(by Divya Saxena) I went to India this summer. This wasn’t my first visit, I had been there before, but this time I actually discovered something. I never imagined that I would not only learn about my roots and my culture, but also discover a part of my own self, a part of my heart, spirit and soul.
When I started the journey I was rather reluctant going to India. I felt being pushed visiting a place which didn’t hold anything new for me. I had made my experiences with corruption, poverty and the extensive richness, secularism, dirty politics and the even more dirtier politicians and all the other problems India held and I was sick and tired of it. I thought it would be like all the other times. First I would enjoy myself to no end and then when daily life in India would catch up with me, I would start to long for my own more organised life back in Switzerland.
Not that I did not love India but I remembered my earlier inability to deal with the confusion and anger I felt each time seeing the two faces India held for me. Each time I would return to Switzerland sadder and more frustrated not being in any position to change only one single little meaningless thing, feeling helpless and also ashamed of myself for looking at all the problems with nothing but a sarcastical view.
This time I went to my motherland alone, without my parents nor my friends and at first I was sure that I would return only after a few days since I would not be able to adjust to the cultural differences all by myself without the helping hand of my mother or father.
But actually I had more fun this time. I enjoyed spending time with my grandparents and the rest of my family. I had a blast going out with my cousins, seeing a zillion Hindi movies, going gaga over Shah Ruck and Aamir and Askhaye and all the other Movie stars, listening to the newest filmi songs all day long and eating my heart out with delicious Indian meals while certainly gaining a few pounds. I spend hours and hours in the streets of New Delhi shopping until my feet would refuse to carry my body any longer. And in the end I knew more about Dilli and it’s streets than any of my relatives living in the city themselves.
I also learned to live in a joint family. I saw the problems arising with so many different personalities living under one roof, but I also saw the love they shared. At first I thought I’d go crazy having so many people around me 24 hours a day, but then, every person had to offer something different to me and so I learnt to look at things with different perspectives. I started to have the feeling that Europeans living away from their families missed the happiness and joy of being able to share their most profound emotions with the people closest to them.
What astonished me most was that even the very poor, people living on the verge of society and on a minimum of subsistence, seemed to be happy. I once meet a risksha-puller who was humming a song while transporting me to the local market. I was touched by the simplicity with which he looked at life. His life must have been so much harder then mine and maybe he was not entirely satisfied, but still it seemed that he was happy with everything he had. It seemed that his family life made up for everything he didn’t owe and never would. Maybe my way of thinking was always to materialistic, but I never imagined that people could be filled with so much happiness and joy with nothing more than a ‘do waqt ki roti’ and no other luxuries .
In the beginning of my ten week long visit I felt like a pharangi (foreigner) in my own country. Everywhere I went people looked at me as I was from a different planet and they treated me with an air of difference. I felt like having a ‘handle with care’ sticker posted on my forehead. But nowhere people treat me with so much love, care and warmth as in India. Still these people had a life so different, beliefs sometimes so extreme, traditions so complex and yet so colourful, that I wondered if I really belonged to them. I had always lived a life thorn between two culture, two societies, two poles each holding their own fascination and they didn’t go along well with each other. And only after a while I started to realise that I was an Indian with the rare privilege living a life shaped by different influences, of being multicultural and apart from all the others.
Mentally I might have be strongly influenced by the Western society and ist way of life but emotionally with my heart and soul I long for India. I might be a pucca (original) Swiss (as my mother calls me) sometimes, but still I wish my life could be more Indian in so many ways. I wish I could live with my culture by a day to day basis and not only occasionally, on ever other bigger festival, like Dusshera or Diwali. I wish there would be more people like myself, youngsters who share the same interest, in movies and music and in our culture, so that I would not feel so alone with my situation of living so far away from home.
I am proud to be an Indian.
Not only because India holds my head high when I look at all the achievements, no matter if academical or sportive, in the last 50 years, but also because there is no place with so much love for me as home.
Main huan Hindustani, mera dil hai Hindustani (I am Indian, my heart is Indian)
Divya Saxena, December 1997
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