HOME IS WHERE HEART IS!
I have often been asked, “Where are you from?”, and I feel completely lost. It makes me think where am I from? Why is it so difficult to answer that simple question? Or is it that the question seems simple but the answer is really complicated specially for someone like me, whose roots are all jumbled up and if they don’t run deep, they definitely run wide much wider to confuse the hell out of me. I am sure there might be more people than you would think in similar situation like mine.
I am originally Kutchi ( not Gujarati but Kutchi). For people who are not familiar with this word, I would like to tell them most of my ancestors hailed from a sub-division of Gujarat that is Kutch. This place is renowned for its desert; Rann of Kutch. ( now you see that page of the Geography text book which described the hot arid deserts of India flashed in your mind, didn’t it?) Besides that it’s renowned for a special embroidery on colorful traditional Gujarati clothing, also for the devastating earthquake, and the yummy Kutchi Dabeli ( a spicy bun sandwich stuffed with one of the yummiest potato fillings that you can find on the face of the earth) and for the Kutch festival, and for sweet Kutchis like me …lol! Though I have been to my ancestral village a few times, till I moved to Canada, Nasik was always my home!
We Kutchis are very similar to Gujaratis in terms of food, festival, culture, weddings etc. but we speak a different language , and no it’s not a dialect of Gujarati, it’s Kutchi! Our language had a script but it vanished over the years; a subject for good research! And we are definitely neither just a caste nor just one community. As other peoples in India we have our sub-castes, and communities!
The reason of mentioning and giving the details of ” Kutchi” identity is to give a glimpse of how my first struggle to explain my identity began at much younger age when I used to tell people I am a Kutchi and they would have the dumbest expression! So I ended up saying we are like Gujaratis. And that’s true because we Kutchis enjoy Gujarati music, literature, food, as much as any other Gujarati. The benefit of being a Kutchi is you can fluently speak at least two languages from your very childhood for sure!
Another integral part of my identity is the association with a Kannada heritage! What ?! I am sure now you are so confused that you are raising your eyebrows and rolling your eyes! My maternal grandfather, my nanaji was Kannada by birth, but was separated from his family at a very young age, brought up with Kutchi family, married a Kutchi girl and re-united to his Kannada family when my mom was about to be born, sounds like a Hindi film story! Eventually my nanaji and his two brothers ended up living in Nasik all their lives. So whenever I communicated with this extended maternal family we ended up speaking Marathi because that was the best common language everyone could speak and understand. So then there were these questions; how come you speak Marathi with your uncles, and cousins and aunts whereas they all speak Kannada, and eat yummy smelling south Indian food , (Pujas and festivities were the times we used to hang together!) I had the best of all these ethnic worlds, Kutchi , Kannada and Marathi relatives, garba and Gudhi Padwa and grand Dusshera! Dhoklas, puran polis and chutney pood!
Then eventually I got married! An arranged marriage between the boy with mixed Gujarati and Jewish heritage and the girl with mixed Kutchi and Kannada heritage! Unbelievable! How can an arranged marriage in India involve four different heritages and two different religions! But my friends it was arranged by God/Destiny/Fate…LOL! No one could deny it. Even till date , almost 10 years after marriage I myself end up feeling intrigued by our extremely different backgrounds! It’s very natural and justifiable for people to ask, ‘ How come such an arranged marriage?’
Before I got married my home was in Nasik, India. But after marriage I migrated to Toronto, Canada, the city I fell in love with at the first sight and I still love that place! While doing my course people used to mention to their country of origin as ” back home”. I never felt that way. For me Toronto had become my home, I loved the city so much that despite it being extremely different from the city I grew up in, I associated it with the concept of ‘home’. I always felt nostalgic at the mention of Nasik, I missed the friends and family, the streets,the hills and mountains, the awesome weather, the seasons and their feel and fragrances! But in my heart Toronto had become my home. The city which gave true meaning to my marriage, gave me my first born, my first career in the West, my first snowfall experience, my first tulips and daffodils, and maples and food festivals and my first waterfront home, and first boardwalks,first friends of different colours and races and much much more!
Later we had to move to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. That city gave me many of my seconds, my second child, second home, second chances at life! It gave me the much sought for freedom of driving , icy roads, loads of snow, second set of amazing neighbours!
Now here I am , in Dallas, Texas, surrounded most of the time by IT Indian families! But wait a minute how many of them are technically Indian? When the people here ask me where am I from, I don’t know what to say. Am I from Ottawa, Toronto, or Nasik? WHERE DO I BELONG ? They ask me , ” Where in India are you from? ” I say a Kutchi from Nasik, then again I have to explain the concept of Kutchi. Am I Indian, no not on paper, now I am a Canadian! Really how much percentage of me is Canadian? I still eat and cook Indian food, enjoy Indian movies, all my friends are Indians ( originally) But still I am Canadian, coz I love Canada as much as I love India, and I am in America! LOl and I like it here too!
Due to some arrangement I speak Hindi in my family now, with my kids and husband! So now is Kutchi my first language? Yes it is still when I am communicating with my siblings, and mom and other family in India. But then what is my kids’ first language?Of course so far it’s Hindi! When I speak Marathi, people think I am a Maharashtrian. That I am coz I hail from there! My ancestors hail from Kutch and Karnataka, not me, so I am basically technically a Maharashtrian, right?
Oh My God this is so nice ! I am a Kutchi speaking person from Maharashtra, originally Indian, but a Canadian national who speaks Hindi with her kids and lives in America! This is awesome! I don’t feel this is identity crisis, in fact this is multi -faceted identity!
So I am a universal citizen! Vasudeva Kutumbakam! And the whole world can be my home if in my heart I can feel at home, IF I feel BELONGINGNESS anywhere in this world! The different cultures can be mine! Different languages define me!