We took a family vacation this summer to the US. Very unfriendly on our wallet, but we decided to do it anyway. Aari was still young enough to be able to miss school for a month, and Allika didn’t yet need a full ticket (she will in 2 weeks’ time). So off we went. We planned to meet old friends and family, visit all the places we loved, and eat all the food we missed. And a trip to remember it was!
We landed in Chicago after a 15 hour flight from Hong Kong only to find that it was very cold and wet. It got better a few days in. A cousin picked us up and took us to his apartment in downtown Chicago, which was perfect for our vacation. We could see Lake Michigan and a beautiful skyline. Allika still screams out, “Chicago” in excitement every time she sees a tall building! 5 weeks flew by with not a moment to spare- Chicago, Champaign, Cincinnati, Boston, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Sunnyvale, San Francisco, Merced and Bodega Bay. Lots of long drives, lots of reunions and fun time spent with many people.
I was a little apprehensive before we went, to be honest. Would I realize that I missed the US so bad, that I would want to move back immediately, I wondered. But I didn’t. I did realize that I missed a lot of things. But I also realized that I liked living in India for a lot of other things.
I remember talking to a friend once, a long time ago, who commented that we are a strange generation of “neither here, nor there.” We grew up and studied in India. Then we moved to the US to study further and lived there. And then some of us stayed put, some moved back, or moved elsewhere. All the while we assimilated some things, forgot some, gave up some, loved some things, hated some, and tried to fit in and stand out all at once. Then suddenly we didn’t know who we were. We didn’t seem to completely fit in either in the US, or in India or anywhere else anymore. An interesting thought, and I pondered over it during our trip and after we were back.
She was right, I think, in the fact that we don’t truly belong to just one place. But I believe that is because we belong to many places. We have had the unique opportunity to live in other places and make them our own. We have had the unique opportunity to choose. And we have learned to adapt to situations, places, people. We accept the things we like, we reject the things we don’t. We are neither here, nor there because we are and can be anywhere.
In some way, I think this trip brought us full-circle. I remember blogging a long time ago about how it was taking me so long to acclimatize to India. And I remember waiting for the day when I wouldn’t notice the pollution, congestion and corruption. That day came…but I can’t remember when. I mean, I still do notice these things, but they don’t matter so much. I can’t say I have learned how to bribe officials, or how to get things done the official way, but I have learned to get by. I can now laugh at the person driving the wrong way on the highway and look past situations that would infuriate me a year ago. It’s not that I don’t have my moments of frustration, but those moments are hard to escape no matter where you live. Someone once told me (about moving back to India), maybe the pollution gets to your head, and you stop bothering about things that you thought you could never deal with again, and that might well be true!
So here we are…two and a half years later- feeling just fine. Will we be here permanently? Have we finally settled down? Who knows? Maybe we’ll stay, maybe we’ll take off to some other place we fancy. But we’ll be fine wherever we go. The things that have made a difference to our existence are far from the physical, climatic or bureaucratic aspects of India. The things that have made a difference are mostly social- friends, family, neighbours, togetherness. And these were the same reasons that made life awesome for us in the US. Everything else is just detail.