Where do we belong?

A few of my Indian and immigrant friends in the States occasionally over a few drinks, will reminisce about their trips back home to visit family and friends. And what you can hear in subtle undertones in their voice is a longing for everything home. Mom’s cooking, going for a long drive on the beach, watching the latest Bollywood flick and eating bhelpuri by the street cafe. The logical question on everyone’s minds following that discussion is, if any of us are actually thinking of moving back home. When someone talks of moving back, I wonder what moving back really means to them?. In India, where I come from, the entire landscape of the city I grew up in has changed so much over the past decade, that I can barely recognize the cherished cafes and places we used to hang out as young college kids. Most of my college friends have moved away to work in one of the big cities like Pune or Bangalore to take advantage of the burgeoning IT industry. Some have moved here to the States like I did to pursue a Master’s degree and chalk out a career. Few things remain the same today as they were 15 years ago when I left India. So I wonder what are we going back to? What is home? The country you were born and raised in or the country you adopted, the one that embraced you back wholeheartedly? To me visiting India now is like visiting any other foreign country. Granted you know the language, and the customs and cultures and probably you way around but that is where the familiarity ends. The extent to which India has transformed in the last decade hits you the minute you step off the plane at one of the metro airports like New Delhi or Bangalore. These international airports have been rebuilt to resemble luxury five-star hotels complete with swanky restaurants and overnight transit stays. Or the KFCs and McDonald’s that can be seen with frightening regularity driving down city streets. The small coastal city I grew up in now has a bunch of fancy pubs, a stylish discotheque, places where you can play pool and hang out with friends and couple of movie theatre multiplexes that can give an AMC 20 a run for its money. In essence, to me moving back home is not so much about going back to a place, or a city or a country I grew up in, the memories of which are forever imprinted in my mind. It’s more about spending time with my family and cherish the moments with them. To be closer to mom and dad as they enjoy their retirement years, for my kids to get to know their grandparents and to go sightseeing like visiting the Taj Mahal finally. What is a given is that you end up having to re-acquaint yourself to a country you thought was frozen in time, a place you called home.