Thursday 20 May 2010

How many years does it take . . .

Grappling with home and identity spurs off many questions and curiosities. Like the other day, someone told me that he was English but was in the process of becoming Indian. Well, I had my doubts as always. If one stays for about twenty years in a particular place, does one become of that place? Do you get what I mean. Now if I tell this to one of my Indian friends that X says that he is Indian, he will be flabbergasted. He has all reasons to be.

How can this percentage of nationality be calculated? Does the passport determine that? If one possesses an Irish passport, does one become Irish? At the risk of sounding parochial let me ask: What happens to your 'original' home and nationality?

Can an American 'claim' to be native-American if one fine day he decides to live in an native-American community and settle down there. One American did that. Michael Dorris, American scholar and writer. I came across his writing while reading up on home and it's issues. He settled in a native-American place and even adopted three native-American children. In the end he committed suicide. You can google his name and read up on him.

Why does the human strive to call him (her)self something (s)he is not. Why an attachment to look for an identity that contradicts one's personality. If the whole world can be considered as your home, then where does your roots lie? Roots are essential without which trees fall apart.

Finally, how much of a particular place makes you of that place. I can live my whole life in Isreal and yet be Indian or I could adapt myself being Indian. But calling myself Isreali when I introduce myself is weird.

I understand the politics of place-affiliation and migration but still . . . Does it matter?

Nothing really matters in a globalised world, after all.


  1. A very thought provoking post. I guess we all have the need to belong somewhere. I know that from my years of living in numerous countries my actual nationality and where I belong confuses me incredibly. As I grow older, the need to belong somewhere grows very strong. Yet I find myself not belonging anywhere and everywhere at once.
    Eventually, I think I do not belong with a place, but I belong with people. Or that certain someone.;)
    Have a lovely day dear Susan, always a pleasure to stop by here,

  2. I think one does never get rid of his original nationality . An englishman born of english parents cannot become an Indian just because he owns an indian passport and lives in India.

    But as you say, in a globalised world nothing matters, people are rootless. I would say that everything gets confused in such a world. I have this feeling that globalization is going somehow to end the world.

    Interesting post which raises an important question.

  3. I don't know why people do that. Maybe its a way to fit in amongst the people you live around. When you identify yourself as someone else the locals will not link/connect with you. At times it could a way to explain you tastes that have refined according to the place you live in. Then we have memories.. which we associate with location and people. You place is the one that influences you in some way. It could be the birth place/ place where you grew up / any other place. Maybe it matters.. or it doesn't.

  4. It might matter to the individual person. I'm always amazed how many people stick to their original culture (by language, memories, cultural references), whereas others totally assimilate (or try). Personally I do feel a bit like 'sitting between all chairs'.

  5. Zuzana:

    This post was born out of a chaos within. As you rightly said, these questions accost us when we grow older. Today I was talking to a linen-weaver from Germany but settled in Belfast. I asked him about home and he said that he wasn't sure but I must admit he is a worker who has re-inhabited the land here and lives a very sustainable living closer to the earth. He is home anyway!!!


    I agree here. No one can get rid of their original nationality. Globalisation has skewed many things but sadly I am also to blame.

  6. Sameera:

    It's not about fitting with the people, it's fitting with the land. It's 'mitti' in Hindi. Hope you understand. These days memories are genetically modified to forget and move on :)


    Welcome to the meanderings. I appreciate your stopping by here. We love people, and so we do!

    Assimilation is possible only to a certain degree. The kindness and compassionate nature of a race cannot become yours even if you try the best. Your inherent nature will come out any how; That's when the locals remark: After all (s)he is not one of us :) But in America anything is possible.

  7. Susan, you are so right about the globalized world concept. I know this is so true because I became a naturalized American citizen a few years ago. But, I was born an Egyptian. I will always be an Egyptian. It does feel weird to say I am an American. I'm still trying to get used to that. I think living in the U.S. has helped, but still, my soul, my very being, is filled with Cairo, Egypt. That is my identity. And being an American is also a new part of my identity. I am embracing that slowly, but I am embracing it for sure. It's very very confusing, but I believe it makes me a richer person inside, at the end of the day.

    Always thought-provoking posts, Susan! Thank you for making me think, and keeping me filled with smiles. I hope you are enjoying your temporary home away from Home.


  8. Dear Susan, I had echoed your sentiments a while ago in my post One Nation, One World. It confounds me that we live in such an increasingly globalized world and yet hold on to that which is only an accident (of birth). Seems petty at some level. What we need to become is citizens of the world. Our world.
    Thanks for writing this.

  9. Nevine:

    I think certain identities are etched in the being and place is one of them. It does make us rich culturally but deep within our mud stays.

    Ah! ten days left and I don't want the dream to end.

    Hugs back to you dear one :)


    Birth cannot be an 'accident' Mansi. It can be one when the birth itself is unplanned but otherwise, it does not quite sound nice to me. You get what I mean. Thanks for the counter view which you project, it paves way for an argument.
    Somehow I cannot relate to the idea of becoming 'citizens of the world.' The idea 'our world' sounds nice and all encompassing but it takes away the rootedness of the soul.

    Thanks for writing your thoughts Mansi.

    Joy always.

  10. Ah! Susan, Allow me to clarify.

    What I meant when I said "accident of birth" had nothing to do with planned or unplanned pregnancies. I am talking about patriotism and the feeling of belonging to one nation stemming from the fact that you "happened" to be born in a particular country.

    You don't choose who you are born to or where -- it's all a matter of chance. So, if you were born in Australia, for instance, you would be "rooted" in that country's traditions -- viewing and judging everything from that perspective.

    It's natural given we spend the formative years of our lives assimilated in one culture. But I have met people who were born in India, were "uprooted" at a very young age, and because of their parents' traveling jobs, spent short amounts of time in different parts of the world. They don't have that sense of "belonging" to any one country or people. And they don't crave it or feel incomplete.

    Rather, they feel "more" complete, have a more open mind, and more easily empathize -- it's their world experiences that have shaped them into who they are, not their nationality (by birth they are Indians).

    I think people who become so passionate about patriotism, going to the extent of calling those who do not share their same passion unpatriotic, fail to see the bigger picture.

    It's just a matter of seeing this issue with a different lens. And ask questions about why we are wedded to some ideas more than others. It has a LOT to do with social conditioning. All I'm offering is a different perspective.


  11. even though i was born in the states, my identity is connected/rooted to all the cultures from whence i come - and all of which give me my own unique individual and genetic makeup which is really a conglomerate of many - anyway, very interesting neat post - have a fabulous remaining couple of weeks!

  12. An Earth without border
    is the new world order
    though for homeland there is an ardour
    it is time people's heart grew a little more broader.

    Susan, a thought provoking subject.
    When I am outside India, I am an India. When I am in India, I am a Keralite. In Kerala I am from Palghat. The circle keeps 'Narrowing'. I think we need to transport the earthlings to some other planet to make them think they all belong to earth.

  13. Very interesting question(s) Susan and the point of much debate in our household. We have Aussie passports and are citizens. On paper yes, but in your heart? When you travel and live around the world for any length of time, you are bound to find a place that you connect with. If you travel a lot, you will find more than one. Collect one passport after another and just what are you? I am officially Australian and American but the USA is where it all started and where I lived most of my life...I have two homes...but that will be my lifeline.


  14. Dear Mansi:

    Thanks for that elaborate clarification. I perfectly got what you meant. Please let me also clarify here: I am not romanticising the idea of one true place' but talking about what is 'home.'

    And I am not even remotely slanting towards any fundamental thought be it patriotism or nationalism. I am not for those two standpoints.

    Social conditioning, yes. But 'world citizens,' no.

    It was a passionate argument :)

    Thanks dear Mansi :)

  15. Jenean:

    Hmmm. I would like to test you sometime. Time . . .


    Without borders, yes but there is a home and a place within.

    I can understand the different identities one takes on at different times but there is one special place which is 'home.'


    Long time. Nice seeing you here. You said it!

    Joy always :)



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