A few days ago, I got my Singapore Permanent Resident card. It’s a funny feeling, having a card that says you’re a permanent resident of a country you’ve only been living in for 4 years. In a silly sort of way, it feels like you’re betraying your home country. Like you’re saying your home country isn’t good enough for you to be a “permanent resident” of. Then again, my passport is still Indian, so I justify to myself that that is the most “permanent” of all things anyway, so it really doesn’t matter that I live elsewhere.
This sort of dual identity leads to funny situations. Like longing for home and Mom’s cooking and Indian TV channels when you’re in Singapore, and then getting jittery when you’re actually back home because you’ve gotten so used to the Singaporean way of life that you can’t really re-adjust to the noise and pollution of India. Your immune system finally goes out of whack, so when you go home and binge on food that would usually not do you any harm, your stomach reacts unfavourably because, as your relatives remind you, “Your body is no longer Indian; you have to remember these things before you go eating and drinking stuff you can’t handle!”. You start converting things to rupees when you shop in Singapore, and do the exact opposite when you’re in India. You complain about the difficulty of owning a car in Singapore, and then complain about the state of public transport in India. You want the best of both worlds, but all you ever do is complain about what you don’t have in either country.
It used to happen all the time in my first few years in Singapore that whenever I said, “I’m going home”, people would immediately thinking I was talking about my India home, when actually I just meant “my room in the hostel”. I guess I was liberal with the word, because most of my Indian batchmates reserved it for India, which was the only thing worthy of being called “home”.
I still don’t know what exactly makes something “home”. Is it where you go at the end of the day to cook your meals and go to bed? Or is it the place you’ve spent most of your life at? What if you shuttled around from place to place, and never really stayed in one place longer than a few years? Is it where you hang up your “home sweet home” banner? Is it only home if if your family lives with you? Do housemates not count? Will you ever be able to spend 18 years of your life in one country and call another home? What does Daughtry mean when he says “I’m going home, to the place where I belong”? Where do I belong?
I live in Singapore and I work for the Singapore Government. I teach Singaporean kids, and I have Singaporean friends. Every morning in school, I sing the national anthem and say the pledge. People ask me why I do it if I’m not a citizen, but I don’t see why not. The concept of “dual citizenship” may not apply to me in theory, but I do believe in it from a practical point of view. I can’t stay in a country and study in it and work for it without actually believing it to be my home. At the same time, I can’t forget the place I grew up in, the country I spent most of my years in (and this will be true until I’m at least 37) and the country that houses my parents.
I don’t know where the future will take me. I might go back to India, I might stay in Singapore. I might even go somewhere else. It doesn’t really matter. You make a place in your heart for every single place you set up camp in, and you treat every single one like home. Because when you’re home, you’re happy, and isn’t the ultimate goal in life to be happy wherever you go?
Home really is where the heart is. There’s just a little piece of my heart in every place I’ve lived.