Sunday, August 7, 2016

Living in the Land of In-Betweens

Today marks a year of being away from my family in India, having embarked on a fiercely turbulent and beautiful period in my life: full of learning, leaving and living. It's been a year since I moved to this country to pursue my higher education. I can safely say I've grown and learnt more outside school than within classrooms as a student or teaching one as an instructor.

Leaving the streets I grew up in full of mongrels that know me, extended family living a stone's throw away, best friends on the next street, wrestling with brothers, standing about predominantly male occupied spaces like that roadside tea shop where the Tea Master knows exactly how you take your tea but never feeling threatened by any of them, and never feeling lost: this has been a crazy ride albeit momentous. Cultural shocks were always in the little things for me: neighbours whose living room I've never seen, the people who walked away after 'How you doing?' as I was knee deep in replies and, the absence of street dogs and terraces. Not knowing anything was one of the best things that happened to me and I thoroughly enjoy cracking jokes inside my own head, the intricacies of my language playing in my head, and meeting new people.

Is it all sunshine? No. Living with my parents all this time was a choice I didn't question or think twice about. It was a natural state of affairs. Living like that, I never questioned what home meant. If someone from my own city asked me where my home was, I would give them the name of my neighbourhood. If I was in a different state in my country, I would say 'Tamilnadu'. There are so many layers and social constructs to this sense of home that I never introspected upon. All these variations of answers thus far to 'where is your home' were never unsettling and never did not feel right. They were all culturally and socially understood. Now, in the midst of these versions, I have zoomed out into thinking about those terms across mere geographical entities and into a question of who I am and into a deeper sense of what the term could come to mean.

There are things I miss about India in this country and that is easily a cultural condition. The sense of a community here is constrained in my world simply because I have only been exposed to one version of what community means. I wonder now, if I miss knowing people on the road I happen to walk on. One of my best friends was forever skeptical to go on walks with me because I usually am familiar with the people on the streets (and their dogs) and I kept stopping to say hi to all of them, and that irritated her to no end. There should have been some sort of familiarity here by this point, I reckon but I am not sure if I have located any. On the other hand, I enjoy slinking away into the background and not being known or recognised. I live in-between ends like these two, swinging between sides and not feeling comfortable staying on either end. There are aspects of living in India that I adore, enmeshed parts of my life here that I am grateful for and enjoy; but neither of them fit anymore. Rather, I don't fit into either of these societies completely. I can't stay in one because I have been in the other, they're different moulds. This has led to living in a land of living in-between worlds. I could call it that or a feeling of not belonging in either of these places. All that said and done, this is not necessarily a bad condition either.

None of this is associated with sadness in its entirety. These are phases of growing and coming to terms with certain aspects of life that was buried underneath layers of a false sense of security at various points. Right now, to truly be in turbulence is interesting as it helps me let go of weights that make me feel put otherwise. I can now cast some over my shoulders and move a step on (just threw out some toxic atmosphere I had to live with for the last year, there is that progress). I have a wonderful local poetry community to be a part of since the start of my Spring and numerous acquaintances from there to be thankful for. My vulnerability has always been a calculated venture, a fort from my own past but aspects of it see tiny differences. My summer months have turned around to have me encounter some really interesting experiences. I learnt to be vulnerable on a slack-line with a great person, garnered some wonderful friendships (well, three to be precise) that has its own period of waxing and waning, forever plummeting and flying. These relatively newfound but truly close and important relationships have their own roadblocks that I am trying to break through in ways I best know how to. I wonder how they are going to turn out, but here is to hoping only for the best.

The land of in-between is every man's subjective land, I assume. We all battle with our own sources of discomfort, freedom and independence. I recently had a conversation with one of my childhood friends who is also abroad and she admitted to feeling the same way, though her version varied a little from how I feel at this juncture. We are all lost here. We are all trying to grapple away at the fray ends of the first thing that feels like home, like familiarity and relationships that remind us of our loved ones back home before it manifests into itself. These new experiences shape me as I encounter them and I'm learning of the many ways in which someone loves and prioritizes another.

It's been a year since I arrived at Columbus. I'm not precisely sure of what I learnt in the last year but that every moment has been a form of growth even if it comes with sadness or pain, every relationship a lesson, and also that I am three truly honest and genuine friends richer with whom I can talk about anything.

Also, home is no longer a place.

Home after all this, is a feeling. Whether I shall find it and acknowledge it the way I envisage it, however, is not something I know of. I can't control that.

Until then, from the land of in-betweens,



  1. Wherever you are, continue spreading sunshine and cheer.

    Good luck as always Hema :)


  2. Hi Hemalatha,

    You have been featured in Spicy Saturday Picks on August 13, 2016.

    Kudos for your amazing post "Living in the Land of In-Betweens”

    Team BlogADda


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