Thursday, September 02, 2004


I have no roots. This never bothered me before, but it is something which has been weighing me down lately. I was never a religious person and thoroughly believe that religion is just opium for the masses - a way to channel their faith and give them something to believe in. I have also never been able to identify myself with any group based on region and language, which is probably a great thing but at times is disadvantageous. So I am trying to run a thought experiment in my head and elucidate this subject of roots.

I was born into a Brahmin family in the city of Bhopal (MP). Both my parents have Kashmiri roots but their families have been living in Punjab for generations. So for all practical purposes they are Punjabis. But because of my dad’s job they have lived away from the northern part of our country for majority of their married life. Hence we always speak Hindi/English at home and though I can understand a bit of Punjabi I have a hard time speaking it. Because of dad’s job we changed places regularly because in a bank each promotion is usually accompanied by a transfer. So over the course of my first eighteen years on this third rock from the sun, I changed eight schools.

The chain of places I have lived in is something like this: 1982–83 Bhopal, 1983-84 Itarsi, 1984-1988 Bhopal, 1988-89 London, 1989-1991 Bombay, 1991-1993 Mhow, 1993-1996 Bhopal, 1996-2000 Chandigarh, 2000-2002 Mumbai, 2002-2004 Hyderabad/Mumbai and 2000-present Chennai. The last four years while I have been living in Chennai and studying at IIT Madras my folks have moved a number of times.

Now I live in Chennai. Though I have spent a lot of time in Bhopal during three brief stints and have a lot of fond memories of the city and my schools, I have a hard time calling it home. I loved my brief stay in Hyderabad and thought that I could finally call some place home. That didn’t happen. Chennai is one city I truly love probably because IIT is here. I love my alma mater and it is perhaps the only place I can call home.

But the real problem is that though I have enjoyed living in so many cities and making so many friends, I have been unable to keep in touch with my old acquaintances. There are some people who I have luckily found because of the internet but there are hundreds of others who I’ll never see. Most of my IIT friends have gone abroad or have taken up jobs. They will eventually get over IIT because they will make new friends and their new life will keep them busy. I on the other hand decided to become a writer and continued to stay here in Chennai. Although I have lots of friends here, I have had a tough time getting over my IIT friends. But well that is a different story.

At a very young age I started liking English and soon it became the language in which I thought. Even my dreams now are in English. It is the only language in which I am able to express myself (and IIT lingo of course). In some ways this lack of roots and any kind of lasting association with a region has made me the person I am. I remember writing in my CV that I have excellent interpersonal skills and I am as extrovert as they get. This is quite true. I am able to make friends with anyone I want to and am not hindered by language/region. But on the other hand I don’t have the qualities (good/bad) which an archetypal north Indian or south Indian would have. Hence I have never been able to identify myself with any such group. I am a misfit in more ways than one. But I have been lucky enough to meet people who liked me for what I was and accepted me into their lives. To all those friends – thank you. Home is where your friends are.

No comments: