Friday, March 4, 2011

To be or not be!! (a citizen)

It was a surprise when a few days back, I got a call from the U.S. Navy about some job openings. I was so excited, given the fact that I had been job hunting for a long long time. At this point, I would have been thrilled to get a call from just anywhere, but a call from the U.S. Navy topped it all. And here, I would also like to mention my great fascination for the armed forces, which started with the Kargil war and has, to date, stuck with me. Now, given this background, I was simply ecstatic and had hardly any of my attention towards the content of the call. I had already imagined myself in the uniform, picturing myself on the receiving end for all the awe and respect. I was floating in this imaginary world of mine, when I was brought back to reality with a question about my citizenship. Obviously, someone serving the U.S Navy would be expected to be a U.S. citizen first, a simple fact that I had very foolishly overlooked, before entering my fantasy world!
So, I did not fit the bill, since I had an Indian citizenship, and down the drain went all my dreams. But, there was an alternative, and my spirits uplifted. The option was given to me for applying for an American citizenship. At that point, I somehow didn't feel very exhilarated. I did not understand why I wasn't happy when I still stood a chance. And it had got something to do with the avid trait of patriotism, inherited by me from my father. I don't think I was ready to give up my citizenship. Something held me back from spontaneously agreeing to take up a different citizenship. That is when I thought, did citizenship really matter that much??? What was it, but just a word on your passport???

After much thought, I realized that to some, it really could be just a piece of paper. But to me, it was my identity. How could I wipe off the last 25 years of my life? I was born an Indian, and was supposed to be one. I could not think of myself as anything else but Indian. Though, we are living here in America, we like it a lot here, we know what problems India has; all that doesn't change the fact that we love the traditions, the small joys associated with so many festivals and many other Indian stereotypes. We miss those a lot and we survive here, only because a visit back home revives all those pleasures and the memories from it keep us afloat. You know, there is a reason we call it "back home", because one feels most safe and at peace only in one's home. Whatever the luxuries of living abroad, nothing can replace the native spirit and mindset. Although, in America, you are welcomed with open arms, you still feel like an outsider, you feel that you don't belong here.

I fail to bring myself to imagine what it would be like to be called "American". And the more I think about it, I cannot comprehend why that would bother me so much. Gradually, I am realizing that it is not so much , the American part, but 'not being the Indian' part, that troubled me. I am visibly Indian, and yet how could I call myself American?

Now I know, how it must have been for some of my acquaintances who had to give up the Indian citizenship for the American one. I am not sure if they went through the same dilemma, but I assume it must have been difficult to accept the facts. How can you stop being one thing and then start being something else, just in a day? It is like, you wake up being a rabbit and go off to sleep being an elephant! The thought itself is amusing. But, it is happening everyday to lots of people all over the world. People are adopting all kinds of new citizenships, owing to globalization. And very soon, it might not even be a huge issue.

But, until then, it still makes me think; what would it really mean if I was to adopt a different citizenship? I would still look Indian; it is as if someone called me by a different name, but that wouldn't change who I am. Similarly, if I was to have a different citizenship, printed across my passport, that would not change my innate characters, my Indianess, my love for the weird little things in my country, my wonderful past, enjoying being an Indian. For now, that satisfies me, because I am not faced with such a situation. I do not know if I would still feel the same way, when I would be taking the oath and committing my allegiance to a country different than my motherland. As much as that thought scares me, I do not foresee that happening for sometime, and till then, my heart goes out to all my fellow Indians, who have to make this tough choice almost everyday.

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