Coming to India always conjures up a mixed bag of emotions. As I hand over my blue passport at the immigration line, I’m always reminded that this is, for all intents and purposes, my homeland. Nationality aside, though, there is something about the place that feels homely. The people are familiar, the language is familiar (even when it’s not my mother tongue), the settings are familiar. When I’m here, I’m surrounded by people I’ve known and loved my whole life, I hear the voices and sounds I’ve grown up with and I taste food I will never grow tired of. And then, quickly enough, the more tangible side of India makes herself known. The air is dusty, the roads are congested, and the pavements are littered with rubbish. It takes ages to get anywhere, the public transport is scary, things aren’t efficient. And as these nuisances start to add up, that warm glow of home fades away, too.
In the end, the feeling you come away with after a trip to India is that life is just different here. It’s been just about a week since I landed, and already I can feel the difference in my day-to-day routine. Of course, unemployment makes life drastically different, but I’m talking about stuff apart from work. Small things. In a way, it’s nice to be able to break away from one style of living and try something else for a while. Here in India, I do a lot of stuff that I don’t get to or just don’t bother doing in Singapore. Like:
- enjoy home-cooked food at almost every meal
- watch the sunset from a rooftop almost every single day
- eat vegetables I’ve never seen in Singapore and don’t know the English names of
- cut my nails only on certain days of the week and only at certain times of the day
- speak in my mother tongue at least 70% of the time
- endure a slow wifi connection
- watch funny and/or clever advertisements on TV
- eat home meals at a table with other people
- wear a bindi
- drive a car
- live without using any form of public transport
- have more than 2 vegetarian options on a menu at any restaurant
- see crows
- experience many days when a fan is not needed
- leave the house without having to check for my wallet or keys
- charge my phone only once in 2 days
- see stars in the sky
- have people surrounding me at all times
It’s funny how many of these things I don’t think about when I’m in Singapore, but cherish so much when I’m here. It really does make me wonder which place I’m more attached to, and the simple (and lazy) answer is that I love both, for very different reasons. You don’t get the same things in both places, and that makes each one unique.
So, referring to the title of this post… which one is ‘home’ and which one is ‘away’? I hope I never have to choose.