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After coming home, while having her snack, she told me one of the kids in her class told her that the bindi makes her look like an Indian. When I told her she is in fact an Indian, she told me without any hesitation that she is not an Indian now and is “Canada” (Canadian).
“You can have more than one home. You can carry your roots with you, and decide where to grow”— Henning Mankell
My four and a half year old daughter went to her daycare the other day dressed up in a salwar-kameez, wearing her bunny hairband and a red bindi. She was very happy getting all dolled up and skipped her way to the school.
Her teachers at the daycare welcomed her with loving compliments and for once, my little one didn’t look back at the door as I left her classroom (that’s a bitter-sweet emotion, to be honest).
In the evening, I picked her up and noticed she had made great efforts to keep her bunny hairband and the bindi in place through the day. I asked her how her day was, and she said it was very good and all the teachers loved her dress.
After coming home, while having her snack, she told me one of the kids in her class told her that the bindi makes her look like an Indian.
When I told her she is in fact an Indian, she told me without any hesitation that she is not an Indian now and is “Canada” (Canadian). She then continued drawing and I kept feeding her, but my mind did go blank for a while.
As a parent, especially as a single mother without the support of any family unit, the only time I get for myself during the day is, after my daughter goes to sleep.
Once she is asleep, and before it is my bedtime, the time in-between is my space where I regain my sanity and gear up for another day. On this particular day, though I tried watching something on Netflix, my mind was some place else.
I kept thinking about what my daughter said and why it low-key bothered me. I kept thinking about what home means, what a country means and what these two things mean to me and what would they mean to my daughter.
What one calls home, what one misses, what a person is seeking, everything put together determines whether the experience of moving to a different country is going to be good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, happy or unhappy.
The emotion and attachment I have with respect to my country, its history, its essence, is not something that can be passed on to my child.
My daughter is an individual who as and when grows up, would have her own set of experiences which would later in her life, be her set of emotions leading to nostalgia and attachment. She would understand my emotions, but not feel them.
The same way, I can understand what memories of Bengal mean to my mother, but can never actually feel them. In the same way, I can understand when my father talks about his village in Rajasthan but, I can never feel an attachment to the place.
As a kid, I heard the Indian national anthem at least thrice a week, and it never felt anything more than a very important song which commanded respect. I understand, I acknowledge but, I can never experience the emotion.
Later, somewhere during my graduation, when I got interested in Indian history, Indian philosophy, started understanding the Indian freedom movement, the perspectives that shaped the Indian constitution, for the first time, I felt goosebumps when I heard the Indian national anthem.
Since then, I have never been able to listen to it without getting goosebumps all over my body. I found my connect to the country I was born in through concepts, ideas and beliefs.
How my daughter finds that connect, if she finds one at all, would be her own journey.
In my case, being born in a very liberal household where questioning religion, cultural practices, rituals, traditions and societal norms was encouraged, my roots in India are purely based on the idea of India and the emotions I nurture have come naturally to me.
My daughter’s case would be different. She would not have the advantage of understanding India by living there. I would love it if she later in life makes an effort to understand the land she was born in, and that’s something I can only encourage, but can never ensure.
As a parent, all I can do is, give her a canvass full of ideas so that she can paint her own picture on it. The ideas and concepts and values that I present her with, are limited to my own understanding of this world.
Nothing would bring more joy to me than to see my girl using her canvas, forming her own unique perspectives wider and stronger than mine, mixing colours of two different countries and coming up with something new.
My daughter might experience a deeper connect to the country she is growing up in as compared to the one she was born in, feel more Canadian than Indian, and that’s something my desi self should ultimately understand because her own life experiences would shape her.
Till then, I will tell her stories, experiences, concepts, ideas, because some day, when she talks to her child about the land she was born in, my stories might help her find that connect.
Probably like me, she would understand my emotions and perspectives, realize their importance in her family’s life, but would never be able to experience them.
For now, I am happy answering her questions, celebrating with her festivals of two countries, introducing her to two cultures and honestly expressing my opinions because these little things might later become her nostalgia.
Maybe some part of her would carry her roots, and maybe she would have more than one home. You never know! Let’s see?
Image Source: Halfpoint, free on CanvaPro
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