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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A Quick Look At The Past Three Years Of My Life

Hey-lo humans who are reading this poorly constructed post!

So as you all know, I disappeared for three years from my blog because of a little thing called life. And for those of you who don’t know – well, now you know!

There are plenty of questions in everyone’s head as to what is it that happened in these past years. Today, as the title reads, I’m going to be addressing just that.

So let’s begin from the start shall we?

I had to move to my hometown as we, well, had to move out. My hometown is this area which neither is a village nor town. I like to call it a town-village. I have no idea how else to describe it. Is this really a term though? Or have I coined a new term? Am I the inventor of a new word? Oh my God…..

I spent seven months there with my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my younger cousin sister. Also this dog. Can not forget the dog. Ugh.
In the start I had few bits of le internet thanks to my younger brother’s constant whining and crying but I refused to use it largely because I had to save it up for him. Things an elder sibling has to do. Sacrifices and all for the younger one. Pfft.
I only used it to keep in touch with my friends (read : annoy the crap out of them) and things were going okay, until my laptop crashed. Big time.

No internet, no system – living those seven months was a complete torture to sum it up in a nutshell. So many people, no source of entertainment, so many people, constant bugging, so many people.
Yes, I said ‘so many people’ a lot of times. Why do you ask? Well,  imagine a socially awkward girl among a whole bunch of people. Perhaps now you can understand how annoyed I might have been.
And I’m Indian. Add that to the mix. Now imagine the situation. Can’t? I never could either. Until I lived that nightmare. The horror *shudders*

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Seven months later, we moved to a different place. Another crappy place. We didn’t have proper water facility for goodness sake! No internet again but finally as we were staying by ourselves, we got a cable connection for our TV. So I spent time watching a lot of series’ again. Boy oh boy was I so happy!
I’d go around saying, “My name is Barry Allen and I’m the fastest man alive! GO FLASH YESYES!!” My mom would just stare at me in utter disappointment. She’d say, “You’ve started again. Why are my kids not normal?”
Quick forward to the present day – my mom loves The Flash. When I used to watch it on TV she’d go all, “Woah!”, “My God!”, “This is awesome!”, “He’s so fast!” etc. She loves Empire the most though. She was shook by the season 2 finale and started screaming, “WHY DID THEY NOT SHOW WHAT HAPPENED AHEAD? WHO FELL?!” When I went home and binge watched my shows, she asked me to tell her what happened and I showed her the clip. She then proceeded to ask my father why is it that he unsubscribed to english channels. If he hadn’t, then she could see little glimpses as I’d watch. I miss mom..

Back on the topic at the hand, I stayed there for around 9-10 months I believe. It was until my school wasn’t decided. And when my new school was decided and also our flat picked out, we moved out to stay at the place where I currently am residing.

How has my life changed? Well, I ended up having two gap years after my tenth grade. I completed my twelfth year in a span of three months and somehow managed to pass with decent scores! I made new friends who are absolutely amazing and have restored my faith in humanity a little bit
I know, I know. Me? Making friends? When did this miracle happen? Yeah, I’m surprised too. Life is full of surprises now isn’t it?

Currently I’m pursuing my first year in the field of Engineering in a college away from home. Hostel life. BLAAAH.
Finally a step towards achieving my dream has been taken and I couldn’t be happier! Yay!

Situations were horrible and we faced a lot of hardships. Life turned out to be nothing like we had imagined and majority of the time we all were just really upset as to how events were turning out to be. My brother wasn’t the least bit upset though. He just was happy he got to see Power Rangers………………

In short, life wasn’t the slightest bit easy. When we thought things are starting to get better, this storm would knock on our main door and say, “Did you order for a problem?”

Things are finally shaping out better now. I’m proud of all of us for managing to keep ourselves together and come out stronger from the experiences. I know that all of this has made me so much stronger, a level of strong my twelve-year-old self never imagined she would reach.

Things are okay. Life isn’t great but it’s okay. And I’m fine with okay.

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…