Where I am from
Last night, someone asked me where I am from. As an immigrant in a foreign country, as a person who lived in various cities throughout their life and as an individual who had unique experiences, I don’t know how to answer that. Is it where I was born or where I am currently living or is it the place that made me who I am today?
I always thought I was from Kota, where I grew up. It was a tiny town back then before it became this coaching behemoth it is today. In the absence of the internet, phone, or cable TV, it was a small world, but it still felt so big for my small brain. Every evening, I would play cricket on the street until it would be too dark to see the ball. My sister and I would beg for money from our parents every time we would hear the bell of the ice-cream vendor cart outside. I dreaded the morning alarm on school days, and the joy of hearing the last bell of the day still reverberates through me. Dusty playgrounds, scorching sun and old worn-out shoes mattered little. There are pieces which I still carry inside me, but I also distinctively remember the feeling of disassociation from the place when I realized I want more from life and I have dreams for which Kota felt too small. So maybe I am not from Kota.
Maybe it was IIT where I went for my undergrad. A place where I met some of the most amazing people who exist today. People who taught me that friendships can have so many flavors and every single one of them is as amazing as others. It could be the intrusive one where there is no concept of personal space, or it could be about hanging out for a few hours in a day. In the end, it’s a bond so deep and strong that it makes you feel invincible and gives you the confidence that you can be whoever you want and do whatever you want in life because there would be people to catch you if you fail or fall. I remember the feeling of learning that I don’t know much about life. The feeling of being a failure to my own expectations and accepting my limitations. But also realizing that I could be so much more if I want to. At the end of 4 years, I felt that it served its purpose, and it was just a station and not a destination.
If I think now, maybe it was Bangalore where I worked and experienced what it means to be an adult. I thought I was pursuing my life’s goal without realizing it was not my own. I was naïve for believing that I know what happiness was and how it could be achieved. But then I learned how we are all trapped in this cycle of earning, spending, and managing cash, but I continued to be part of this endless loop. The most significant part was to experience how love can be so kind and cruel. It can give you everything and take it all away. Nonetheless, an emotion that everyone should go through. But still I feel I was not from Bangalore because I was never there. I was always in the future, thinking about it, working for it. So maybe the place that I am from is after this phase of life.
And that brings me to the US. Maybe I am from here. One of the strongest emotions that hit me when I moved here was how some things about my identity, that I assumed would always be accepted, made me different. Not unique, but different. I would notice people ending the conversation abruptly or their attention drifting away. The lack of connection was apparent, and it was hard for me to understand what I was doing wrong. Somewhere, I blamed myself for being different. I struggled with the facets of my identity that I wanted to keep or let go to find acceptance in this new world. This challenging exercise helped me understand myself better, and I truly accepted who I am and figured out who I want to be. So maybe this is where I am from because the place you are from should truly define you.
But now, while I am writing this piece, sitting on a Haworth office chair, typing this out on my Microsoft Surface Laptop in front of a Samsung monitor, I know I am not from any of the places I talked about before. Every passing moment is a memory, and memory can have distortions. My brain can make me believe in things that might not be true and the only reality of me exists in this moment. Right here, right now. As boring and dull as it may sound, but this is my reality, and this is where I am from. In this moment I can choose whoever I want to be. I can choose whatever I want to believe in. And none of the things that I learned or experienced or realized would matter much if I decide them not to. And this is the power and beauty of this moment. I can decide to let the past determine where I am from, or I can choose that this is Day 1 of my life. And I choose the latter.