While at University in Florida, there was a sort of running joke among certain of us. If there was a party at an American house scheduled to start at 8, the fun wouldn't actually begin until 10 or 1030: that is, when the Brazilians and the Indians showed up.
Representatives of both these great nations were quite proud to carry forward this heady image of their motherlands, as I recall. There were similar jokes about the Germans, the French, and so on. Let it not be said that any nation was spared of its jolly stereotypes. Besides being avid party-enliveners, we Indians were known as incorrigible brains (and then there was me) and as being foodies to the hilt (besides me, of course). The food had to be spicy, predictably; there was that Chinese restaurant where the owner would shout to the kitchen as soon as we arrived "Spicy-hot-sauce-extra-bottle- Indian-table, PLEASE!"
My point in all these random recollections is that it was the first time I got to examine national identities, as it were. A good bunch of nations were represented in healthy numbers. I had friends from countries I couldn't have located precisely on the map before I met them, and the vast majority identified extremely proudly with a particular nationality. So were many of my Indian friends so deeply Indian, whereas I felt like an outsider looking in.
Lest it be concluded that I am somehow not Indian, far from it. It's just that the older I get the more I realize that I am an outsider in most spheres. Being a bit of an oddball is never restricted by nationality.
I have the same outside view of people of faith. I almost long to have that certainty, that unshakable sense of belonging to a church or a mosque. Or that sense of real, bone-deep pride in being from the country you are.
My tumbleweed soul is altogether too insubstantial for all this rooted-ness. Yet today, India's independence day, I find myself thinking of my motherland.Will I ever live there again?
Los Angeles is not my last stop. Maybe the world really can be an oyster for some us.