We leave for India this weekend. It has been five long and eventful years since we’ve been there. Last time we visited we got married. Since then, I graduated with my PhD, got a job, got a dog, bought a house, shut down a major website I ran, and had a kid. So yes, things have changed. Strangely, we are experiencing just as much trepidation as excitement.
This feeling is not just because of certain uncertainties in our life due to visa and immigration issues but also due to changed feelings of attachments. No longer can I fess up to feeling that I’m returning home when in fact, I have spent nearly a third of my life outside India. The U.S. is just as much if not more than home for us. We first experienced independence, built our life here, and started our family in this country. By buying a house, we are as much invested in America’s economic future as much as it should be in ours (it isn’t always). It has progressively become harder to envision uprooting ourselves and moving lock, stock, and barrel to another country. But at the same time, we haven’t put down solid enough roots to call this our permanent home although in this age of globalizations, economically- and professional-driven ‘refugees’ like us hardly ever do. By experiencing different cultures and work environments by crossing geographical borders, we have become attuned to a certain quality of life and a certain level of professionalism. Add to that, the age factor, change is far more difficult.
All these factors whirl in our heads as we embark on the long journey back to our homeland (or is it motherland?) Friends that we once saw several times a day and spent hours with are now mere acquaintances ending up as mere likes and comments on our Facebook timelines. The virtual contact is maintained with those who choose to be online. I have couple of friends who aren’t even on Facebook. I have missed the birth of their kids and various momentous occasions in their lives just as they have missed the ones in mine. A perfunctory phone call on the occasion was all that we shared. Unless one is courting the other person, no one cares to stay up late into the night chatting or as Google would want us to call it, ‘hanging-out’. They don’t relate to our lives in the U.S. just as we no longer relate to their changed lives in India. We were friends as teenagers but are strangers as adults. We might get together and drink to the days past but I doubt we will talk about our present or our future because they wouldn’t understand our uncertainties or professional challenges just as I wouldn’t theirs. I would like to think they have it easy by having their family around for all the joyous occasions and tumultuous times but I think they may envy our independence and solitude from the family for other reasons.
We have been told to use mineral water or boiled water for any of the kids needs lest he fall ill. We’ve been told by people who have visited India with kids that this is not a joke. We’re blown away by the (literal) vulnerability of being in India. We are way past being impressed by ubiquitous malls and cell phones. Heck, this time we even shopped for clothes and other essentials before going to India instead of shopping there because clothes, as we realized last time around, were just as, if not more, expensive in India. Thanks to rising inflation matched by growing wages, no one in India seems to notice but we do. I asked my brother if I can get only my debit card instead of cash since Bank Simple doesn’t levy international transaction charges, he snarkily replied that Indians use credit cards and have phones, TV, and malls too. That may be true but can I use my credit/debit card as ubiquitously as I do it here? India is way past that for us to understand now especially at a distance. We are aware although just barely of the political tussles and pop culture thanks to Twitter but not to the extent we are tuned in to the world in the U.S. We are afraid that we will simply not relate to the people or things in India. On one hand, I have to fight against picking faults by the way things are done in India (because I’ve seen it done better elsewhere) and on the other, I have to avoid gawking in wonderment at changes lest I come across as a wide-eyed tourist as seen in an inde-Hollywood movie. India still is the land where I spent two-thirds of my life, right?
Personally, I think I’m just going to return with a blank slate of expectations and the sole purpose of spending time with my family. More importantly, being a silent spectator to the wonder of seeing my parents and brother with my one-year-old son. I’m sure that will not disappoint.
Bon voyage to us and we’ll see you on the other side of the world (and hopefully back here in three weeks).