Over the last few years, I spent a lot of time in India where I had grown up for rehabilitation from my stroke. I had moved to the United States 31 years ago as an international student, then worked for several global companies for many years in Cleveland and Boston before settling down in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington DC since 2002. Homeland to me was India. Not just for me, but also for the many wonderful Americans I had met who used to say, “How are things back home”. Like many other immigrants, I had lived the American dream - great job, loving family, amazing friends, a beautiful house, and a sports car, but homeland to me was India. I always used to say, “The DC area is like home away from home.” It was a no-brainer for me what home was till my first rehabilitation trip to India in 2017 when I spent two and half months in a holistic facility. At the end of the trip, I realized what home is – and it was not India but the United States. Even though I was right there in the country I grew up in and closer to Mumbai where my mom and sister were. I was homesick. Somebody asked me, “Aren’t you home?” But home was where my heart was—back in the United States where my wife, sons, and friends were. Now the DC area was my home! – not home away from home but my home! My views solidified further after my second rehabilitation trip to India in 2018 where I stayed with my sister for four months. Although I was now with my loving mom, sister, brother-in-law, and friends in the city where I grew up, like in 2017, I terribly missed home – which was the United States. Then when I visited India for my third rehabilitation trip in 2020-21 and stayed with my mom for more than a year my views were cemented. I realized I was meant to live in the United States – my home! Although I already knew this, I fully realized it after the three trips to India.
Even though I’ve been in America for thirty-one years, and the fact that you can’t take the Indian out of me, I am proud to call these United States as my home. I am proud of my Indian-ness and to be an Indian American. I believe this doesn’t apply just to Indian immigrants. I think it applies also to many other immigrants in our great nation. Being different in how you look, talk or dress doesn’t make you any less of an American, of course. You don’t have to speak with an American accent or eat a hamburger or do American things to prove your American-ness. Everyone has something about them that makes them stand out. The important thing in my homeland is that everyone is judged as an individual who has value and something to contribute to our society.
So, my definition of what is homeland has now changed! My homeland is no longer India but my adopted country, the United States. My country of my birth, India is my motherland. I am truly blessed to have been born in the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda and to have spent the last thirty-one years in the land of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.