Masala dosa, Air India, Shah Rukh Khan and Jagjit Singh

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Masala dosa, Air India, Shah Rukh Khan and Jagjit Singh

I'm confused, but, clearly, my Indian-ness doesn't define me


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 17 Aug 2017, 10:03 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Aug 2017, 12:06 AM

We are like this only: we're Indians." I hate that line. What is it like being 'Indian'? Well, I don't know really. I have an Indian passport - but that's because I was born in the geographical confines of that country; I could have been born elsewhere, and been just the same. Or maybe not. Maybe a better person; then again, maybe worse.

I'm confused, but, clearly, my Indian-ness doesn't define me. In fact, I'm on a soul-searching mission myself:
What IS being Indian?

I don't believe I'm distinct by virtue of being Indian. I wouldn't want to be naïve - or supercilious - enough to state that "we're" different from others. We aren't. I find like-mindedness among other nationalities and, therefore, feel close to them; I cannot "identify" with many of my countrymen, and feel distant from them. In a globalised world, it's difficult to pinpoint Indian-ness.

To make matters more complex, Indians constitute 1.3 billion of the world population (yes, 17.5 per cent of present-day homo sapiens are Indians), but there's no flattening out the Indian DNA. People from all corners of the same country claim to be different from each other - culturally and aesthetically - which makes everything incredibly convoluted. Yet, we are asked to "behave" like "Indians": cue to, "In India, this is what happens." someone will invariably drone on in a superior tone, and will lose me completely. "We" cannot have 1.3 billion Indians parroting (in unison), hello, I feel Indian. Not feasible. Because what I mean by identity in a north-eastern corner of India will not be similar to what you mean by identity in its southern-most reaches.

Exactly three days after the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, let me just say it out straight: I don't have a clue as to what it means to be Indian. And I hate cricket, so I don't even experience the tiniest wave of patriotism whenever India beats a handful of (okay, 12) other countries and emerges "world champions".

Having said that, I do, on many occasions, go through some unexplained, mysterious motions; they're probably in my DNA. Ingrained. Search me.
. The heightened sense of excitement that swooshes down my being each time I board a plane to go home. To India. Familiarity never breeds contempt. I'll take going to New Delhi over going to New York, any day, every day. I almost feel sorry for the breathless anxiety among so many "Indians" to post "phoren travel" photos on Facebook. What a waste of the wall, I say. I mean, go, by all means, but don't come across as being so desperate to get away.
. Looking forward to Shah Rukh Khan's new release - even if it turns out to be ?absolute rubbish - with the kind of enthusiasm I'd never feel for a Brad Pitt, or a Tom Cruise film. And always believing ?that Delhi Belly is the funniest movie ?ever made.
. Whenever I am in the supermarket, looking for stuff to buy in order to rustle up a quick dinner for myself, and it's always images of "Indian" food that crop up in my mind. A sandwich can be so much simpler - and, at times, I do make myself a sandwich - but it's invariably an afterthought. Whenever I'm ordering in food on the "Indian" app Zomato, 90 per cent of the time I gravitate towards "Indian" food. And no Chinese grub please, only 'Indian Chinese'.
. Feeling good - body, mind and soul - when I hear that yoga is the new fitness mantra. Worldwide. Also feeling good hearing/reading about the reverse brain drain (but just a little bit worried since ?this will add more numbers to the domiciled population).
. Listening to Jagjit Singh's Dhuan utha hai, kahin aag jal rahi hogi and thinking to myself it could give Joan Baez's Love song to a stranger a sprint for its money.
. Suddenly feeling proud that desi Hidesign leather bags (from Puducherry) look better than international designer ones.
. Telling a Pakistani cabbie in Dubai about the time when I bumped into Imran Khan - at an event in Delhi - and how handsome he still is, and said cabbie tells me he's so happy I speak Hindi, else he'd have never heard this story.
. A substantial chunk of my heart going into freefall each time my 'return' flight takes off from India.
. Booking tickets on Air India and telling everyone (who cares to listen), enough of the brickbats already, AI's quite alright, actually.
. Loving it when I take an Italian friend to have a masala dosa, and she says that it's one of the best things she's ever tasted.
I guess I could go on, but, suddenly, I'm feeling a little homesick.
Sushmita is Editor, Wknd. She has a ?penchant for analysing human foibles

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