Sunday, June 20, 2010

Don't I Belong Here?

After traveling some in cooler places, I am back in Ahmedabad where the sun continues to burn earth and all her creatures. The heat is so intense and my inability to tolerate heat is so bad that I can slowly feel myself losing my sanity especially when it is mid-day and the sun is at its hottest.

My friend happened to call at that time and I was full of complaints. After listening to me for a while, she gently suggested that I should move back to the US and that people had to work harder here. That got me thinking about my decision to move. I had always said that no matter where I travel in the world, I would want to come back to India to settle down. When I finally moved, it was not a natural progression of my plans but rather a move forced on me by certain circumstances. I had a choice of continuing to stay on in the US or move back and get started on settling down here and I chose the latter.

I had no idea of knowing if this is the best decision and had to take a leap of faith and then try to make it work. I had anticipated many of the difficulties of uprooting myself and starting from scratch in a completely different place under forced circumstances. The one thing that made it easy for me to take this decision was the thought that no matter how difficult it got, I was still going home, home to a place that I always loved. I did not anticipate any significant barriers to settling down here.

This was just one more false notion of which I seem to be a connoisseur! It has been a month and I am still unable to do anything because of the heat. All the practical problems that I envisioned as a matter of course where change is involved continues to plague me for the simple reason that the heat does not let me even lift a finger to work on settling down. All of my energies are focused on simply surviving. I have never before lived such an idle life and I find it extremely demoralizing.

The typical response I get to this problem is a suggestion that I go back to the US. I could go back to the US if I really wanted to move back. I am sick and tired of living like a dehydrated animal with no purpose in life other than to find the coolest spot during the day to pass out in and cautiously venture out in the evenings to hunt for food. I have also had enough of never feeling clean no matter how many showers I take during the day or how many times I change my clothes. I am tried of breathing in dust every time I walk out of the house and I am sick of seeing the dust and soot deposits on all the older buildings that have not received a fresh coat of paint.

Add to this the general inefficiency of systems in India (yes they are somewhat inefficient, whether we like it or not) and you have the perfect recipe for a metamorphosis of the human into the sub-human. Consider this, we would not have had this heat wave if the systems had been working and the city developers had followed the environmental codes that specify the ratio of trees per square yard of land. This may sound simplistic but anything that would help reduce heat in a hot climate needs to be followed. Instead, officials have free reign to ignore these requirements and then lament when people including newborn infants die due to excessive heat.

Getting back to my original point, there are days when I feel that I would like nothing better than getting back to my former life in the US. My friend seems to think that people in India have to work harder. I am not so sure about that. If people here genuinely worked harder, we would probably have better systems in place, not to forget that household help and family support is widely available here thus making life a lot less stressful. The same cannot be said of living as an expatriate in the US.

However, leaving aside all these comparisons for the moment, the question I am pondering is, why is it considered so strange that I am struggling to adapt to life here? Is it really a solution for me to just give up and move back? Physically and emotionally, this has been a draining experience but that does not mean I am never going to feel comfortable here. At least I hope it does not mean that!

I may complain, whine, and even hate it here at times but that does not mean I am an outsider now. I may feel homesick for the US and on certain days wish myself back there fervently but that does not mean I want to turn my back on India. Do not get me wrong, it is not from any noble ideas of patriotism that I say that. The fact is, I was born and raised Indian and will always be one. It is important for me to maintain my connection to my country.

From somewhere in the mists of the past a line I heard comes to mind, “I need to hate you to love me”…I get the feeling that people think one cannot love two countries at once but I believe you can. I do not have to hate the US to love India and vice versa. Also, I do not need to believe that India is perfect in order to love her; I can do it despite her flaws. To put it simply, no matter what, I am Indian and that gives me the right to crib, find faults, lament my decision to move back here and yet continue to work on making myself at home here again!


  1. Roona, I truly admire and respect you and what you are doing! I have read everything i can find on your blog and cannot wait to read more. You're an incredible writer, and I can relate to everything I've read - in different aspects of course, as I have not moved to another country, or seen elephants carrying wood on the freeway!

    give us more please :)

  2. Hey Lisa...thank you for my very first blog comment!

  3. I moved back to India three weeks back after 6 years abroad. I am still struggling to adjust here (and can't voice this- people start judging you immediately). Not a single day passes when I wonder if I made a mistake in returning. It was lovely to discover your blog today- going through every post now!


  4. Hi D,
    Hang in there...after a while things will definitely get better...India has this way of shocking your senses that can be really hard to get accustomed to even if you grew up here in the first place...and only time can change this but sooner or later it will happen and you will feel at home here again.