Global in Spirit, 'Desi' at heart!
When I moved into a locality, I became a localite.
When I relocated from my city, I was referred to as a native.
When I'd changed my state, I belonged to a distinct region,
But it was only after I crossed the national frontier, that I became an 'Indian'.
Yes, it true! It's been close to six years that I have been labelled a non-residential 'Indian'.
The year was 2015. I'd recently gotten married and right after two months of my marriage, I'd moved to Poland with my, 'let's take the chance!'-half. Ever since then, despite of all the uncertainties and changes, one thing that has always remained certain and constant is our commitment to each-other that one day we will move back to our home. One day, we will move back to India.
Now, let me tell you few very strange and interesting things about most Indians living abroad. (Though exceptions would be there but this applies to majority).
Okay, so when we are about to take-off for the very first time leaving India, a few days before that we would realize of having problem with every damn thing that is synonymous to India. Starting from interfering attitude of relatives, to lack of privacy, over-socialism, prevailing social issues, potholes, pollution, corruption; every-every single thing. In short, we are in a hurry to run away from fellow Indians and our forever self-glorifying Indian society.
But; the moment we land in another country, the first thing we Google is - "Indian restaurant near me". (Silent claps!)
I remember, when we had visited Italy back in 2016, owing to the drooling desire that I have for pizza, we'd decided that for the entire duration of our stay in the country (which was roughly 4-5 days), we were going to try every version of the dish, the country had to offer. And, I was beyond excited knowing the fact that I could devour my favourite meal as much as I wanted.
However, it was only the third day of our trip when we were in Florence. We were exhausted as hell and starving like anything. But, even the sight of this native dish, Pizza, was sufficient to make me throw up.
We were roaming around the central station when a heavenly aroma of potato curry entered my nostrils. And within moments, our tired bodies were pulled in the direction of this aroma.
We found ourselves at a street side food cart (we ‘desi’ people can refer to it as a mini-dhaba), right at the end of the lane and guess what? The cart vendor was serving the heavenly potato curry with tandoori rotis and vegetable pulao. Me and my husband, we looked at each-other and realized of finding the god.
We satiated our hunger pangs with this delectable, no less than three- course meal; and ate till our stomach and heart were full. We couldn't have asked for anything more that day. From there on, for the rest of the days, that we were in the city, we had our meals sorted.
While returning, my husband even teased me asking, “But we are yet to try so many flavours of Pizza. When are we going to do that?” And, we both burst out laughing.
A similar thing happened, when we had travelled to Barcelona. There was this tiny Indian cafe near the ‘Airbnb’ that we were putting in. We had spotted this place during a casual stroll. This 'jannat' (name of the café) served freshly prepared samosas everyday. And the sight and the brilliant taste of those samosas had me in tears. I was literally drooling. And, we certainly had our breakfast sorted for our entire duration of the stay in the city.
And wait! Did I mention that during one such visit to France, the ‘bindi’ on my forehead helped me in bypassing a security queue at the airport for no special reason. The French officer simply greeted us with ‘Namastey’ and there we were, navigated in the Business class line. (Yay!!)
Coming back to the course of action that we Indians follow, if our stay in any country is going to be prolonged and, supposedly we are looking forward to rent an apartment. Our social media and Google searches are as follows:
1) Indians in (whatever city) groups on FB. We join this group immediately to get updates about all the social events happening in the city. (Socialism, strange no!)
2) If there is any particular locality in the city where Indians live? (In short if there is any particular 'mohalla' in this foreign land).
3) Any Indian shop in the city from where we can purchase Indian groceries? (You see any person or circumstances be a variant in life but atta, daal, rice and our signature masale (spices); remain a forever constant.)
Also, analysing the location of the Indian shop further helps us to choose the location to rent an apartment. (Off course, in the closest proximity to this shop).
In a nutshell, right after leaving India, we NRI(s) are passionately looking for a mini-India in whatever foreign land we've landed into. And not to forget the height of happiness our hearts gain whenever we spot any Indian at public places. Outside India, we don't need any acquaintance to go and speak with any fellow Indian. Just the fact that they are Indian, is reason enough to collaborate. I wish we had same approach while being in India.
I remember, it was our first rented apartment in Poland and the house owner had this condition of a non-smoking tenant and because me and my husband, we don't smoke, we'd readily agreed to this condition and moved into the apartment the very next day. While, there was a catch, the owner had smoke detectors installed to ensure that her apartment indeed remains smoke free. And, that was my first encounter with this very strange and over-smart device.
Right after we'd moved, I'd lit a diya and an incense stick in the evening to begin our stay in this new place. Within minutes, we'd sirens and buzzers going off all over the apartment. Imagine this happening on the very first day. It was hilarious and embarrassing at the same time. But, indeed was a big learning. My 'irritating'-half, still teases me for that incident until this day. Though, the same thing reoccurred in next few days. Thanks to our 'tadkas' and the pressure cookers. ROFL!
It was Diwali of the same year and I'd laid a beautiful rangoli outside our apartment. There was a strange thing occurring after this. Every now and then, I could hear a movement happening right outside our apartment. I was kind of scared because every time, I opened the door, I couldn't find anyone. Only, one such time, instead of opening the door, I peeped out from the eye-hole only to find two gorgeous girls taking a selfie with my creation. I invited them inside and offered some homemade sweets. After all, those were our very first guests for Diwali. You see! Indian culture and our food can undoubtedly make anyone turnaround and blow them away.
Another amazing thing is that we Indians make friends everywhere we go. And certainly, our finger licking food is the tool that can bridge any gap and be the ice-breaker.
All the colleagues at my husband's then office, were Polish natives. But we bonded so well over Indian food. His Polish friends would come over only to have masala tea and whatever snacks we had on the house. One of his friends personal favourite was 'Aaloo-paratha'. Once, a Polish friend of ours had gobbled ten such paranthas at a single go. He loved them so much and later asked me to teach him making them.
Certain things in our lives being Indians (even while living abroad) never change. Like our day and get-togethers still begins with tea. (And it has to be an Indian brand of tea. Local tea flavours are just so boring and depressing. Oops!)
And not only adults, even kids raised outside India remain behaviourally Indian. As much as we try to put our kids in stroller and car-seats like other local kids, we only realise that strollers are only meant for loading groceries and transporting necessary stuff. Our kids, wherever they are born or raised; always prefer their parents' arm over comfort of being put into the stroller. Huh!
We still prefer broomsticks over vacuum cleaners and convert old and discarded pieces of T-shirts as a mob, to keep our houses spic and span. (At least I personally do and I personally know many others who do the same. Typical Indian habits. Right?)
And if we happen to live in a country that has full desi crowd (like the UK where I put up now), we at times forget if we live in India or abroad.
We proudly clad our bodies in the six-yards of sheer elegance on all the occasions of religious importance or whenever we are collaborating with people from other countries.
We cheerfully get together to celebrate every occasion with divine enthusiasm. Be it dahi-handi, Holi, Dusshera or Diwali. We shout "Ganpati Bappa Maurya!" with complete devotion at the annual Ganpati procession and get dressed in vibrant outfits for Annual Dandiya night during Navratri.
All of us fellow nationals dress ourselves and our kids in Indian outfits and gather on India's Independence Day as well as Republic Day and sing "Jana Gana Mana" on top of our voices with utmost respect after hoisting Indian flag in our respective countries of residence. (And the voice is even louder when the Indian flag is being hoisted in England. Haha!) Even though back in India, Independence Day and Republic Day for some of us are nothing more than scheduled time-offs from work and a day to take rest. But abroad, we make sure not to miss them even when it’s mostly a working day for us.
At all the events and gatherings, people hardly care which part or region of India, they come from. Our only collective identity here in this foreign land is that we are Indians.
My three year old daughter, knows entire Ramayana by heart. Although, she explains it in her own little version but certainly has the facts straight. When asked at her nursery to tell a story, she tells stories of Krishna's childhood. (Because that's what I tell her during nap time including stories of valour of Shivaji Maharaj, Rani Lakshmi Bai and others).
The spirit of fellow Indians residing outside India knew no bounds when recently we saw our motherland going through a turbulent phase during the deadly pandemic. I am sure all of us contributed in every single little way that they could, to help and reach our fellow nationals back in India. Some of us collaborated to send medicines and life-support devices. While some of us financially aided as many people as we could during the tough times. And, I am sure that everyone did their part. So, also to all those who say that we enjoy perks and forget our country while being away from our motherland; know that most of us also send a part of their income back to their motherland; back to India. And this, in turn plays a vital role in boosting India's economy and foreign reserves, which is very crucial.
"Ae watan! Watan mere abaad rahe Tu. Mein Jahan Rahu Jahan mein, Yaad rahein Tu" is undeviatingly true for us, word by word.
In short, all the Indians who stay away from their motherland have certainly created their own little mini-India in whatever countries they reside. And yes! as we proudly say, you can take an Indian out of India but never Indian(ness) out of an Indian.
Until next time, Jai Hind!
Thank you for reading!