A Quest To Find Where One Truly Belongs
A blend of cultures; a juxtaposition between identities. A story about trying to belong and finding a home.
This one’s about finding a home.
A Story For You
The storks delivered me to India but my parents scooped me up, and off we flew to the States before my first birthday. You wouldn’t expect kids in elementary school to know much about nationalities. But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that someone doesn’t look like you do.
I grew up in the Bay Area and I called San Francisco home. I may not have been born there, but it was all I knew. It was everything to me. The foggy mornings and my weekly trips to 7-Eleven with my mom are still some of my most comforting memories. It was sometime in third grade when the dreaded immigrant lunchbox moment struck. Reality started seeping in. I wasn’t quite as ‘American’ as I thought.
I expected some sort of solace from India, a feeling of belonging. People looked like me, celebrated the same festivals I did, and ate the same kind of food. There couldn’t have been anything different right? I thought this had to be it, the place where I would finally fit in.
But my birthplace didn’t immediately translate to familiarity with cultural norms. I didn’t speak the language right, my R’s rolled off my tongue like sandpaper, and they charged me tourist rates wherever I went. I wasn’t quite as ‘Indian’ as I thought.
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Coconut culture; brown on the outside and white on the inside. A pretty crude way of explaining things, I know, but that’s what it was. This unexplainable blend of cultures, this juxtaposition between identities.
I spent years pledging my allegiance to the flag of The United States every single morning, standing right in line with the rest of my classmates, never once wondering what it meant. Who do I pledge my allegiance to? A country? A city? A home?
I’ve lived in a lot of places but I wouldn’t call myself a global citizen, at least not yet. There are cities I need to see and new people I need to meet but at the end of the day, home is where you return to.
When I think of home, I think of a foggy backyard in SF, coconut tree gardens in Hyderabad, a cosy apartment in New Delhi, and of crammed flats in New York.
It took me years to realize that I didn’t need to pledge my allegiance to any one place.
My home is wherever I decide for it to be.
So where do you decide for your home to be?
A Story From Someone Else
This story is from the book “Diasporic Constructions Of Home and Belonging”.
It is from Homi K. Bhabha, an Indian-British scholar and critical theorist when he was interviewed by Klaus Stierstorfer, Professor of British Studies at the University of Münster in the year 2017. It’s been edited for readability and contextual clues.
Purely as a concept, I think the very term ‘home’ has two aspects to it. One – something to do with the normalized, the naturalized, the inevitable, the original. It is always there; this is my home. I understand this landscape. I know these people. I know the language, and so on.
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But the other one is more of a feeling. It is the kind of Conradian idea that home is somewhere to return to. And more often than not, where you return to is based on the people you will have by your side when you eventually do go back.
I go to India regularly, primarily because that’s where my family is situated. If my family weren’t there, I don’t know if I ever would. But they are. Having spent many years in England, and owning a home I love in London; I would move between there, Boston, or Chicago.
I love being in America; my work, I find, is most productively supported there. I have many colleagues. I have many close friends. I have family connections. But initially, it was a decision made for a certain purpose. And out of that came a “homeyness,” if I might put it.
I spent more years in England than I had in either the States certainly, or in India. Now I no longer go there in that “homey” way. I go there to give lectures, for work, to meet people. Does it mean then, that in my existential sense of belonging, London has ceased to exist as a home?
No! It has not ceased to exist. But because of certain decisions, and because of certain circumstances - it is not the same kind of destination.
A Story From You
We all are a cocktail of cultures. Our home is not the place we were born or the place our family comes from, it is the place you decide for it to be.
If you could decide now if you could think about a place that you identify with, where would that be? Would it be a place at all? Would it be a loved one?
What is home for you?
Until next time,
Zed Letter Day