In this world where cord-cutting is in vogue, I finally embraced it to cut the cord which had tied me up with India despite emigrating almost a decade back. Like for real.
It was unexpected, undesired and definitely unplanned but when it happened, it happened in a snap. Mentally, physically and more important, emotionally.
Before my Indian friends lose interest or call me anti-national as it is popular to call people at the drop of a hat in neo-India, let me explain. I am not alone and this perhaps happens to a lot of us who immigrate to distant lands. Some experience this cord-cutting the moment they leave Indian shores, some years or decades later and some never in their life-time. I can take you through my journey and how this happened to me?
After living the most part of last two years in India and being back in Canada for a few months, I was again returning back to India this coming week. I had a confirmed air-ticket and a flight itinerary all drawn to ensure another long stay in India. And then that moment came. I froze. I knew that I could not go back. Not this time. And definitely not permanently ever. India just blotted out of my future plans. Forever.
It happened on an emotional front as well as a parting of minds. In this article I would discuss the former as it would be prudent to not mix up both the issues together.
As an emigrant who left Indian shores decades back but returned back to India on many occasions to resettle, my journey has not been straight forward but has taken me through an emotive roller-coaster. More so because I started these travails only from my mid-thirties after experiencing a good standard of life in India and had strong ties with India. Over the past few decades, despite my living for long periods in different countries in Asia and North America or embracing the citizenship of Canada, which incidentally is more of a citizenship of convenience for many immigrants, I always felt deep inside as an Indian and dreamt of settling down in India. Now, a few years later or in my golden years.
Today that dream is dead. Not broken or shattered. But done with. Why?
First for emigrants like me, emotive issues come to play. In the land that we have immigrated to, live our families- spouse, children, pets and sometimes other members or new friends. The bonds are stronger here and the comfort zones well defined. Even if we want to leave and go back, we know that our family may not follow. Will not follow. Our children have their future here and will blossom here than in India which is distant and unknown. Their bonds if any, with India are only cultural, or linked to language, food, religion or at most music, cinema and occasional Indian dresses and dots.
Besides even for one’s own self, the bonds start to become weaker back home. The strongest bonds remain with parents and as they reach the end of their life’s journey or decide to live in their own comfort zones back home rather than joining you here, you start approaching an emotional cul-de-sac.
Brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, all become memories which you glide through like an old picture book once in a while. More as a part of the What’s app group or similar to virtual friends on social media. The ones who are most likely to like your selfies and videos! Personal yet distant. As images that may be there with you yet rarely touch your heart any more. Their lives, their paradigms, views, day-to-day struggles even values are different. Sometimes more different than a fellow White or Black co-worker with whom you may be able to relate better.
For me the process started with the loss of my father this year. A person whose presence was more metaphysical than real for me, especially in the last decade. A person to whom in my living memory, I had never, ever expressed my love in words. A person with whom I always thought that I had more dissimilarities than I could imagine. Yet, his death was a heart breaker. I never knew that I loved him or that would miss him so much. I also realized that I was more like him and wanted to be, than I could imagine. He was gone and I felt that a part of me was broken. On few occasions when I revisited our India home and went back to his room where he had spent the last few months staring the four walls or where his smiling picture still looks back at us, I felt deep pain and a surprising loneliness touched my soul. Perhaps happy memories of people gone far away also brings pain. This was the start of the first major disconnect from India.
Yes, my only serious personal connect with India now is how to make a ‘Queen Kangana’ out of my mother and make her travel the world, leave her cocoon before it sucks her in and do my little bit in making her enjoy the golden years of her life. Other than that, India seems to be more for visiting relatives once in a while, making merry with them till late in the night or feeling satisfied to see them living happy lives of their own choice.
More importantly last week, before cancelling my ticket to India I realized that even the tenure of my own life is limited. Would I like to spend it alone living in India while my children and spouse live continents away or would I like to be able to spend more time with them, laugh with them and be there with them at all times of sorrow and happiness. Are life’s ambitions more important than love?
In the broken families of today, there is a different kind of distance developing. This time it is not just the children but parents too who are creating it. Parents who prefer to live alone and far away as they feel that their own identity and lives are more important for them and compromising that to join their children or be known as their children’s parents would diminish their own id. And so they decide to remain in their own nests. Even though they may never see their children in that horizon. It only takes a few flaps to fly to their own other nest in distant land but many a times, the thought of not being able to adjust in a new lifestyle makes them keep their wings and hearts closed. It is the new ‘in’ thing and while it is easy to blame the children for not having time, parents too are equally responsible. After all in today’ world, children should not be expected to make career compromises and be there with parents in their old age.
And that is when I realized what was more important to me. Love was more important. Being close to my children in my old age was more important. It may sound retrograde but if my ego and self respect came in between, then they were to be sacrificed than the joy of being close to children and their families.
I realized that now and in future, I would rather cling hard to the fingers of my children than take the help of any stick. I would rather be small and be in background while the limelight falls on my children than be in the foreground and alone. I would rather live in the cold of Canada with the warmth of loving family than live in the heat of India with the coldness of lonely nights.
Yes, family pulls the immigrant and their soul gets strongly entangles in this cord.
As for India, the cord-cutting becomes formal and yet the Wi-Fi may remain strong. We are connected through that signal for this life time and whether it is continuous streaming through phones or social media or downloads or uploads in terms of visits and discussions, that bond would remain. We would be distant and different and yet be there for each other in times of need.
India while one more son breaks away finally, he would love you and will carry fond memories.
Dasvidaniya. Not Good bye. ‘Phir Milenge!’
Posted in Times of India on 13th November 2017. Link below-