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Dosti Beyond Borders

Dosti Beyond Borders

May 20, 2010

Do you ever get the feeling that you are more Indian when you are out of India than within?

Have you ever had to move cities and join a new school a little late, after the classroom cliques had already been formed? The time when as an outsider and the new boy or girl, you were referred to as the ‘Madrasi’ or the ‘Bong’ depending on where you were from? The times when your state was an integral part of who you are.

And it wasn’t just in school. You grew up, got through college, got a job and on the first day of work found yourself having lunch with your fellow Mallus or fellow Delhiites waxing forth about the wonders of Malabar roast chicken or ice-cream at India gate. And if there weren’t enough people from your home state you would try and get together with those who hailed from neighboring ones. This meant that the people from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh would be seen together and the ones from Orissa and Bengal would collectively get nostalgic about their homeland. Sure, there were the occasional cosmopolitan gangs, but mostly there was always that invisible boundary of mother tongue and state running through even the closest-knit groups.

Yet, I have seen this very boundary fade away as soon as these groups migrate to foreign shores. Since I moved to the Philippines with my husband, meeting up with our gang of Indian friends here, is what brings us a little closer to home. That’s when we sit around and eat peanuts smattered with chopped onions and the juice of a lemon, with old Kishore Kumar and Rafi songs playing in the background. Evenings out are usually to Indian restaurants where we discuss who has managed to get their hands on the latest Bollywood DVD. As we gulp down sweet and salty lassi, we are already making plans for playing Teen Patti at Diwali, which is still more than a few months away. The fact that the group is composed of families from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala is certainly no stumbling block to the bond. As we laugh and joke and talk we are not Punjabis or Mallus - we are just Indians. No more boundaries.

The fact that Onam is a festival limited to Kerala does not deter us from calling all our Indian friends over for lunch. Holi becomes an Indian festival rather than the festival we Southies used to shy away from, back home. Butter chicken and Sambar are clubbed together as Indian food. The North and South are reduced to mere geographical indicators and are certainly not a part of your identity as an NRI.

Why is it that so many of us had to move so far away from our motherland to understand the essence of the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity?’ Why is it that when we are back home we are hung up on the small differences between us? Do we really need the harsh reality of distance to realize that we are actually part of the same huge family?

So many questions and not many concrete answers.

And the more I think about it, I feel like this is one of those times when Bollywood beat us to the answer. It’s like the dialogue Shah Rukh Khan mouths in the 2007 hit Chak De, that states - we are still waiting for the time when we neither hear nor see ourselves as separate states and start seeing ourselves as Indians. And till that time comes, I believe that we’ve started becoming more Indian when we are out of the country than within.


  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    09.06.10 03:15 PM
    Hi Mirchii- I love what you have said about everything boiling down to broadening one's horizons. It's fascinating that you are an Indian born Canadian living in Pakistan. Talk about erasing boundaries and creating a new idea of home!
    Thank you for reading and commenting.
  • Mirchii
    08.06.10 01:40 PM
    Great piece! I was born in India but I grew up abroad. All along, I thought how Indian I really was, and how I wanted to go back and contribute to my country, not someone else's. Been almost a year now, happily married and living in Pakistan. But Im only happy because I am with the love of my life. I know it is the other side of the border, but I have realized here that I am not Indian. That I would've been miserable had I moved back to the place I only thought of as home. I realized that I am Canadian at heart. Sure I love anything paneer and baatik, but I probably would just the same was I born anywhere else on this planet. All in all, everything does boil down to broadening one's horizons.
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.06.10 02:08 PM
    Hi Giridhar - Nice to know that you agree. Thank you for reading and commenting.
  • Giridhar
    05.06.10 03:09 AM
    How true!! I actually feel a little more along the lines of your title. I love almost everything about India ever since I have been out of that country. May be its a familiar case of wanting something that you dont have. But, I feel much more proud that I am Indian now than I was a few years back.
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    25.05.10 11:34 AM
    Hi Sumit - I do believe that distance erases some of those harshly drawn boundaries. But obviously as far as certain people are concerned, sometimes you do find a hesitancy to change their set ways. All we can hope for is a gradual elimination of unnesecary boundaries - mental and physical.

    @ Mithun - I completely agree with you Mithun. Thank you for reading and commenting.
  • Mithun
    23.05.10 10:47 PM
    Yes you are very much true, and boundaries even vanish between countries if you living in place where you have very few Indians, then Pakistanis and Bangladeses becomes your friends. Even Chinese and Iranians like Indians as we are from asia. I think it is a inclination of human beings to congregate by looking at common grounds.
  • sumit
    21.05.10 08:02 PM
    Quite an acute observation I must say. It is a fact that I've observed here in London. In fact, I would take it a step further and say Indians and Pakistanis actually mix freely and can turn out to the best of mates. Weird isn't it, when you realise that the political/regional boundaries are perhaps at the end of the day just a mental block restraining you to interact with others or for that matter being prejudiced.

    However having said that perhaps due to the huge diaspora present here one find region specific pockets such as Southall (Punjabi), Wembley (Gujarati), Brick Lane (Bangladeshi), East Ham (Tamil) - but then folks mingle freely.

    And yet there are some who are still stuck in the age old differences and can choose to bring that up in the most inappropriate of moments. Saw this a few weeks back, made me sad - circumstances were sad as it were. Some I guess never really broaden their horizons.

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