languages, cultures and religions that boggles my mind. I want to be there on the ground at a most critical time of it's young history, a make or break era: watch it tumble to oblivion or soar to the great heights that it deserves to be at. 

Right now, sitting two oceans and two continents away,  it all is so distant when someone mentions the word "India". There is the insistent feeling of belonging and the invisible threads of attachment hold fast no matter how much I enjoy the life in the USA, compelling me to go back. There are a gazillion things more that cement my loyalty in every way to India but they are totally unnecessary to enumerate. There is only one country that is tailor made for me. Though India does not need me but I sure as hell need India!