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Home At Last

Home  At  Last
I am supposed to be going home,' thought Aparna to herself. 'But why do I feel that I have left home behind?' She and her parents had visited India after twelve years. It was Aparna's first trip to the country of her origin. Financial constraints and visa problems had prevented her parents from visiting the country of their birth for so long. Finally, they had planned the trip and now they were on their way back.

Home  At  Last

Renuka     Vishwanathan

 

'I   am   supposed  to   be  going  home,'  thought  Aparna  to herself.  'But why  do  I  feel  that  I  have  left  home  behind?' She  and  her parents had visited  India  after twelve years. It   was   Aparna's   first   trip   to   the   country   of  her   origin. Financial  constraints  and visa problems  had  prevented  her parents  from  visiting  the  country  of their  birth  for  so  long. Finally,  they  had  planned  the  trip  and  now  they  were  on

their  way  back. 

Aparna   gazed   out   of   the   window   into   the   blue   sky stretching endlessly in front of her.  Home to  her had  always been   the   city   near   Dallas,   in   America,   where   she   had been  born.  As  a  child,   she  had  felt  no  different  from  the other fair-skinned,  blue-eyed  children.  Only when  she had

entered  school  did  she  realize  that  she  was  not  one  of the majority.  And  as her horizons widened,  she  had  found  out that   she   lived   differently   from   the   rest   of  people   who occupied  her  small  world.

"I   want   sausages   and   eggs   for   breakfast  like   Susan," she  would  ask  of her  mother.

Her   mother   would   patiently   explain   to   Aparna   that they  were  pure  vegetarians  and  they  did  not  eat  meat. "Maybe  when  you  are  older  and  are  able  to  make  your own  decisions you may decide to become  a non-vegetarian," her  mother  had  added  gently.

Rice   and   other  Indian  food  were  her  diet  which  upset her  and  she  longed  to  eat  the  food  her  friends  ate.  They openly  did  not  make  fun  of her,  but  she  knew  that  behind her   back   they   laughed   at  her.   The   suspense   when   she opened  her  lunch  box  embarrassed  her!   She  would  stare mortified  at  the  'idlis'  or  the  'upma',  sometimes  even  rice. She  would  long  to  see  sandwiches  like  her  school  friends brought!   Daily   battles   with   her   mother   did   ensure   that she  got  sandwiches,  but  only  once  in  a  while!

Her  accent  was  faultless  and  American,   but  she  knew she was  different!  Her  colour was  different;  her  name was different,   and  difficult  to  pronounce  too!   And  when   she filled  in  forms  etc.,  she  qualified  under  'Others'.  Why was she not just one of the crowd? She began to dislike anything related   to   her   origin   that   made   her   different.   She   was ashamed  that  she  was  not  an  American!   She  refused  to speak   her   mother   tongue   at   home   and   always   created a  fuss  when  asked  to join  in  Indian  cultural  activities  and festivals  her  parents  took  her  to.  They  all  made  her  stand apart,  and  she  did  not  quite  like  it!   She  really  wanted  to belong here!  After  all,  she  knew no  place  else but this,  and this  was  her  home!

Aparna was  ashamed  of her parents!  They  spoke  English in  such  a  different way.  Even  after living  in  America for  so many  years,   her  father  had  an  Indian  twang  that  never went!  Her  mother  always  wore  saris  and  a  nose  ring!

"Why can't you wear jeans?"  she had asked of her mother. "Mohan's mother wears jeans,  and her hair is  cut  stylishly! You  don't  fit  in  with  your  long  plait  and  bindi!"

Her  mother  had   smiled  gently  at  her.   "It  is  difficult  to change   if  you   don't  want  to,"   she   had   said   softly.   "It  is always  so  easy  to  give  up  your  individuality  and  become a part  of the  crowd.  To  dress  like  they  do,  and  talk  and  act like  they  do!  But  we  are  Indians  and  I  was  brought  up  in a  certain  way  and  it  is  difficult  to  give  it  up.   Neither  do I  want  to!  Just  because  we  live  here,  it  does  not  mean  we have to become like Americans!  Like you have been brought up  as per American life  style,  so you are different from us." 

Aparna   was   mortified   when   her   mother   attended   the Parent-Teacher meetings  or when her father participated  in the workshops with her.  They both just stood out!  They were not like  the  other parents who  belonged!  She was  ashamed of  her  feelings  about  her  parents.

She  was  proud  of them  in  her  own  way.  Her  father  had come  to  America to  study  and  by  sheer  brilliance  and  dint of  hard  work  had  landed  a job.   He  had  sent  money  back home  to  help  his  family,  not  allowing himself the  luxury  of visits.  He  had  gone  only once to  marry,  and  after  that they had   scrimped   and   saved   to   provide  for   their  only   child, Aparna.  They  gave  her  all  the  luxuries  they  never  had! The  trip  to  India  had  materialized  after  a  long  time  and Aparna had been mortified as well as excited.  She had been hugged   and   kissed   and   exclaimed   over.   But   what   had amazed her was that she felt that everything was  so familiar! She  was  not  very  fluent  in  her  mother  tongue  but  could understand   it   well.   All   the   same,   the   way   her   parents jabbered  in,  it  amazed  her!

Aparna had  been  surprised  to  learn  that her father  could speak  five  other  Indian  languages  and  her  mother  three. 'I  never  knew  there  were  so  many  Indian  languages  and that  Mummy  and  Daddy  knew  so  many!'  she  thought. And   her   mother   had   never   looked   more   beautiful   to Aparna  as  she  dressed up  in  exotic  silk  saris,  with  flowers in  her  hair,  her  diamond  earrings  and  nose  ring  shining. 

Her  father's  laughter  and  loud  voice  boomed  at  home  in these  surroundings!  He  was  in  his  element  here  and  how much her uncles and cousins looked up to him.  They almost revered  him,  she  thought!

The  trip  had been  an  eye-opener.  She  saw her  parents  in a  new  and  different  light.  This  was  where  they  belonged. 

This  was  their  home!  Here  they were  in  their  environment and  they  shone  like  bright  stars!  They were  'at home' here! And  then,  she  understood  how  difficult  it  must  have  been for  them  to  adjust  and  settle  down  in  America.  Especially when they were so different and had a different culture and different set of values.  Yet,  they had never stopped her from doing what  she  wanted  to  and  had  never  forced  her  to  feel that  she was  different!  They had never tried to  force her to do  what  she  did  not  want  to,  and  though  they  must  have been hurt at her  attitude  and rebellion  to  anything Indian, yet they had  never taken  it  out  on  her.

Aparna  grew up  suddenly,  during  her  visit  to  India,  and matured  beyond  her years.   She  was  proud  of her  parents and  realized  that  she  had  been  unfair  to   compare  them with  the  parents  of  her  American  friends  or  even  of  other Indian  children.  She  was  ashamed  of the  feelings  she  had harboured  for  so  long!

Her  mother  leant  over   and   smiled   at  her.   "Glad   to   be going  home?  Missed  America,  didn't you?"  she  teased.

Aparna  smiled  at  her  in  reply.  She  was  determined  that she would  also  be as  Indian as her parents.  And  she would learn to  read  and write her mother tongue  and  actively take part   in   all   the   Indian   cultural   activities   which   she   had shunned for  so long!  It should not be too  difficult to fit into two  cultures!  Had  her  parents  not  done  so?  And  satisfied she  settled  down  for  a  snooze.

 

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