Soon, I will have lived for 28 years in the United States where I received my graduate and culinary education, have had all my employment, and now enjoy a life filled with physical and intellectual fulfillment. When asked about the next time I will visit India, the first words out of my mouth are typically "I'll go home...", but then I feel the pressure to refrain from using the word "home," lest I be taken for yet another immigrant who is sucking the life out of this country without feeling at home enough to call it home. Well, the fact of the matter is, I and millions of first generation immigrants like me all over the world, have two homes. I am blissfully at home in DeLand, Florida where for the past 15 years (easily longer than any other place I've been in the United States), I have taught, cooked, loved, been loved, and everything in between.
"Which (country) do you like more?" is an ill-defined, yet frequently posed question. I live in Florida, a state well known for its transient, transplanted, and even dual-residing (snow birds) population. At the end of the day and all through the day, I go home. Not to a house in a neighborhood, but home. A place where I spend immensely precious time with my loving wife and our endearing pets (children). Residing in the United States has given me opportunities I never thought could be possible. In many ways, I am living the American dream and in return, I give my places of work and play everything I have. I rarely get tangled up in political discussions because I find them to be divisive and fruitless. I would much rather spend my time practicing my crafts and passions to the best of my abilities. For all her contradictions, the United States is my home because I live well in a community I love, which in turn loves me back. I cannot imagine not aspiring to be all I can be here because not seizing the daily opportunities for emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth would be as un-American as anything else I can imagine.
Almost every year, my wife and I pay a visit to India, my other home. I can smell my childhood and formative teen years even before the doors of our landed plane open for disembarking. The controlled chaos which ensues is as thrilling as it is comforting. And then, there is my Indian family. Touching my mother's feet or embracing her gently upon arrival will never go out of fashion for me. I did so when I first left on August 12, 1987 and I do so every time we meet. My values, sense of family, pride in place, thirst for knowledge, and general awareness are direct consequences of being raised in India and my regular visits home. India is probably the most contradiction-filled nation in the world. It is a country which is as diverse as any and with a history that parallels almost any other. At its core, India is also reticent to change for reasons which both ground it as well as stifle it. But I don't think I could have realized my version of the American dream without having been born and raised in India.
So, I will continue to enjoy two homes and as long as I am able to travel freely between them and I will remain status quo when it comes to my citizenship. I am in the minority for this luxury. This should not trouble the staunch patriots in either country. Even in the unlikely circumstance of direct conflict between the two, I am perfectly capable of being neutral, yet principled. After all, taking sides without principles would be blind faith. And although my eyesight is not what it used to be, I am faithful to and appreciate of all that is good (in my eyes of course) about my two homes.
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