…. Beyond the barriers of geographical boundaries.
When I was young, my identity was (may be still is) an Indian, born and brought up in Delhi and a Bengali, though the last one at times by distant family and close Bong friends took precedence over the other two much to my Grandfather’s dislike. Then came high school, college and university and work place where being a Bong paled into insignificance. But when Amartya Sen won the Nobel prize for Economics in 1998 my Bengali brethren and a miniscule part of me felt the same pride that must have been felt years ago when Satyajit Ray was honoured with Academy award in 1992 or eight decades back when Tagore won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1913…. not because he/ they were/are Indian but more particularly Bong.
After marriage when I moved to Singapore, my only identity became that of an Indian. In Indian gatherings though, where people would like to know ‘which part of India do you come from’, Delhi and Bengali come into play. Delhites are popular to have a certain snobbish attitude towards people coming from other parts of India. Or so they say. I have been complimented or commented (its the way I want to look at it) “You are from Delhi? You don’t appear to be one.” I always wanted to ask in return “Why? Do people coming from Delhi look/behave like aliens or vice versa” but political correctness and social politeness took over me and I just let it go with a smile.
Diwali celebrations here are quite different though, where all the Indian families living in Condominium will come together to celebrate the festival of lights, irrespective of region or religion and whether or not diwali is the most important festival in the year for the family.
One question that I have never been able to get it quite right when we travel overseas particularly in South East Asia: Where do you come from? Do they want to know where am I living currently or where am I originally from since there’s a big number of Singaporean Indian in this part of the world who have no kith and kin and nothing to do with India at all! The correct answer perhaps will be “I am an Indian from India, currently living in Singapore” but for group tours to a certain tourist attraction, no one is interested in your history and the answer to be given is normally in one word: either India or Singapore, period.
Moving to US, gave me the opportunity to experience a different perspective. It is more to do with the state that you live in, the East Coast or the West Coast and Midwest or extreme North. So it was simple. ‘I live in California ‘
When we moved back to Singapore last year after spending two years in India where my son spent his toddler years, we first put him in an Indian International school as we felt it will be easier for him to settle down and adjust in a foreign environment with people who look like him, talk like him and bring similar food that he likes to eat. Much to my dismay, it turned out to be a mistake as for my little boy it doesn’t matter whether his teacher or friends are Indian or American or Singaporean, as long as they are good and affectionate to him. We withdrew him and put him in a school popular with expat families, where settling down turned out to be a sea breeze, school an extended playground and he has friends from all corners of the world.
Last week, my son came home excitedly and said “Mamma, there’s a new boy who have joined in. His name is Andrew and he is fun to be with.”
“Where has he moved from?” I asked
“I don’t know. All I know is his name is Andrew, he is in my Picasso class and he is my friend. That’s all” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
And that’s all that should matter, I said to myself. Unaware and in his own innocent way, my son taught me what I want him and us to become : global citizens, identity as human beings first, to show love and respect to all fellow citizens of the world irrespective of colour, caste, creed, race or religion…. beyond the barriers of geographical boundaries
Last 5 posts by indrani
- Childhood memories - June 2nd, 2011
- Out of the mouth of babes...An Interview With A Preschooler - May 4th, 2011
- Earth Day - April 21st, 2011
- My little boy has grown up - March 19th, 2011
- Gentle soft touch - January 26th, 2011