He should know for he said he felt like one in the US and in his home country too.
It was a very wise question and the answer is sadly, a resounding YES!
I am not proud of it. I wish I could truly call a place home. I didn't grow up in the state I am a native of. Ancestral homes merely made appearances on one or two short visits every few years and late night stories for me. And so after putting a lot of thought into the reasons why, the conclusion is unmistakable--the blame, I have decided shall rest squarely on my parents' shoulders.
My brother and I grew up in rather idyllic settings, away from the bustle of Bombay and at the overripe age of 16 when I was unceremoniously moved out of said idyllic settings into the real city, I was a mess. Unable and unwilling to adjust and eager to escape not back to where we came from, for that was impossible, but to somewhere that old place might be duplicated. It wasn't just that we were spoilt--not with material goods anyway, but with a lifestyle that can only be described as well...not healthy for an impressionable, precocious child. That said I had friends growing up there around us who seem to be well adjusted now. So lets just say parents' fault and oddball genes--double whammy.
Or perhaps I foolishly took all our privileges that came from being the kid of a highly placed dad seriously. The chauffeur driven cars, the palatial houses surrounded by fragrant Eucalyptus trees, the gardeners maintaining beautiful gardens around us. All that good stuff.
Or maybe it isn't just that. Old Indian culture was inculcated strictly and came easily in the form of dance and music lessons. But my parents were never involved in and therefore seldom exposed us much to the whole popular and/or Bollywood culture. For the first ten years of my life, our TV didn't work. After that isolated as we were, going to the movies would have been too much of a trek and so we subsisted on the Hollywood fare my uncle got us on his visits from Kuwait, farmers programming (amchi mati amchi manse for those who know), cozy old Marathi movies and the odd Star Trek I episodes and such that came on TV on weekends when we did have a TV that worked.
I wonder what it is then that makes me Indian enough to want to defend this country to people, to explain her follies. I am not indifferent to her greatness, to the wonder that is India. At the same time I defend America too with fervor, especially when people take potshots at her. It is a land I admire greatly.
Why does the Indian national anthem make me cry with a mixture of joy and pride every single time. The last lines of the American anthem also make me cry, and also with wonderful pride and happiness at being American. I love both these countries. One is my motherland, the other the land I "married into", my adopted land. I defend and love both with equal fervor. I detest certain things about both too with equal fervor.
So does that mean I belong? Does that make me a true Indian American? Or is that statement in itself an Oxymoron.
Truth is I wish I could actually spend my mornings in one place and evenings in the other or even one week here and the other here. I wish I could buy my vegetables at the bazaars here and my cereals in the local grocery in Lombard. That would be perfect. I have always liked having my cake and eating it too.
Of course that is not possible and so here I am. A tourist. By accident of birth, upbringing, education, years spent all over, over thinking, over analyzing.
My do I envy those who have a place, one place that is truly home.
Or perhaps for people like me, home can only be where the people I love are. My husband, my sons, my brother, my parents, my friends. But my dearest friends are now left behind in America!
If only I could somehow have everyone in one place, squeeze the world so the distances aren't so immense. Now that would be a perfect world.
That place, wherever it could be, would be home.