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Filipino Born, Total Desi

Filipino Born, Total Desi

May 06, 2010

So you’ve never been to India. But that doesn’t mean that your heart doesn’t beat for India, right?

The common thread that binds all us NRIs scattered across the world is the fact that we get to answer a question about origin with “Basically I’m from India.” A response that elicits reactions like, “Oh what a beautiful country” and “I’ve always wanted to go there,” or “Isn’t India filled with slums?” Responses that you brush off with a delighted ‘Thank You’ or a bristling “Well, you obviously have no idea of what India is all about”. But what about those who can only respond with, “Ummm. I really wouldn’t know!”

As a child who grew up in the Gulf, all the NRIs I knew were mostly real life versions of Karan Johar’s filmy characterizations of what he thought a Non Resident Indian was. They were the ones that missed Indian soil and waxed poetical about homemade Dal and Rotis. The ones that pined to watch the latest Bollywood releases and had tears welling up whenever the national anthem played. And the children of these NRIs were those who waited for school holidays to head home to grandparents and cousins and ancestral homes. It was not till I moved to the Philippines that I met a rather unique breed of Non Resident Indians who do not share any of the above characteristics. And that’s not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. I’m talking about the Sindhi community of the Philippines.

My husband and I were waiting for our elevator clutching grocery bags when we first encountered this kind of NRI. A lady of indeterminate origin was looking at us and after a minute or two, smiled and asked, “Are you Indians?” We smiled and nodded and then all of us got into the elevator. After exchanging pleasantries, she ventured, “Me too. I’m from Hyderabad.” “Oh, you’re from Andhra Pradesh? We’re from the south too!” I replied. “Oh no, no! I’m from Hyderabad in Sindh” She merrily replied as she got off at her floor. My husband and I exchanged a look. We were pretty sure that Sindh was no longer on the Indian side of the border.

We’ve made many Sindhi friends since then. All of them possess Indian passports and are the descendants of those citizens of an undivided India that fled in the aftermath of the partition. They set up businesses here and built their homes and never looked back. For by the time, they wanted to return, their kith and kin were either displaced or separated by a line that nobody wanted to cross. They decided to throw away the rear view mirror and mingle with the local population.

‘Karishma’ became ‘Karis’ and ‘Arnab’ became ‘Ben’ but the heart always remained ‘Desi’. They still get married in the traditional big Indian wedding style and even observe Karva Chauth. Though many of them barely speak a word of any Indian language, they still flock to the Indian restaurants and order the Murgh Jalfrezi insisting on the sliced onions and green chili accompaniment. They are still Indian without ever setting foot on Indian soil.

It was these special kind of Non Resident Indians that made me realize that tracing your roots need not always mean heading back to a particular piece of land on the sub-continent. You can always trace your roots back to that special place in your heart that beats to an Indian rhythm.

39 Comments

  • Avitabh Khan
    By
    Avitabh Khan
    10.02.13 11:13 PM
    Sweta Mam,
    I want to come in Manila for tourist purpose. Here in India My friends are talking that Manila (Muntinlupa City Putatan) is not a safe city. Is this true? If i am in trouble than to whom may i contact for emergency?
  • Mark
    By
    Mark
    30.12.12 11:50 PM
    Nice article Shwetha! I'm not of an Indian descent but I don't know I'm just fascinated, fell in love and injected a big aspect of Indian culture in my life, from eating Indian vegetarian foods, worshipping the Vishnutattvas, down to naming my kids with Vedic names. I was born in the Philippines met Punjabis and Sindhi friends and acquaintances and suddenly I felt at home right away with them. That made me wonder sometimes that deep along my ancestry, there might had been somehow a bloodline rooted to the historical Majapahit and Shri Vijayan Empires of the preHispanic Philippines that is in my blood. I consider my few Indian friends in the Phils. as my extended family, still greeting them every Diwali and other Indian occasions, I now reside in Canada.
  • Gurvinder
    By
    Gurvinder
    21.11.12 03:24 PM
    I am a Punjabi Sikh born in Manila and then grown up in Canada. My mother and grandmother were Indians born in the Philippines as well. We speak Tagalog and Punjabi at home and observe many cultural norms of both the Philippines and India. I believe we are a hybrid now of 3 cultures: Indian, Filipino and now Canadian. The challenge is not truly fitting into anyone one community. Nonetheless, I cherish the richness of Indian culture and am also thankful to have the "latin flavor" of the filipino culture. I think it is a unique mix that has blessed my life with so many wonderful traditions, people, and values.
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    17.11.12 11:43 AM
    Hi
    I am going to DAVAO city on December.
    I am dealing in leather ladies bags and
    Indian dresses. anyone want anything from India . are welcome
  • Adi
    By
    Adi
    18.03.12 08:47 AM
    Hi Shwetha, Really a nice article from you. I'm glad that someone is sharing like this. I been to Philippines and I met some from Sindh community as well. They are more traditional and infact more strict in some of indian cultural things than those in india are rarely following. I had a same experience and it was really nice to be with them. I really appriciate them.
  • Pardeep Kumar
    By
    Pardeep Kumar
    24.10.10 07:02 AM
    Shweta, a really nice written article about my Sindhi Hindu community and the trajedy it went through. I am personally living in Hyderabad. Yeah U guessed it right this time, Its Hyderabad in Sindh.
  • vineet
    By
    vineet
    06.09.10 12:53 PM
    heyaa shweta !!
    that was gr8 note put forward by u , keep going mam :)
  • Maria
    By
    Maria
    01.09.10 05:25 PM
    Shweta..I loved it. I was nodding my head in agreement to every single thing you said :)
  • Ram
    By
    Ram
    01.09.10 10:28 AM
    Hi Shweta,
    Wonderful and Touchy post. I can recollect my one month official stay at Makati - Dec 2009.
    *** Looking forward for more Indian Restaurants and Groups in Makati ***
  • ankit kotecha
    By
    ankit kotecha
    08.06.10 04:19 PM
    hmm thats good.
    me and my fellow mates here are keen to involve in such gatherings/parties.
    thnx for the info mam shweta
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.06.10 01:30 PM
    @ Ankit - Yes, there are quite a few. You can get the details from any Indian restaurant - Like Queens or Legend of India in Manila. They organize Indian movie screenings, and parties during times of festivals.
  • ankit kotecha
    By
    ankit kotecha
    06.06.10 09:23 AM
    ofcourse it is. yet i miss my land so much.
    well, just wanted to know if there are any indian communities here in manila who celebrate all the festivals?
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    05.06.10 07:17 PM
    Hi Ankit, always nice to hear about yet another Indian here in Manila. Hope the Phils is treating you well. Thank you for reading and commenting.
  • Ankit Kotecha
    By
    Ankit Kotecha
    05.06.10 01:53 PM
    nice wrk..
    am an indian staying here in manila. used to stay in cebu city previously. And am a pilot, fly 2/4 seater machines.
    Nice to see all the Hindustanis united here.
    JAI HIND !!
  • subbu
    By
    subbu
    13.05.10 09:21 PM
    I am not NRI but could feel the ppl by their comments, nice article...feel safe @ home(India)
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    08.05.10 04:04 PM
    Well said Anto! Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Anto
    By
    Anto
    07.05.10 10:31 PM
    Shwetha, you have shared a wonderful piece of writing. Thank you very much. Towards the end of the article I felt some goosebumps around my cheeks. Where ever we go, how much ever we curse about our politicians, how much ever we admire foreign roads and scenaries in Karan Johar movies, most of us don't lose our desi touch...don't we?
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 07:42 PM
    Hi Maaya,
    Nice to know that my writing connected with you.
    Thank you for your comment.
  • Maaya
    By
    Maaya
    07.05.10 06:42 PM
    i understand what u mean so bad.
    very emotional and touched some my feeling and thoughts aswell
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 05:21 PM
    Gursewak- Nice to know that you remain true to your roots!:)
  • Gursewak
    By
    Gursewak
    07.05.10 02:18 PM
    I left India 2 years ago.Still Indianness is very much a part of my demeanor. Very true, it's difficult to go away from your roots.
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 01:41 PM
    Thank you Anjana!:)
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 01:41 PM
    Dr. Roshan, I identify with your comment. Once an NRI it seems all our opinions and suggestions are taken with a pinch of NRI salt. I remember the last time we were in India, I was discussing highway maintenance and I got lambasted for even having an opinion as I stayed "abroad".
    Thank you for reading and commenting.
  • Anjana Nair
    By
    Anjana Nair
    07.05.10 12:06 PM
    Congrats Shwetz!!! Well written..
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 11:29 AM
    Hi Nalini,
    Ouch! I feel for you! We always have those kinds who make you feel a little embarrassed to proudly say that we are NRIs. But then I guess we all take a little comfort in believing that the kinds of people who look down upon anything Indian are the exception and not the norm.
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting!
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    07.05.10 11:27 AM
    Thank You Sargam! :) Glad to know you liked it!
  • nalini hebbar
    By
    nalini hebbar
    07.05.10 10:46 AM
    I have a whole bunch of NRI's in my family who feel they have descended from heaven and look down on everything Indian.
    nice to read a different take...you write well too
  • Dr roshan
    By
    Dr roshan
    07.05.10 07:11 AM
    Speaking as an ex-NRI, I can assure you that my memories of a secular and peaceful India remain outside the country honestly. maybe its because ppl have better things to do that pick at silly issues.. and it becomes so hard to try to convince people to look beyond these shades of caste and state and religion - immediately get tagged "oh! he's an NRI" thats why his thoughts are warped.. sigh
    Nice post :)
  • Sargam
    By
    Sargam
    06.05.10 11:09 PM
    Beautiful Shweta.... Loved it :)
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    06.05.10 10:20 PM
    That's true Rahul!
    And thank you for commenting!
  • Rahul
    By
    Rahul
    06.05.10 09:32 PM
    An Indian is an An Indian Forever..We Indians have that chord connected with India that can never break..Nice Post..
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    06.05.10 08:35 PM
    Hi Anu,
    You're absolutely right. There are of course those kinds of NRI's as well. But I guess these are the people who could not wait to get out of the country in the first place. Brought up to view other countries as greener pastures, so the question is were they Indian even though they were born so? I would think that they lost the essence of our country even before leaving our soil.
    Thanks so much for reading the post and commenting! :)
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    06.05.10 05:33 PM
    Hi there Lazy pineapple,
    Glad you liked the post :)
  • Lazy Pineapple
    By
    Lazy Pineapple
    06.05.10 05:30 PM
    beautiful post...loved how you concluded it :)
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    06.05.10 02:01 PM
    Glad you liked it Suneet!
  • Suneet Yadav
    By
    Suneet Yadav
    06.05.10 01:58 PM
    Desi touching post !!!
  • Anu
    By
    Anu
    06.05.10 01:49 PM
    very interesting article! loved reading it.... but there are the other kind of NRI we meet too, the ones who still come back to India on vacations, but hate every moment of it and cant wait for the time to return! sometimes i wonder if there is any 'indian ness' genetically left in them at all! and u see the same thing in people who have just recently left the country and settled elsewhere... some of them are really irritating!!!! of course, I am not generalising, but just mentioning something i see very often, and couldnt help mentioning, so please do not take offence!
  • Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    By
    Shweta Ganesh Kumar
    06.05.10 11:47 AM
    Thank you Hobo! Nice to see that it touched a chord.
  • HOBO(nickname)
    By
    HOBO(nickname)
    06.05.10 11:40 AM
    Very emotional post. Thanks for sharing.

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