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.

A Walk That Hurts

Waking up in the morning listening to the sounds of the rain pouring out, I was happy for some unknown reason. Maybe it was a good dream that I saw which I obviously don’t remember, or maybe I just feel happy internally which is very strange. The reason remained unknown but I had a feeling it’d be a good day.

Boy was I wrong.

I put my feet down on the floor and stand up to only start feeling pain. Where is the pain coming from? Don’t know. What kind of pain is this? Don’t know either. My mind was asking too many questions and the answers were all unknown. Then it was only while I was sitting on my bed that I realized that it was my left foot which was screaming.
I look down and everything seems fine. I stood up and started walking and found my left foot refusing to touch the ground the way a kid refuses it’s veggies. (Okay even I do that at times but let’s stick to kids now)

While I reach the living room I realize what has happened.
I have managed to hurt my left ankle!

I thought I had just pulled a muscle and disregarded it. Just like I always do. But this time it was my biggest mistake.

Because in the evening my foot had swollen a teeny bit and the pain had reached new heights. I have only now realized that I have sprained my leg.

How did this happen? Why did this happen? When did this happen? Will I ever be able to walk again? What if I have to cut my leg off? Is this something big? Is this a symptom of a disease?
So many useful and useless questions were being asked. I started over-analyzing the situation like I always do and thought it was something huge and freaked myself out! But obviously it wasn’t a huge deal.

You see, I have always boasted about how I have never fractured a bone or hurt myself. This is the very first time I’m experiencing something of this sort so I started jumping to conclusions. Typical me.
There are firsts for everything right? Right?

It’s been two days now and I feel like I’m a lab rat for my mom’s experiments with home remedies. I’ve screamt so much that I’ve amazed myself at my lung’s capabilities. I’ve been in a lot of pain. A lot.

What bothers me the most is my incapability to walk. Yes I get people to do my work for me which is awesome! But I can’t even go to the kitchen to get me some food without going through pain. A simple task like walking would hurt me so much is something I never thought is even possible!

I walk only on one foot. I literally drag my left foot with me wherever I go. It looks like fun but let me tell you, it is NOT fun. I want to cry!

Give me a cane and a bottle of Vicodin pills and you have a female version of Dr. House infront of you. Minus the intelligence of course.

It’s day three today and my pain has reduced a lot. Looks like the experiments are working. But my walking it still funny. I used to trip over nothing before and I still do now. Nothing’s changed maybe? I don’t know.

All of this has taught me the importance of my legs though. Must admit that and appreciate them too!

Have you ever experienced something like this yourself? Share your experiences and you won’t win anything. But you won’t lose anything either right?

A Superhero, Maybe

While coming back home yesterday after meeting with a friend, a little girl crossed my path who looked at me and smiled.  She then stopped me and told me that she had seen me before. I apologized to her telling that I couldn’t remember who she was. She smiled and told me, “A superhero like you can’t remember all the people you rescue right?”

I was confused. Why would she call me a superhero? I was pretty sure she had mistaken me for someone else but then she told me how is it she had met me and it all made sense.

Two months ago an incident had taken place below my building. I was looking after my brother in a play area built for children where I saw two girls occupying the only two swings that are there. One girl must be around 15 years old and the other one must be 14. My equation with the 15 year old has never been good as we clash a lot. Now you can’t expect me to be on good terms with someone who has a lot of ego and gets happiness from plotting against her own friends right?
I was looking after my brother when I heard a girl cry. I turned around to find that there was a little girl who was crying because she wanted to sit on the swing but those two girls weren’t allowing her. The 15 year old was screaming at this tiny little girl telling her that the swing is hers and she won’t give it to the girl. The little girl was bawling her eyes out and she walked away when the 15 year old stood up and told her, “Come here girly. You can have the swing.” I was so happy to see that this girl finally got some sense knocked into her head as the little girl came running back. But obviously I was wrong.
What this big girl did was sit back on the swing as soon as the little one came back. Upset, the little one walked away and the 15 year old stood up again and called her back. The little one came running back and what did the 15 year old do? She sat again. She repeated this routine of hers for around 3 times until the little one eventually had a breakdown. The 15 year old then was telling her friend, “Oh my God look at this kid man! At such a young age she’s acting so brilliantly. Look at the crocodile tears dude. Haha kid you can be a star!” Her friend just laughed with her.

I couldn’t bear it. My eyes were filled with tears as I saw those two girls torment and bully that kid. I walked up to them and screamt at them. This is what happened :

“Is this your swing? Who are you to tell me? I came here first!”

“This isn’t your swing either. You may have come first but you’ve played long enough. This kid is literally begging you and you are bullying her? Are you not human?”

“I’m the one sitting here. It’s my wish.”

“”Get up and let her play. You have to.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“I can’t do anything. But I can only hope that you have a little humanity in you. I know you are smart. Put your brain into use for something good – for once. I know you love bullying kids but I will not stand here and see you do that. She’s a kid and you are elder to her. Do you really want to set a bad image for yourself? I know you don’t care about anyone but yourself. I’m standing here screaming at you for this kid. At least respect my concern, if not me. Can’t I expect something good from you for once?”

Her friend finally decided to speak and this is what we spoke :

“It’s that kid’s fault! Can’t she see that we are playing here? We’ve been playing here for an hour. We are here elders. She can’t respect us?”

“How is it this kid’s fault just tell me? Because she wants to play on the swings that you and your friend have captured and are declaring your property? Let me remind you that these swings are made for kids to play not for teenagers like us. You want respect? Show some respect yourself. I’m elder to you and look at the way you treat me. Respect works two ways. You simply can’t just stand here and demand respect that too from a kid. Give respect and you’ll get respect. Simple as that.”

The 15 year old took her friend and walked away. I told them that if they want to talk behind my back then they don’t need to as they can talk whatever shit they want right in front of me. They just responded with “whatever” and went along.

All this time I din’t see the girl who was standing there all along. When I finally turned around, I saw her gleaming with joy. I made small talk with her as she was playing. When she told me that she was 4 years old, it broke my heart. I witnessed a 15 year old torture a 4 year old mentally just for a swing. What is our world coming to?

The day’s incident is crystal clear in my memory. That’s how I remember the conversations so well. I guess it’s because I don’t get to witness such incidents on a daily basis. And I so hope I never have to.

This girl called me a ‘superhero’ because that day I saved her from all that trash. She told me that now those two girls never trouble her in whatsoever way and I’m just so glad.

But me and a superhero? Really?

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A superhero would mean that I always do good. But honestly speaking, I see myself as a villain. You see, I’ve never liked those two girls. This was my opportunity to blast them off. Verbally of course but in my mind I visualize it something like this :

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And by this if someone else is benefited, then I’m going to consider this as a bonus!

It hurts me so much to think that a 4 year old could be bullied this badly by someone from the same generation as I am. What has happened to humanity? Can someone really get so much of happiness from bullying a kid?

That kid now believes that there is good out there in the world. Growing up her belief in that is most likely to get destroyed, just like how mine is. There are good people out there but the bad overshadows it. She’ll learn that not everything is right in the world, but I don’t want her to learn it now. At this age every kid feels that the world is full of rainbows and butterflies, that fairies are real and magic isn’t just an illusion. I don’t want her innocence to go away this soon. She’s a kid and I want her to enjoy her fairy-tale world – a world where superheroes exist. That phase is a wonderful one. She’ll learn what she has to when she grows up.

I can only hope that no one else will want to snatch her world away from her. From any kid for that matter. They’re just kids for God’s sake. They shouldn’t be subjected to bullying and mental torture especially when they don’t even know what it is they are going through. Let them be.

The Pack Of Humans I Need To Call Family

I think one of the main identities we Indians have all around the world is that we have a huge family. I’d like to blame Bollywood movies and television serials for this. But movies din’t just bring it up you know? There is a certain level of honesty in this fact.

I remember having this one conversation with my school-mates while I was in UAE about how big our families are. While most of my friends were going on and on about their uncountable number of family members, I was just sitting there in astonishment. I then exclaimed, “Gosh you all have such huge families! My family at the most just includes my maternal and paternal side. And they don’t have huge families. I can literally count them!” My friends first laughed thinking that what I said was a joke, but later realized that what I said is true. One girl said that maybe I din’t know my family at all and was kept under the dark about more than half of my family. I laughed really hard at her.

I shouldn’t have laughed.

Living in a foreign country where hardly anyone from my family lives, my parents and a few relatives convinced me that we had a small family. They’d talk only about a few people and when I asked them about any more people they always said, “What more? This is it!”

I always thought that we just had an immediate family. All those distant to distant to distant relatives is something I din’t have and I was so, so happy about it.
Until I came to India to stay and lead a life here.

The first time I got to know that I DO have an extended family is when we came to stay with this uncle of mine. My mom said he was her brother. Now, I know her real brothers and also her cousins. So on asking her what kind of brother he is, she said cousin.
Wait what? I thought she had just one cousin brother! From where did this one pop up? She then told me she has more cousins about whom she never told me about as they weren’t  in touch due to the busy lives we all lead in different countries. So when she finished telling me about them all I thought that this was it.

By now you must have realized that when I think this is it, it isn’t. More was ahead for me.

On one Sunday my mom received a call on her mobile. The person said that he and his brother were coming to visit us at our house. Till I was able to ask her who they were, they magically appeared on our doorstep just minutes after the call! (Family members I tell you. They’ll just come out of nowhere. Ugh)

One of the two brothers came to me and said, “Keerthi! Do you know who we are? I remember the last time I saw you, you used to wear those Gandhiji type glasses and you were so tiny! Look how big you’ve gotten. Still short though. Hahaha!” You yourself told that the last time you saw me I was 6 years old. Now how will I remember you?
I went to the kitchen and told my mom that I have no idea who they are (I could’ve told them directly. But meh, anxiety and all that) and she told me their names. I remember receiving chain e-mails from them a long time ago. Other than that, I don’t really know who they are! They were having a gala time with my mom and dad and I was just like, “Hehe. Very funny.” Or like, “Yes I do remember. Haha!”

While in reality, this was me

Note : The first two people are those two brothers. The character with a moustache is my dad and the lady is my mom.

Note : The first two people are those two brothers. The character with a moustache is my dad and the lady among that group is my mom.

Now every time someone came to visit us, I started counting how many family members I do have till now. But one fine day I couldn’t count because it was waaaay too much! How can there be so many humans in one family?!

I recently went to my home state to visit my grandparents and then comes another shocker. I realized that all the people who lived in our town-village (I say town-village as my place is neither a village nor a town. It’s something in between and I don’t really know what the in-between is called) are all my relatives! My mind was blown away to some distant land.

How are they related? Well, they are some father’s brother’s son-in-law’s nephew’s dog’s best friend’s owner’s grandchild. Yes you read that right. But this is just about one person you know? There are plenty of others who are related to us like that. Normally we won’t consider such people as family, just friends. But no, not in my case. They ARE family and they will be invited for our cat’s wedding. Also when we build a house. Also when we celebrate someone’s pregnancy. Basically every household event, people like these are invited because they are family.

I don’t know how does everyone remember who is who and how they are related. And their names too! What is the secret to this great memory power of theirs? *Calls grandma to know how to get excellent memory*

Getting to know so many family members also means that you basically have every type of human that exists on this planet in your family. And they aren’t always of the good kind which saddens me a lot. My family members include a few gangsters, gossip kings and queens, pranksters, wannabee hipsters, wannabees and sadists. I feel that only I am the human among these bunch of aliens, and I don’t consider myself a human at times so that’s a shocking fact!

If an outsider would see one’s wedding photo album, they’d be astounded to see that there are more photos of family members rather than photos of the couple. And also the fact that if you take that album to my grandpa then he’ll tell you how exactly is every single person there related to us. I don’t think I want to marry because then I’ll have to get married in front of a bunch of people whom I don’t even know! Woah!

Well as much as I can go on ranting about this, I need to accept that these bunch of random strangers are my family. No matter if I don’t know them, I have to say hello to them and welcome the dialogue, “The last time I saw you, you were wearing those Gandhiji type glasses and you were so tiny!” with a smile no matter how pissed that line makes me. I will have to listen to my mom and dad talk about my grandpa’s brother’s neighbor’s son’s neighbor’s daughter’s brother -in-law’s – son’s  fiance’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s story!

I just have to bear with this drama. I have no other option…

The Storyteller

Two days back, the electricity went off in my area due to the heavy rains occurring here.
Din’t expect the post to start like this right? Well, it did!

For the first two hours, I occupied myself with food.  Eventually I got bored and so did my mom. We decided to talk to each other for a longer time span than we did before. But within 15 minutes we ran out of topics. So we were forced to opt for the last option – my 9 year old brother.
Now he being a kid, is never bored. Every time he is in his own world where he is a Power Ranger and fights imaginary villians. Whenever he irritates us, we tell him, ‘Go fight the villains. They are attacking your room.’ Yes, you can blame us for the extent imagination!

Back to the story now. So we told him that we were bored and then he started blabbering nonsense. For once we were happy about it! At 4 pm I was lying on the bed, with my brother next to me. I told him to tell me a story and he made up a really lame one. Its a series of stories that started 2 years back. It involves a boy, an AK – 47 gun, a cow and sometimes a horse. No, I won’t tell you what the stories are!

So when he was telling me this, I was recollecting the real story that brought him to think about this fictional story. This made me think about something deep.

Every human being has a story behind them. A story that has made them who they are right now and these stories always fascinate me. I believe it is these stories that makes a person unique.
Everyone has their accomplishments, everyone has their hardships. And the story that one weaves of their life is incredibly unique and special.

The best example I can give right now is school as I still am a student. We might be in the same school and within the same age group, yet each person is so different. Everyone has achieved various things in life, and have extremely different aims for their life. They also have their own view on the obstacles and hardships that one faces. There is always a story to why they chose the path that they are following right now.

I do believe that the actions we act out right now influence our story. Whether we like it or not, it is a chapter of the book called life. And I feel that we should never forget this chapter as it captures the essence of a being at that very moment.

No one is born the way they are right now. There is always a small little tale that goes behind them. And these are sometimes the most amazing stories that you will have ever read!

I myself do have a huge story behind who I am right now. It is a chapter with quite a bit of happiness and a lot of pain. People say to forget about it, but I’m gonna hold on to it. It is a part of me whether I like it or not. And this story taught me a lesson that I shall never forget in my entire life.

As I said, every person has their own story. Life is a book and you are your own life’s author. You are free to write any story you want. And there is no one to stop you.