The Diaspora dilemma

I have just returned hail, happy and nostalgic like one would when one visits family during the summer vacations. Our hosts are nothing short of family and I had one of my best vacations, that if shot as a movie would unwind over a seamless background score with pretty people laughing over cups of coffee, tea and endless food!

Amidst this happy holiday and burying myself in Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City on the flight, I began to imagine my life in a few years; in all its horror and wondrous curiosity. Playing deaf to the outcry I receive every time I say this, I assert – Yes. I am among the unexpected diaspora, the one that is sure of finding its way back home. I am buying time,Yes. But, Veetileku ulla vazhi marannitilla.*

Keeping aside the adrenaline rush that builds up to state, I can’t imagine ever owning a passport that doesn’t have the ashoka pillar lions on it, there is a bigger process involved in the winding up and heading home after having missed and longed for her from a distance; probably even bigger than when you left her shores to embrace another world. And it is this process that’s daunting for many who may never return and stay happier yearning forever.

I understand now where the dilemma stems from. Not one, but many many many factors. One that strikes immediately is – we are constantly running away from an overdose of social interaction in India. Everyone from milkman to neighbor has an opinion on how you should lead your life. And seven seas away, you make efforts to keep the few makeshift relationships out of necessity, just so you don’t lose your sanity staying alone.You miss food, the one the family overstuffs you, the neighbor aunty brings in a kinnam, the bhel puri uncle by the college gate makes ‘specially’ for you. It takes a back burner, but almost always, never dies.

I could continue listing so much goodness that draws you home, that may extend a few pages. But let me instead look a little deeper, a little ahead – Can I stand the sweltering heat, pollution and filth? Can I drive on roads where everyone is vying for space and power? Will I ever learn to cross roads and haggle again? Am I ready to pull 100 strings to get a simple gas connection? Am I willing to sacrifice the solitude forever? How well can I adjust to the fact that 8:30 means anything 2 hours hence? Will I ever feel that the chaos that I once missed is now overwhelming and wish I could turn back? Am I willing to learn to find my way in the process oriented, strictly hierarchical work culture?

I can throw in a lot more ifs and I try to stop before I change my mind. I did it for 23 years didn’t i? What makes me think I can’t do it anymore? Now here is where Suketu Mehta strikes the chord. That’s when it hit me so hard – I am constantly trying to return to a place I knew for the first 23 years of my life. I am not prepared for her metamorphosis in the few odd years I spent watching her like a precious piece of my history ignoring her growth without me being a part of it. So now… I can never say – I will go back to my 23 years and live the same way. And here is where it makes it easier as well. I have to return learning to adapt the same way I did when I left. Adapting without looking back and that’s where the challenge lies, deeply emotional, exhilarating and frustrating, all at the same time.

Even if my answer to most of the ifs is a ‘maybe’ confounded to distraction, truly there is no place like home. And someday, not too far off, I will return with gusto, happiness, desperation and even fear; for now the wait is what keeps me going..!


* I haven’t forgotten the way to home