It was somewhat ironic. The fact that on my recent trip to my hometown, Delhi, I happened to be reading about its history. I was reading ‘City of Djinns’, a book about Delhi and its history, as seen from an Englishman’s eyes, set in the 1980s, and there I was in Delhi, seeing it through an expats eyes in 2012.
The City of Djinns explores the history of Delhi and is testimony to the city’s constant evolution, the way it has changed with every civilization, every empire, every race that has ruled or inhabited it over thousands of years. What I continue to notice, on every visit back home, is how it continues to change, to adapt over much shorter time spans and how Delhiites, continue to change with it.
I grew up in Delhi, before I left for med school in 1999 at the age of 18. Since then I’ve of course, made several trips back home and lived there for a couple of years in between med school and moving to the US for my residency.
Things change, no matter what. You leave home and home changes. You change. Nothing stays the same. What is more resistant to change, however, is your perspective of home. You want it to stay the same, you try to cling to the happy memories of it that you have. You don’t live there anymore, but you dislike the fact that other people are moving in there and making it their home. You build a life and career elsewhere but you don’t want to miss anything that happens back home.
Its a strange life, once you’re transplanted. You begin to experience this disconnect in time and space. I’ve physically been in several places, far away from Delhi over the last 13 years, but mentally when I go back there, I feel like its 1999. I want it to be 1999.
I’ve often noticed how many NRIs get stuck in this ‘time warp’. Their perspective of home gets stuck in the era when they leave. They may or may not continue to evolve and be progressive in the community and country where they now live, but the ideas and values they apply to their homeland tend to stagnate and I’m not sure how others react to it, but my reaction to it happening to me is one of bemusement and mild annoyance. The people who are clearly not from Delhi, but are seemingly more comfortable than me driving on its streets, annoy me. The girls who wear these really short shorts, which would not be out of place at all in an American mall, shock and scandalize me (and make me wonder why I left in the first place). The heat that I used to play tennis in now feels almost intolerable.
Now that I feel it happening to myself, I feel a certain degree of inevitability about it and still don’t quite understand why its happening. Is it a voluntary mechanism to try and stay connected? Is it just that impossible to progress with the country once you’ve left it? Is it that one can only adapt to one changing culture at a time? I’d like to fight it, but I’m not quite sure how. I’m not even sure if its that much of an issue and if it bothers other people as much as me. Looks like for now, every trip back home is going to be a mild culture shock, from my own culture, which seems to be moving at breakneck speed and is not going to be easy to catch up, or keep up with.
Dear NRI readers why not connect with us on the following social media platforms.