I feel that 13 years of living in Singapore has ironically made me as Indian as possible. I visit India twice a year, go to an Indian school, have mostly Indian friends, learn Carnatic vocal and Bharathnatyam, have rotis every day, learn Hindi as my second language and watch Asianet, Star and Sun TV, can make the tastiest palak paneer, read the news via the NDTV app, and above all, relish scrumptious curd rice, palgoa and jangeri. These aspects have been constants. The world may perceive us, Indians living abroad to have been somewhat mutated by the melange of bustle and opportunity that our hosts have offered us all these years, however this isn’t the case. Atleast for me. Consequently, my bi- annual Indian experience has only ensnared me sevenfold each time!
I have been to some of the major cities here and have even been on a 400 km road trip. But there isn’t much of a contrast between each city. Sitting in the car, any 15 year old would probably crib and complain owing to boredom during those long hours caught among the multitudes of cars in the narrow two-way streets, throngs of pedestrians and vehicle exhausts. But I haven’t. I bask in every sight, frequency and essence my senses can experience and decipher. Contemplation and speculation are a constant thrum, as there is just so much to fathom by a simple act of looking out the window and onto streets. Be it a small side road or Pondy Bazaar in Chennai, or the regal motifs of the buildings in Colaba Causeway, Mumbai. I remember looking for a toilet once in Chennai with my father six years back, and the realisation regarding the aura of the streets, dawning over me. I was ecstatic, a walk turned out to be an adventure.
Additionally, another rather remarkable moment was when my mother had made rajma, at my grandmother’s house. I had never been a great admirer for the taste but when I had a spoonful of it with the rice, the flavours just amalgamated and it was absolutely delicious! The same goes for any dish, really. Even a simple beetroot, cabbage dish or sabji, just tastes so much better in India. The fruits and vegetables just somehow magically enhance the flavours and add to the richness of any savoury or dish. Using the same ingredients the same dish would be nowhere as tender or fragrant when had in Singapore, even though all the spices we use are imported from India. You have to be physically there to bask in every moment.
Another rather striking occurrence on my trips have been the beaches. Many may say that the beach is unkempt, littered with ramshackle housing and boats. They perpetually complain about the fetid smells. On the contrary, I strongly disagree. My sense organs no matter how flawed, have never agreed with any of these remarks. All coastal regions have natural beaches. I am not at all sardonic when I say that it is a boon because it is not well maintained. That is what makes it realistic and unique in its own way and I would never want that to change. Maybe I feel that way because there are no natural beaches here in Singapore. The salty tang, the shingly waves gushing and swerving at my feet, is something I have always adored. The train stations of India and the beaches have one factor in common. In both places, you witness the varying degrees in which the affluent, the middle class and destitute use the same amenities. In my opinion, everyone has grown accustomed to sharing the same resources, even if there are limitations and that for some reason, has always taken me by surprise.
India is vast and diverse. The jostle of activity is what will keep the nation cherished and immortal. I am proud of this. I was born here and left with my parents only at the age of two. Yet, even after spending all these years abroad, I still remember my roots and cherish it and nothing else in this world can alleviate the wonder I feel for my home and of course, the rest of my amazing family!
So ensure you look both ways before you cross the road, order the spiciest dishes on the menu, speak in your native tongue especially when you want to criticise anything publically, never let go of the great Indian accent, nag your children, accept only 100% marks, continue to vote during every election, make Indian friends and never let go, no matter which part of the world you end up in the near future!