I visited India about a month ago after having been away for a year and a half. I was pining for the smells and sights of Indian streets bustling with people, autorickshaws, and street vendors. I was craving for the noisy family chatter, with Indian Idol airing on TV in the background. I was longing for conversations with old friends, over chai and biscuits.
I was homesick.
In India, the monsoon did not disappoint. It quenched my thirst for home. I soaked myself in the spices of my mother’s kitchen and in the pollution of Uber-infested streets. I was drenched in languages that rained familiar words on me. I was happy to be back where I was born.
I was born and raised in India. I’m connected to its soil in both real and abstract ways. The food and fables made me grow. The culture and conventions nourished me. I was made in India.
And so, I carry India with me wherever I go. My flesh and bones were cultivated there. My intellect and emotions were rooted in the land. That explains why I feel homesick when I’m away and why an intangible feeling of loss marks my life as an immigrant.
But here’s the funny (and the good) thing. Being an immigrant does not mean that I’ve stopped growing. Like all migrants, I am uprooted and planted elsewhere. I can still flourish. America is my new “home” because this is where I have been grafted in. The challenges of assimilation make me mature. I am rebuilding my home and reconstructing my community. No wonder, being away from America for too long makes me sad and uncomfortable.
“Home” for an immigrant is elusive. Visiting India always tends to heighten my confusion about home. I have made peace with the fact that no matter where I am, India or America, there is no escaping the perpetual feeling of homesickness. At the same time, I find it perplexing and surprisingly, comforting that I can feel at home in both places, even though these countries are poles apart with respect to culture, community, and traffic rules. And that, I realize, is a blessing that is often difficult to fathom, let alone appreciate.
I am glad I have stumbled upon this realization that as an immigrant, I have been given a unique gift—the ability to feel at home in two places. It’s a gift that expands my horizon and my heart. It stretches not only my roots but also my branches. It’s a gift that keeps on growing.