“Which place do you belong to?” every social interaction of mine, whether it is at office, a party or simply with a neighbor has at one point or another led to this burning question. A question everyone thinks is an important one but whose significance is utterly lost on me. In some conversations, this is among the first things I am asked while in others this is brought up as an afterthought. In any case, the posing of this question is inevitable and I have been fielding this for many years now. Sadly, years of experience has made me none the wiser and to this day, I am flummoxed for a moment when faced with this particular query. I know what you are thinking, “what on earth is wrong with being asked such a straightforward question. It’s not like someone asked for her net banking password.” But this is particularly hard for me since to this day, I have not been able to figure out where I belong.
My dad’s job involves a lot of transfers which made sure we changed our addresses every three years or so. As a result, I have had the opportunity to not only visit different places all over India, but also experience the diverse lifestyles across this country. I loved every moment of it. This experience has been my greatest teacher and has pretty much shaped my outlook towards life. But all this travelling has given me an identity crisis, something I am actually very proud of.
Whenever, someone asks me where I belong, I feel obliged to tell them my whole life story as I feel like I am not the product of just one place but many different places, cultures and thoughts. In a country where we look at our states mostly through stereotypes, I don’t seem to fit in any. This aspect of my personality is the one I am the proudest of. But I often wonder if it makes me lose out on friends or acquaintance as most people do not understand how this has helped me and sometimes don’t even want to hear about it. Most people I interact with have spent their lives in just one place. While this is not a shortcoming by any means, I sometime wonder what my life would have been like if I had spent my life like that. Sure, it would have meant more stability. Most of my old friends would still be with me, I would have gone to just one school instead of eight and be less confused during my childhood and I could have gone through my entire life by understanding just one local language (I could have become fluent too). But I wonder if I would have acquired my love for travelling, would have been open to embracing change as I am now or would have the first hand taste of the fantastic culinary wonder that is India. I do not deny that I have lost out of a few things too. I felt that my heart was being ripped out each time I said goodbye to friends, went through some major culture shocks and was made to look like a fool more than once due to my poor knowledge of local language (my mother and I had to resort to bargaining with hand gestures while buying vegetables when we were living in this little town in Kerala). But I think I have gained a lot more in the process, except an answer to the aforementioned question.
I am still searching for the place which would instill a sense of permanence in me. I do at times wonder if there ever would be a city or a town I could call home. I am not sure if I want that but it would be easier to tell people where I come from. In the meantime, I hope people don’t get too amused if I just shrug and tell them that I am basically from everywhere.