Where are you from?
I don’t really know how to answer that question. Correction, I don’t really think that question should even be asked to a person.
You can ask me where my parents grew up, where I was born, where I went to school, where I went to college. You can ask me where I work, the places I have lived. But don’t ask me where I am from.
It’s not cause I have a confused sense of cultural identity. It is because I don’t think that any person is really of a place.
Ask me what home is to me.
I will tell you that home is a space (SPACE, not PLACE) that feels familiar. Not familiar to a place I have grown up in, but familiar to my soul.
So maybe home is a heart warming conversation with an old friend, maybe home is a whole new bunch of people who want to learn the things I want to learn, maybe home is me writing this sitting alone in my apartment, maybe home is the colour the leaves were on December 18th against the exact shade of blue that the sky was. Maybe home is Dal Tadka and Garlic Butter Nan that I bought from a restaurant, or maybe it is pepperoni pizza and a good chick flick.
Home isn’t a place, it’s a space. One that we constanly find and lose, one that constantly redefines itself from day to day, hour to hour. That’s home.
Ask me what culture I connect to the most.
I will tell you that I connect to human beings being exactly who they are, unabashedly being their worst, and proudly strutting their best. That is my culture, authenticity.
So I connected with the girl who left her commerce degree to pursue journalism. I connected with the girl who knew she wanted to become a doctor since she was twelve, and now is one. I connected with the woman who wanted to raise her children to be change makers in what could be the best generation planet Earth has ever seen. I connected with the boy who felt trapped in his head, and knew exactly why. I connected with the man who felt as though he could ask for help when he needed it, when he lost faith in the world, and trust that there would be someone who could help him.
Culture shouldn’t be the preferred blend of spices in your food, or the language you speak most proficiently. It shouldn’t be the end of the ‘made in’ sentence on the box of your favorite brand of cereal. If it were, heavens would I ever be so uncultured!
Ask me what the places are that have left a mark on me
I will tell you of several places, places I have lived in for decades, and places I have lived in for a week.
What has left a mark was the warmth of the air that wrapped itself around me when my heart was frozen cold. What has left a mark was the rain that (albeit so inconvenient) pelleted it’s way into my cotton kurtha when I was ecstatic, and then when I was forlorn. What has left a mark was the way the sunrise painted the sky on days I wanted the sunrise to take away the darkness that some nights brought along. What has left a mark was a rainbow I saw when I felt that hope was becoming a fading dream. What has left a mark were distant lights of moving cars when I was trying to bid a difficult farewell. What has left a mark was the swirling of a starry sky when I made a promise, and the moving calm of a sea when I set my intentions. What has left a mark was a friary that became solace, a synagogue that became redemption, an ashram that stilled my chaotic mind, a church that became nostalgia.
A place never left a mark on me for the kind of people I met there, because the kind of clothes people wear or where they choose to spend their money doesn’t define them. When you don’t look at people as defining a place, you realize that the biggest marks left on you, by places, were of the place in itself.
So don’t ask me where I am from, because I don’t believe in ultimate cultural identities. Our identities change with each time we see a new way of life, each time we fall in love, each time our heart breaks, each time we learn something new, each time we take on a new job, each time we lose ourselves, and then find ourselves.
I intend to keep finding myself in people, in spaces, and in places until the very end, and maybe even after. I am of myself, and that is all.