Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Living Abroad

Living in a foreign country alone, away from your near and dear ones does that to you. However much you try to mix in, you remain an outsider. The strange language becomes a barrier, the different religion becomes a barrier, and yes, your own insecurities become a barrier too.

I crave the familiarity of my own people. The constant chatter that surrounded me, be it at home, or at the markets while shopping. I would visit the local store for bread, milk, butter etc and would be greeted with “ Kesi ho beti ? Ghar pe sab kese hain ?”.

The shop owners would not only know my dad, but my grandpa too. Mine was a small town. Everyone knew everyone it seemed. Loud music blared from the radios. The bhaaji-walas  shouting out loudly selling their vegetables from hand carts. Women bargaining and arguing, all in good spirit. These were comforting sounds. I would feel at home. I would feel safe and loved.

There are no small shops here, nor are there vendors pushing hand carts. People here go to big centrally cooled malls to buy even the smallest of things. Rows upon rows of goods displayed on shelves. A different shelf for different item. You do not have to ask anyone where something would be, there are sign posts telling you what lies in which section. People here do not interact asking you how you are. They stroll about in a hushed silence with glazed hypnotized expressions, eyes fixed on the goods. The people at the payment counters go about their work mechanically; their eyes blank, resembling robots. Once I had overheard a couple talking softly in Hindi while they crossed me and my instant reaction had been to run after them, to say “I’m Indian too. Did you not see me? Do you too long for India? Do you too have a family back home that you miss terribly? Do you also tell your family that you are “fine” and cry softly to yourself when no one is looking?” Yet I had simply stood glued to my spot staring at them until they turned a corner and disappeared from my sight.

It sometimes amazes me when relatives back home tell me in envious tones what a lucky person I am to be staying abroad. Lucky? Is that how they define loneliness these days?

My highlight of the day is the return of my husband from his work place. His “kya kiya saara din? Phone aaya koi India se?” and his chatter about his colleagues, his work. His welcome voice finally making cracks in the silence that surrounds me. The familiarity of my language greets me, lifting the fog of loneliness that surrounds me in his absence. His complementing me on the food reassures me. The smell of the Indian spices and desi ghee and curry envelope me lovingly, transporting me back in time to Ma’s kitchen and her incessant fussing over me. I finally feel at home, until the next day, when the silence descends on me once again.