Growing up, I never had the opportunity to stay in one place too long. My parents kept moving, and I along with them. As occupations and incomes shifted, so did my parents and I, so did my neighbourhoods, so did my friends, my schools, and more importantly, my ideas and beliefs. This constant flux I dwelled in seems to have inculcated me in a stance I to this day struggle to deal with and accept as fundamental of my fibre. I have been obscured of my right to belong to something, or belong somewhere. Im not from here, nor am I from there. Im just a label-less blob floating around aimlessly attaching itself to any entity that “seems” right, or feels good. While some would find this personal agnosticism quite rewarding, in that it liberates one from the shackles of any social construct, I sometimes struggle. I can’t deny that I enjoy having an outsider’s perspective to most events in my timeline, but it does irk me often that I strain to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of oneness with a community, an entity that I could be proud of and consequently embellish. In a world of binaries, I seem to exist within the frontiers of political, cultural and moral greys, unable to align to any one particular battalion. Certain events over the past decade have done their best to usurp me from this undivided state, but inevitably have failed in their attempts to pull me to either side. This isn’t their fault, I’m pretty sure its mine. Hardly have I ever felt the need to rise to the occasion and determine my position over a movement, and the few occasions I have I did very little. You could call this lethargy, but I see it more as a deeply rooted failure of my sympathies. Am I selfish?
I had the privilege of living in a household that didn’t fork down any beliefs down my windpipe for me to asphyxiate on. I was made aware of the mythos, yes. I was told it was wrong to hit people, it was wrong to throw money, it was wrong to touch books with your feet. God, the convenient babysitter at your every beck and call was almost invariably stated as the reason. But this was never forced unto me, I readily accepted it as any child with its flexible, corrigible, spongy mind would. I never had a best-friend, a person who you could trust almost entirely, my rapidly changing neighbourhoods saw to that. Schools abroad only served as arenas to verify my person as an outsider. I was often bullied, mentally, verbally, physically, simply for being “not from here”. In Riyadh I was an outsider, in Nottingham I was an outsider, in Chicago I was an outsider, and to this day funnily enough, I still feel like an outsider, despite this being my hometown, whatever that means. I still remember being threatened for my religion, mocked for the colour of my skin, amongst several other taunts they could come up with.
In high-school, circles were often linguistically divided: the Tamil-speaking “machans”, and the Hindi-speaking “bhaais”. I never fit in with either, as both languages were never a part of my skill-set. Sure I had a basic Tamil vocabulary which would suffice to get me by, but this apparently wasn’t enough to validate myself as a Tamilian, as a Tamil-speaker, as “worthy” of my membership into this Tamil circle. My Hindi was non-existent, so that ensured I never was a part of that community either. That is not to say I was discriminated against or unwelcome, no. But I could sense the difference of membership I seemed to possess as compared to my colleagues. My tongue had a Level 1 access pass to most circles, while others seemed to have a Level 5 to the delightful top floor of one. This did not upset me in most days, but it was mighty lonely. I found refuge in the thoughts and dreams of a few others who in some way were able to understand my predicament, and for the majority of my childhood, this seemed to be enough.
College presented a new opportunity to mingle, and fortunately, my years of struggle was rewarded with a set of friends who I could never ever replace, friends who unknowingly understood what it meant to be not from anywhere, brothers and sisters who shared my experiences of cultural-temporariness. Indulging in the Liberal Arts seemed to have offered me the chance to explore my struggles and further my questions over my identity and my being.
Five years later, here I am, outside of that circle of refuge, back to where I was. An outsider with little to do with his surroundings and even littler with his people. A citizen of an unresolved, mercurial, imaginary suburbia. Its nice sometimes, to wake up and feel unconstrained by any subscribed tag or label that would demand a certain pattern of behaviours and beliefs of you, there’s freedom in it. Nevertheless, it would be comforting to feel a sense of heritage or tradition, to know with every cell of your body that you belong somewhere. Do any of us actually ever feel that way? I wouldn’t know. Perhaps that is why I seem to struggle to escape the grasp of my parents and the household they have set up. In a world which offers me no membership, this was one environment of which I unquestionably felt a part of, a place where I undoubtedly belonged. And for that my dear parents, I can’t thank you enough.