It feels like a really long time since I wrote. I’m not counting poetry. One thing and another, and I’ve been on a roller-coaster ride, over which I’ve had little or no control.
Time is not the excuse I’m making. But with everything else taking priority and squeezing every ounce of energy, my brain’s on ‘do-not-cooperate’ mode. I have tried cajoling it and coaxing it, giving it a little “me” time by sitting at the dead of night or in the wee hours of the morning so the creative juices could flow. Fingers on the key-board, a silence around me, wanting to say so much but returning with not a word said because it refused to budge. My mind seemed to be having a mind of its own, akin to a wild stallion, untamed.
This, is a feeble attempt to bring my stubborn brain on track while providing a reason for my incomplete disappearance.
The last few weeks have passed by me in a whirlwind and while I’d like to believe that I haven’t been completely blown away by it but have responsibly steered it; I haven’t felt more fragile than this ever before.
With the academic year coming to an end, (the only reason why we couldn’t move earlier); the time has come to wind up. As I pack the last of the boxes, sorting out useful necessities against unnecessary clutter in the name of memories, my heart sinks, albeit slowly. I feel an uneasiness that’s not too hard to comprehend once you know that I’ve spent a lifetime in the country that I must now leave behind. Every pleasant memory that I can think of has seen its inception in these sands.
Where am I going?
Not to the far end of the earth. I’m just going to the place where I was born. “So you’re finally going home…” you’d say, to which I ask, “Where is home?”
Is home the country in which you were born, in which your extended family lives or is it the country in which you lived your life, made your dreams come true, created memories and went through highs and lows and finally found your ground? Is home the country you most feel at home in or the country of your birth or the country whose passport you hold?
I’m not sure then if I’m going home or going away from home.
The Foreign Land Versus The Homeland
In this foreign land in which I have lived for what seems like forever now, I do not consider myself a foreigner. Though that’s who I am here and will always be, as per the document that identifies me. Yet, I love everything about this land, its people, the culture, the safety, the friends I made here and precious peace.
Of my homeland, like most expatriates, I feel a deep sense of patriotism. Across the seas, I, like all others like me, discuss the progress the homeland is making with great fervor or reminisce childhood days, the holidays spent there and just about anything else that’s remotely related with the homeland, with great enthusiasm.
We, the non-resident Indians in the Gulf compare and expound the virtues of living here versus living there; with the latter more often being credited for better education, cheaper cost of living, lesser stress and providing more scope for socializing with friends and family. We talk about how life in the former is ‘unreal’. We complain about how this country has pampered us. And in the same breath we talk about how, nothing ever happens here, ‘out of the blue’. We speak about it like ‘out of the blue’ is a good thing. We talk about how life here is too ‘predictable’ and ‘boring.’
Yet, every expatriate continues to live here for as long as he can and when the time comes to move, which it does (since citizenship here is not provided), every expat complains again, finding it difficult to disentangle and break free from the cord that holds him here.
Its hard to say goodbye to the things you’ve grown to love. Its hard to move on from the known to the unknown.
After living here for years, I know every grain of sand and funnily enough I have come to love the sun and appreciate the only two seasons in this country. Now when I need to move on, it doesn’t matter anymore if its a concrete jungle or if the green here is more man-made than natural. It doesn’t matter if people think its all ‘unreal’ or that we are living in a ‘bubble’. Its a city where dreams come true. Its a city that knows me, that I have created an identity for myself in, that I have built friendships in, far away from family. Its a city in which I weathered every storm and came out stronger.
If I said I wasn’t excited about the change, it would be a lie. I am. I wonder what the future has in store for me, for us as a family as we follow its path. Yet to etch out an identity for myself amongst strangers and to start from scratch is both challenging and daunting.
Why is it so difficult to return when that’s where my roots are?
Two days’ ago as I walked in the mall here, with my daughter after meeting some friends who had come to say ‘Goodbye,” I wondered what it was about this place that made leaving so difficult. That’s when my daughter said, “I’m really going to miss seeing all the different faces here.” That was it!
This seemingly trivial remark holds the key to what makes the Indian expatriate in the U.A.E different. With more than 200 nationalities, the country is a melting pot of different cultures: faces, colors, hair styles, attire, language and mannerisms. This uniqueness slowly and surely grows on anybody who has stayed here and has interacted with individuals from other cultures.
Evolution of the Expatriate Having dealt with so many different cultures, you are no longer a pure version of your species and if put amongst them, you invariably stick out like a sore thumb; a raven among crows. And so you must begin evolving again, if you wish to survive. But evolution takes time and a willingness to learn, unlearn, hold on steadfast to that you think you must not let got of, respect the unknown and bear the pain of setbacks on the journey.
As I follow my destiny, I am both excited and anxious. Stick with me, as I explore the country that I left a long, long time ago and find my place amongst the thriving billion.
For now until I get my feet on the ground there, its “Goodbye…Until we meet again… here.”
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