I recently returned home to Washington DC (United States) after spending 14 months in my motherland (India). I have returned to a completely different country than when I left in early 2020, more than 30 million COVID cases, 550,000 + deaths and a changed socio-economic-political environment. When I left there were just 9 cases (not deaths), Donald Trump was the President, the economy was booming, kids went to school, folks went about doing their regular activities like going to work, doing shopping, visiting restaurants, attending sports events etc. and life was normal.
Although I had grown up in India and was with my loving family, I missed home terribly – my friends, family, and my life here. Home is truly indeed where your heart is. However, I do feel blessed to have got the chance to be in India this long after migrating to the United States 31 years ago. I never ever thought that I would get to spend so much time in India. As one friend said, “If you add up all the times you spent visiting India over the 31 years, it won’t add up to even 6 months”.
Although I was always connected with my roots, having spent so much time this time, the connection was at the next level. Reconnecting with so many of my old friends and family made me happy. I did many things as locals would do – to the surprise of many of my friends in India and the United States alike. To me, it was as they say, “When in Rome, do as the romans do”. Even though I was quite familiar with the culture and lifestyle and it was relatively easy to adapt to the local environment, nevertheless it was still a challenge as I was away from India for so long having spent more time in my adopted land than in my country of birth. Having spent so much time in India taught me a quite a few things, the most important been that “You are what you are” - Even though I have been in America for 31 years, you can’t take the Indian out of me. I believe this does not apply just to Indians. I think most immigrants no matter where you are may also agree with this. The other important thing I learnt was no matter how much had changed in India (mostly the changes were good) the more things changed, the more they stayed the same too. There were many examples and situations which reminded me how much India had stayed the same even in the face of the enormous changes the country had seen since my childhood.
As I left India, I was saddened to see the second wave of the pandemic take hold. I was also saddened to see the increase in political and social division in the country even though India was improving constantly. And as I arrived home, I saw those things were also happening here although the pandemic situation is vastly better than last year. I pray that the two great nations I love, survive the pandemic and this time of divisiveness and social turmoil.
I do miss the many wonderful people and things in India. But I am glad to be back home – even though it is a different country now than it was before the pandemic. This is my home; my life and I have absolute confidence that we will reinvent ourselves and adapt to the post pandemic reality. I read somewhere that “equivocation and self-doubt is not the American “ – I totally agree!