Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Chronicle of One Family's Decision to Return to India

Writer and journalist Shoba Narayan painstakingly chronicles her family's decision to return to India. The words jump off the page as she describes her longing, confusion, determination and excitement.

It was after I had a child that I first entertained the previously heretical possibility that, perhaps, America wasn’t home for me. I was tired, sleep deprived and encumbered, and the “land of the free” no longer seemed so to me. I was saddled with a toddler and missed parents, relatives and other potential babysitters. I missed the respite that came from dropping off a child with a trusted aunt for a few hours.

India’s social fabric seemed more conducive to raising a family. There, I could call a neighbor, any neighbor, at a moment’s notice and ask her to watch my child while I ran out for some milk. I missed the septuagenarian grandfathers who patrolled my neighborhood and reported back all naughtiness and babysitter negligence. I had hated their interfering as a child; now, as a mother, I viewed them as allies. I missed the whole village of people who had raised me, who would help me raise my child.

The whole thing is here (via SAJA).

Updated to add links to previous posts on this topic:

Where is Home?

What Makes a Community?

Parenting from an Immigrant Perspective

Identity - The Quest for Comfort Within our Skins

Bangalore: The Insider/Outsider Debate


Savani said...

I read this when you sent it out by email... I have thoughts on it.. will do a post on it..

Anonymous said...

Great link Sujatha. So many of her thoughts are mine .... Thank you.

Terri the terrific said...

Sujatha, that piece could very well have been written by you. You both have a similar style and a way with words.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mailing it to me by the way. Am always interested in reflections on this subject as you know...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mailing it to me Sujatha - the line I relate to most is the one about how we are comfortable in both cultures and therefore the decsion to stay at either place becomes easy and difficult at the same time.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to be a dissident voice here but the voice of the woman in the article was really annoying.

And worse, she has an attitude that really gets my goat. I know that other people do end up being scenery for all of us sometimes but I've always found this idea of someone recognizing how lucky they are by observing someone else's misery very disturbing.

The conclusion of the article where she wants her daughter to feel grateful about what she has by pointing out those who have nothing to eat, and through the already dead-end life of another five year old child churned my stomach. She (and her child I suppose) get to feel boutiful by handing old clothes and toys to this child but she really only *exists* for that purpose in her world.

I kind of get her reasons to go back and feel the same urge myself sometimes. However, her writing style and some of her hedging-her-bets reasons, and general tone of disloyalty (to both countries I felt but not in the jingoistic jhanda ooncha rahe hamara kind of way) really put me off and I didn't even want to look for points of similarity between us.

Thanks for posting this link on here, Sujatha.

What I like about your expat posts is the balance and the absence of total self-absorption that this woman exhibits. Okay, I've already had too many cups of cofffee this morning...but something about the tone of this woman really set me off.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Dotmom, am really looking forward to reading it. Knowing your writing, it'll be thoughtful.

Shobha, MG, enfoured, you're welcome.

Terri, thanks. I liked her writing too - I thought it was honest.

Jawahara, in addition to the things I said about this article - that the words jump off the page as she chronicles her desparation, excitement, etc., etc., - I too felt that, from the vantage point of someone with the wherewithal to make this kind of a move (financial, careerwise, etc.), she dissed both countries in one fell swoop. There's Britney Spears in the US but there are undesirable role models in India as well; you can die of medical malpractice in India, but that is entirely a possibility and a frequent occurrence in the US too, and so on.

There are 300 million people trying to live a life in the US and one billion people trying to do the same in India, most without the luxury of the choice of where to live that a small subset of that population has.

I had sent this article to a few people I know who were thinking or writing about the immigrant experience and about going back and I had said then that whether to move back or to stay is a gut decision and you can try a million ways to explain or justify it, but it's no use - the reasons don't matter. It's too personal.

That being said, I appreciated her honesty as she worked through her personal demons. It's not for everyone, but it is her story and she said it the best way she could.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a detailed comment. It resonated with me.