Nimbupani has an interesting post on “are they us“?, which is still having some active and lively discussions.
Very many years ago, I used to have a very simplistic exclusive view to what Indian means. “If you live in India, you are an Indian”. period.
One fine day, I had to fill in an application form for a scholarship in Singapore, in which the race column had four choices – Chinese /Malay /Indian/Others. Suddenly, Indian was not a nationality, but a race. That was a new concept to me. And my idea of Indian expanded a bit. As I left India, I still wanted myself to be included as Indian. But I didn’t want to include any Singaporean Indians. So I changed my definition to “If you hold an Indian passport, you are an Indian”.
Years went by. I had lived in Singapore for sometime. Things change. Habits change. Mannerisms change. And this FOB Indian seemed to be in a quandary between Fresher-Of-the-Boat Indians and the Singaporean Indian world. Taxi drivers started complaining to me about how they don’t understand the accent of Indians who come from India – they inferred from my fake Singlish that I was born and brought up there. My old definition still protected me, but I was beginning to empathise a bit with the other side too. So I generously expanded my definition to “If you hold an Indian passport OR If you are an Indian by race and I like you, you are an Indian” (ya, I still couldn’t include everyone and that was my loophole).
More years went by. I attended a job interview in which the interviewer asked me out of the blue whether I would be willing to give up my Indian citizenship. The process for visa for Indians (PS. this is not for Germany) was very tedious and he said it would be easier if I changed my citizenship. I don’t know why, but I said a firm indignant No. (Before we start any employer bashing, I did get the job offer regardless of my less-than-perfect answer, but refused it partly because of the long winded visa process and my unwillingness to wait.) Nevertheless, the incident made me ponder what I would have done if really a great job offer depended on my willingness to forsake my citizenship. The truth is, if it isn’t such a sudden unexpected question and if all other factors are excellent, I may not say No a second time. After all, what is in a passport? Its who you are that counts. And to protect myself from any such possibilities in the future, I arrived at my current definition for Indian, “I think I am an Indian, therefore I am an Indian”.
The concept of Indian is fluid and its precisely in its fluidity that it finds its beauty. We all have different definitions for what it means to be an Indian. In my life so far, I have already gone through four. Who knows how many more there are to come. I don’t think a billion people would ever come to a consensus on what it means to be an Indian. Nevertheless, the topic will still be one close to our hearts.
I would love to write about it more, but just don’t have the time now. So for now, I will just leave you with two links.
Scoot over to Divya’s and she (and the commenters there) have some great arguments.
The second one is on the flip side of this coin. Even as we struggle to be included as Indians, we have to fit in into the environs that we live in. Here is one of my old posts on how far I will go in adjusting to a new place.
Gotta go. More later.