Countries Apart

It’s been a long, long time. The amount of time can’t be numbered. Well it actually can be, but it honestly feels like forever. It feels much more longer than what it has been.

Nearly two weeks ago, while chatting up with fellow students a guy asked me, “So, do you like it here in India better or Dubai?” And the speed of my response was that of the speed of lightning. “Dubai!” is what I blurted.
He was taken aback with how instant my response was. That I didn’t even blink my eye and just uttered my answer.

When I was about eight months old, my parents took me to this magical little country called the United Arab Emirates and I have stayed there for majority of the life that I have lead until now.

Indian by nationality, India is this place I’d come once every year or two years to visit my grandparents and extended family. A vacation spot you can say. A two month summer vacation would all be spent in a country which is my own. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I never really formed an opinion about how I liked India as I never spent a good enough time to do so. But ever since a little kid, I didn’t really enjoy the time I spent here. I love my grandparents but the country itself never had much of an appeal to me. I never felt a connection. Well I was a kid, what more could I expect?

Growing up, I was surrounded with voices. Voices that held the words, “India is your home country. It is who you are. You love this country!” so tight, that these voices felt like it had an underlying honesty in it. And I felt like U.A.E. is just this temporary place that life had us stationed at. India is home you know? India is what I should love.

Should.
Should.
Should.
Oh how this word echoed in the back of my head whenever I started feeling affectionate towards the country I resided in. Whenever I’d see those news headlines. When I entered this country.
A compulsion to love a country only because I’m from it. And I felt guilty that I didn’t.
What can I say, I was a kid!

It was only when I started growing up, started experiencing things by myself and stopped listening to the voices around me that I realized – it doesn’t even matter. What matters is how I feel. And what I feel is something I can’t help.

I love U.A.E. I love the life we lived – I lived – there. It was a life I could call a life. Not what I’m leading here, living here.

The guy then proceeded to ask me what is it that I love about U.A.E. That makes it better than India. India is my home country you know? India is my home, how can I not like home?

Here’s what I believe. Home is where your heart lies. Home is where you can be yourself, unafraid of being judged. Home is this sanctuary where you are accepted for who you are and are loved without any strings attached. Home is where terms and conditions aren’t applicable. Home is where you are surrounded by family – a family that loves you for who you are.
And I found all of this not in my apparent ‘home country’ but in a country that housed me for an unaccountable time of my life.

U.A.E. was this place where I could un-apologetically be me. A country where people from all over the world live in unity, one of the very first things I learnt was that humanity comes first. Humanity is what is more important than that passport you hold in your hand which indicates your nationality. Humanity trumps everything.

I grew up with quite an open mindset. And I knew I had a so called ‘open-mind’ only after living here. Because up until now my thoughts and my mentality was something so frequently seen, I never knew it was such.
A country where religion or the state of India you’re from doesn’t matter, I grew up celebrating various festivals from all religions. I grew up with friends all over India and not only learning but also enjoying their various traditions and customs.
We all were different and we liked being different. We accepted it wholeheartedly.
I grew up in a country that was incredibly safe. A country where my parents and I never feared of our safety. A country so clean. And looking at the number of parks and beaches that are present you wouldn’t believe that it is actually a desert. Ha!

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Let us not even talk about the food and the malls there. It’s where I learnt that food is love, food is life.

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All I got in India is a sight of aunties who are professionals in stalking people and have mastered the art of poking their nose in other people’s business. All I got to see is this unimaginable amount of bullying done in a school, a school which is supposed to be a child’s second home. All I learnt till now is how in the end a girl is supposed to learn all the household chores and that you’ll receive a stink-eye if you don’t know how to by those around you.

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All I got to learn is how to keep my mouth shut because people here can’t stand opinions that stem from an ‘open-mind’. All I have observed is that it is very well possible to fake yourself in front of people. That it is possible to not only lie to others but to yourself as well about who you are. Faking who you are at the core only to please the people around you. To lose the essence of who you are because being nice to those aunties and nodding with whatever they say is more necessary than voicing those opinions in your head and demanding respect for who you are.

All I learnt is that it isn’t safe for me to step out of my house. All I have heard is how we can be divided according to our genders. A boy is a boy, a girl is a girl. There’s a box for everyone and you dare not break it open. After all, you are who you are right?

All I learnt is that perhaps humanity isn’t what comes first. Perhaps what caste you belong to, what state you belong to, which God is it that you follow is what is more important. That is what defines you, you see? Screw how good a person you are, I will form opinions about you based on an identity that you didn’t create for yourself but were labelled.
Labels. Labels are more important you see?

U.A.E. is the country where I found people who accepted me for who I am – this socially awkward girl with big dreams and a stubborn heart. A straight forward girl who isn’t afraid what others think of her. It is the country where my anxiety levels weren’t this high because I felt comfortable. I could be me.

My parents, who have lived here in India unlike me, today also long for the day when we could go back. They don’t feel comfortable here. I see a side of my mother I never saw before. She, she finds it hard to communicate with people here. To connect, to make friends here.
If a person like her, who always is the life of the party feels so, my state can’t even be expressed.

I will agree that there are exceptions in both the places. Neither of the countries are perfect. But this is how I feel.

U.A.E. is the country where my heart lies. U.A.E. is where I felt the most comfortable being me. U.A.E. is the country where I was accepted wholeheartedly, no matter how weird I was.
U.A.E. is where I could exercise my mentality without being judged.

U.A.E. is where humanity comes first. Not blood relations or nationality, but humanity. And humanity will always come first to me.

India might be my home country, but U.A.E. is what I will call home. I could be biased, after all I did spend my entire life there. An attachment will definitely be present.

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This is how I feel

Call it what you may but all I know is that while I have one foot present here, another foot of mine lies in U.A.E. When that trigger is pulled and that gunshot enters the audible range, I will run.

Run.

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Languages

So its been quite some time that I’ve shifted to India from U.A.E. and I’m still having trouble settling in. Its not as easy as we thought it was and time by time my mom will say, “Let’s just go back to U.A.E. now. This place is getting out of my hands.” If my mom is saying that, then you can understand I guess how much difficulty we are having staying here!

There are the obvious things we are having trouble adapting to like the changed environment, lifestyle, mosquitoes etc. But one of my personal difficulty is language. So I thought that today might be a good day to elaborate on that. Let’s get to it now shall we?

When I was 8 months old my parents took me to this wonderful country called U.A.E. and well, I’ve spent my entire childhood there and also most of my teenage years. So I’m brought up in an environment with diverse cultures and different languages speaking people. So the language that was given most importance to me was English because it helps me to converse with any type of people. And then at home I was taught the language that comes from the place I belong. But in school I was taught India’s national language – Hindi. Somehow that last part is what people here forget.

Over there when I was to converse with anyone, it’d be English, with elderly people its Hindi and then sometimes at home the language of my state. So I know all the languages. But most of the people here think I don’t know Hindi. They think I can’t even understand it! I know I talk a lot in English, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know Hindi. I can very well talk so. And also understand.

Quite a while back one person cracked a joke in Hindi. It was funny and since everyone was laughing, they din’t hear me laughing. And then one person asked me, “You understood right? Want me to explain what was being said right now?” I got really furious because this happening way too much with me. I said, “You know what? I’ve learnt Hindi for 10 years. I’ve aced my Hindi exams and was the one who represented my class for Hindi speeches and reading competitions. Do you really think I don’t understand Hindi?” And she replied, “I thought you don’t know because you’re from Dubai!”

One of my neighbors likes to show off a lot. So whenever she speaks to me she speaks in English and her English isn’t very good. One day by mistake she spoke to me in Hindi and I replied in Hindi and she says to me, ” You know Hindi? Wow. I din’t know! Did you learn it now when you are here?” I replied, “No aunty. I know Hindi quite well. So can speak from a very long time.” She then said, “Oh my! You’re from Dubai right? So how can you know Hindi?”

This is exactly how I react to everyone with all these assumptions that I don’t know Hindi. Reaction in my mind at least….

Just because I don’t speak in Hindi more often, doesn’t mean I don’t KNOW Hindi. Just because I spent my growing years in a foreign country, doesn’t mean I don’t know my national language. Do you all really think that because my parents brought me up in a country other than my native one, I don’t know the language of my country and don’t know my traditions? (Yes, they think that too. They think I celebrate American traditions. How is America and U.A.E. related? They’re not even in the same continent!!) Its getting kind of offensive towards me, and I can’t tolerate that.

I wonder why these people don’t assume the same thing about my mom though….

Surprise Surprise!

So on Friday my friends in U.A.E. organised a surprise birthday party for my close friend. When I was talking to Nerd Enchanted about it, the event triggered a lot of memories of mine regarding surprise parties. And so here I am blogging about all my memories.

The series of ‘surprise parties’ started in April 2012, and I was the first um, victim? (I don’t know what to call myself).
So it was a Monday (yes I remember all the details) when a close friend of mine called me up in the afternoon. She asked if I would be able to join her for a trip to a nearby park on Thursday. I said yes, but I was wondering why all of a sudden she wanted to go to the park! We don’t go a lot to parks you see?
Everything was okay till Wednesday. In the evening I was watching TV when the phone rang. I saw that it was a friend of mine who was calling so I picked up. And as soon as I said hello she said, ‘Is your mom there? I want to speak to her.’ Without any questions I gave the phone to my mother but was really surprised. Why would she want to talk to my MOTHER? My mom spoke to her and gave the phone to me again. When I spoke to her she said, ‘Ask your mom.’ I asked my mom and she told me that she asked for permission to give me a send-off party on the next Thursday. This really got me suspicious.
So that night I saw a dream (like I do every single night). In the dream, I saw that I was in the park with my friend. Nothing strange until I saw my whole school bus group seated right next to me! I immediately woke up shocked and wondering why I saw such a dream. You see, I get a lot of prophetic dreams. I’ll tell you about them some other day maybe. 😉
The next day I was walking with my friend to the park and was telling her about my other friend’s phone call. She din’t respond and normally she responds to such stuff. Now I was quite sure that my dream is gonna come true. I went to the park and from behind a tree all my friends jumped up infront and yelled ‘SURPRISE’. Well it wasn’t a surprise, but still I was the happiest person on the planet that day!

So from there on, surprise parties are held for the birthday girl. It is so common that the birthday girl expects a ‘surprise birthday party’ on birthday. It is so unpredictable you see?

After this I was part of my friend’s surprise party on Halloween last year. The most hilarious part was the cake! I have this extremely blonde and childish friend who had taken up the responsibility for the cake. She did get cake, but forgot a knife. Now how will the birthday girl cut her own cake? More importantly how will we eat the cake? Seeing no other way around it, someone suggested that she should cut the cake with a plastic fork and that we eat it using plastic forks. And 5 minutes after, everyone destroying the cake with their respective plastic forks!!

After that I came to India. So all the ‘surprise party’ stories were conveyed to me by my friends via Facebook messaging. One party wasn’t a surprise because she realised it while the other party was a surprise until the other girls came late which made the birthday girl confirm her slowly increasing suspicions!

The party on Friday marked the very first success story of a surprise party, because it really was a surprise. The plan was perfect and it blowed the birthday girl’s mind!

All these events might just be a memory for me, and to know about the other parties I’ll have to rely on the Internet but it still makes me so happy! On Friday when I got to know about the success, even though I wasn’t there I was still so happy. Obviously my friends don’t know how I actually feel because I din’t tell them! Oh wait they might know now if they read this.
Lets hope I make new and wonderful memories here as well!

The Good Stuff

My previous posts have been all sad and emotional types. So I thought why not brighten this place up? I did tell you that I’d share with you about all the wonderful and disastrous experiences I’m having here in my native country India, and I know I’ve only been doing justice to the latter part. That’s ’cause nothing good is happening to me. The only thing good here is that I made a friend. Since that’s the only good part, I thought I’d expand on that.

When you step on to a foreign land, everything is obviously new to you. (Notice how I call my own native country foreign land? Because it IS to me. ) For me everything is so new that I feel I am new to myself. Like I don’t know who I am anymore. And in such conditions a friend helps a lot. Especially when she is your first friend in this idiotic place better known as Mumbai. And obviously your first friend will be quite special to you. That too my first friend is so good to me. I mean, she gave me the chocolates that I ate while I was in UAE but wasn’t able to eat here due to their unavailability. I never expected that.

So I thought instead of you hearing me rant about her as I always do about everything else, you can know about her by her ranting about herself! Yes, I conducted an interview with her. Without any further delay, lets get to it now.

Q) So tell us about yourself.

My name is Sakshi and I’m 17 years old.
I’m a big mess and I’m crazy. I’m a big hogger. That comes as a shock seeing me. I blabber a lot. I love pissing people a lot. The look on their faces is priceless. I love to dance. I would love to sing one day, but I’m afraid. I would also like to try for modelling, but I don’t have the height!

Q) What are your hobbies?

Dance and reading books. I love to sing, but not infront of people. They’ll go nuts!

Q) Who are your best friends?

Megha & Sanchita. I thought I’d have more, but nope.

Q) Would you ever start your own blog?

No. Maybe. I don’t know.

Q) Speaking of music, who are your favourite artists?

I don’t have a specific favourite. My favourite keeps changing with every song.
The artists I like are Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran.  That’s it I guess.

Q) Do you have a crush on anyone?

I don’t have a crush on anyone. I’ve never had a crush. Never found a guy with my standards.
If celebrity crushes count then they are Justin Timberlake, Harry Styles and Ashton Kutcher. I have an on and off crush on Jesse McCartney.

Q) Describe your high school life to us.

Studies, a bit of dancing and loads of craziness with friends. I was a really good student, so I was always favoured by my teachers.

Q) Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Next 10 years, hmph. That’s a tricky question. Maybe I’ll be doing something where my passion lies, or something which has money in it. But definitely not married.

Q) What’s your passion?

Dance. I dream of dancing infront of a lot of people. Someday I’ll learn all the styles of dance. I wonder when that day will come.

Q) What is your ideal career choice?

I’d love to be a choreographer working somewhere in the US or the UK.

Q) Have you ever had a turning point in life? If yes then what was it?

I did, in 10th grade. When my career choice came up on me, I wanted something else and my dad wanted something else. I din’t listen to him and my relationship with him was quite bitter. From then on I’ve become a rebel. I’ll listen to everyone, but do what I feel like is right. I don’t regret anything I do, its my choice.

Q) If you were given a chance, would you like to change any aspect of your life?

No. I’m happy the way it is. But I’d love to change my parents mindset regarding performing arts because I’d love to do that someday.

Q) Its time for me to hear some praise. Start talking about me now.

Let’s just begin with the fact that you’re awesome. You’re the only person who I feel is quite close to my traits. You share the same birthday as mine, which makes you 25% sexier. You’re a good orator. You don’t use tricky ways to get your work done. I can do it by hook or by crook, but you don’t want to.

Q) You’ve lived your entire childhood in our native country – India. Do you see yourself settled in a foreign country anytime soon? If yes then which country?

Yes I do see myself settled in a foreign country. Which one? That’s tough. I don’t see myself settling in a specific country. Maybe the US or the UK. It depends on my job. Maybe I’ll become a global citizen and roam around everywhere.

Q) What would you like to say to all the people reading this post? Do you have any advice for us?

All I would say is, listen to everyone but do what you feel is right. Not bad or crappy stuff. If its something harmful to you or your identity, then it isn’t right! Not always what you think is right. For example, you might feel like smoking weed is right but it isn’t. What you do should be sane in every sense of the world.

So that’s the end of the interview. I think I covered everything that one would want to know about a person.
Also I’d like to thank Sakshi for her patience while I was making these questions on the spot and also for the interest and enthusiasm she showed while doing the interview.

Harsh Reality

Today we are gonna go back in time. And by that I mean my final days in UAE before coming to my native country. It does feel like a lifetime ago.

As I’m socially awkward, I don’t have many friends. When I was there I had about 10 friends and all of them were really close to me. When I got to know that I had to leave the country I was devastated, and obviously the next day I went to school and informed them. I thought they’d be devastated too, but they din’t seem so. They were just sad and told that they’ll miss me. I din’t know whether I should be happy about that or not. A few friends begged me not to go. They even spoke to my mom, and tried to convince her to drop the plan. I felt really bad, but I was happy that they actually did so just for me. (Does that make me a bad person?)

We did have many amazing events after that, and  every moment with a friend is always cherished by me. After all I do get only a handful every year. I don’t think I should miss them out!

My native country is India, and I was going to come to Mumbai. Now I hardly knew anything about this place as I never have been here before. I only heard about it from my dad, who spent a lot of his life here and I also learnt a bit of this place’s workings from 2 of my friends. One of them spent her childhood here! So obviously I felt that they were a reliable source for all the information I need about a place I never entered even in my dreams.
I absolutely love travelling, and I can adjust to a surrounding quite quickly. My hopes were high about this place and I thought I was ready for a new beginning.

During my farewell party, my friends and I made promises to each other. We promised that countries wouldn’t tear our friendship apart and we will always tell each other everything and anything. Nothing would change among us. And this was the first belief of mine that was shattered in no time when I stepped on this land.

When I came here, I did everything I could to keep in touch. I called and messaged them whenever I had the opportunity. But efforts are never successful if they are only one-sided right?
I immediately knew that what I feared for such a long time, has just happened. The people whom I considered my best friends, never really bothered about me. I was one of those type of friends who is easily replaceable. I never had my own worth among them. I was lonely.

But this had a positive side to it too. I found out my true friends. People who felt the same about me as I felt about them. People who realised my existence and appreciated me being a part of their wonderful lives. It feels really good to know that even when  people from different walks of life enter your domain, the ones who still were residing there aren’t kicked out.

Now to the next dream that was shattered, when reality broke down the wall of high hopes.

I really looked forward to staying here in Mumbai. I wanted to experience the life that almost everyone wishes to have. I knew this was a new beginning for me, but I never thought the ‘new beginning’ would be something least expected.

This place has literally driven me crazy. Crazy might be an understatement for my mental state right now.  First of all this place is nothing what I hoped! The place is so busy and polluted. I’m a freak for cleanliness. So this place  has really gotten on my nerves regarding that aspect. Then there are the trains. I had just ONE ride on the train and now I get nightmares about the local trains!
Then obviously there’s the fact that I am from a foreign country. This immediately attracts a lot of people around you. I’m tired of explaining to my neighbours about the environment and lifestyle of UAE. Sadly I’ll have to do it again and again.
How could I forget the weather? When I came here, it was extremely hot. A decent ice-cream can save your day in such cases, but this place decides to deprive me of that too! Then there is the rain. All the water-logging makes travelling even more dreadful! Then when the sun shines, mosquitoes start attacking you. They also know that we come from a foreign land and bite us more than the residents here. My body is covered with red marks all over!! Its supposed to be rainy season right now, but it doesn’t rain all the time. Sometimes its extremely hot, sometimes the place is flooded. Seriously weather Gods, make up your mind!

I live in a dream world, where everything is perfect. But as soon as I reached India my world was shattered with a hammer named reality. Almost everything I believed in was taken away from me, leaving me lonely, depressed and bored.

But there always is a good side to things. I go to know my true self, not what I was being known for from the past 5 years. I discovered the changed version of me. How different I was from what my ‘friends’ thought of me as. Sadly now I won’t be able to share this new version of me with those people, but I believe it is their loss.

This indeed is a new beginning for me. Especially when I start my new adventures very soon. I needed this reality check , regardless of the level of harshness it carried with itself.