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!

3

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

1

2

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.

4
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.

5

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.

Advertisements

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 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.