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Coming & Going

Rajini on coming home:

'There is a sense among all of us displaced Indians, if you can call us that, that this is the best place for us to be in the world. The fact we have cultural ties adds to the idea that we can be more productive, and make more of a difference here.

Coming to live here is in some way attending to unfinished business. You can meet a person a few times, speak to them on the phone, or online, but only when you live with them do you really know them. My flirtation with India is now real. I'm about to make this place my home for the next few years. My dad left India in May 1966 and landed at Heathrow as a bright-eyed student. My mother followed a decade later. They both live in the UK, are integral members of the local community, and have raised three successful daughters.

Forty-five years on, and I'm doing the reverse. I share the same fears as my father did as he stepped off the plane with only £75 in his pocket, but just as he found new success and a home in England, I hope to in India.'

Sumedh on going away:

'Why do I feel better in the U.S.? Maybe it’s not because I’m at home here, but because I’m an alien. Perhaps three thousand years of history have made us Indians a little too familiar with one another for our own good. We’ve perfected Malcolm Gladwell’s “blink” — the reflexive, addictive and tragically accurate placement of other Indians into bullock carts, scooters, airplanes and who knows what else. These issues exist in all countries, but in India, I could see the bigotry in high fidelity and hear the stereotypes in surround-sound — partly because it is worse in India, mostly because I am Indian.

India’s wealth and lifestyle disparity is still impossibly great; I probably spent more on pizza than on my maid. She knew this too, because she was often the one who handed the pizza delivery guy his money. Everyone in India has to deal with this, but I coped in the worst possible way: by dehumanizing her and other people like her, ever so slightly, ever so subtly — chronic amoebiasis of the soul.

Though my return to India failed, I came back feeling more optimistic than ever about India’s long-term success. India is regaining her leadership position — the position she held ever since humans were civilized, a position she lost only because of a few uncivilized humans (at least give us back our Koh-i-noor!). I know India will rule the future. It’s just that I’ve realized — I’ve resigned myself to the fact — that I won’t be a part of that future.

I’m glad I went back to India, and I’m glad to be back in the U.S. Life has come full circle but the center has shifted. I didn’t go to India to find home, but I did find it; I now know where I belong. As Laozi might have said, sometimes the journey of a single step starts with a thousand miles in the opposite direction.'

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