Sunday, August 15, 2004

Home away from home

Recently on my way back from India, I had a strange experience. In India any white person would draw a lot of attention. But when I changed flights at Munich to come to the US, I realized that I was the only Indian left on the flight. Suddenly I was in the minority and the one being stared at. I felt as if my every action was being observed; it was quite discomfiting. The fact that I had just left home became all too apparent.

I have lived in the US for quite a few years now, but I do not remember having felt that way before, and on landing in SFO I realized why. At the airport there were as many Asians/Indians as white and nobody gave me a second glance. I felt as if I was at home at again. San Francisco/Bay Area has now become a second home for me. In fact maybe more than Delhi is now, this is where my job, my friends, my life is. I am completely independent and am familiar with how things work here. It would be hard to move back and start over. But this debate goes on in my mind continuously. Back in Bay Area everything seemed mundane and all too familiar. The excitement level had gone down a couple of notches, so I went out seeking excitement – I went partying the very night I landed. I met almost all my friends, who welcomed me back warmly with hugs and I regaled them with exciting tales of my trip to India. I decided that I wanted to move to New York just because living in Bay Area seemed too comfortable. A friend of mine thinks it is scary that I find comfort boring.

The first time I saw TV after coming back, Aishwarya Rai came on TV in a commercial for Godrej Hair Color; for a minute I was completely disoriented as to where I was – India or US? My apartment complex is full of all desi couples, which makes me feel safe, but I seem to be the only single girl around. But that is something I’ve learnt to live with. In Bay Area the ratio of men to women is seriously skewed. One of the reasons could be the IT industry, which is largely dominated by men. Another reason could have something to do with SF being the gay capital of world (I seem to picking up on the American terminology according to which anything that’s the best in US automatically becomes the best the world. For example, such and such team is the best football team in the world; hmm… but no one else in the world plays American football???) .

Last night I went to a party where Turkish girls were belly-dancing to Indian bhangra, which I thought was quite amazing. I never heard any bhangra at the clubs I went out to in India. At the club there were Turkish, Indian, American, and Asian people amongst others, dancing together to world music. I was definitely not a minority; in fact no single ethnicity was in majority. At my previous work I was one of the only two Indians working in the company, but I had Asian, Canadian, Israeli, and Russian coworkers. Here I am completely comfortable and it feels like home away from home. But then maybe I don’t want to be “at home” at this stage in my life.

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