As I reached for my phone, a faint tap on my shoulder startled me.
“Where are you from?” inquired the lady sitting next. To my dismay, I couldn’t come up with an answer. I felt so foolish, I knew my name, my age how could I not know where I am from. “Like originally?” I responded. I looked down to notice my passport – the first thing I saw was ‘Republic of India’ embedded in gold. When I looked up, I spotted the box of Beehoon (Singaporean specialty) in my other hand. Coming from two distinctive cultures, how could I come up with one answer? How does one define home?
Having lived in Singapore for 6 years, I grew up with the pungent odor of durians, and the beguiling sweetness emanating from the local palm sugar. When I moved to India, everything was different not only in terms of the food but also communication- I can’t count the times I was asked what the word ‘lah’ meant. At my Singaporean school, I was constantly taught the Confucian saying: The family is the first essential cell of human society. I spent the other fraction of my childhood listening to Indian mythological stories all focusing on the pivotal idea of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the whole Earth is a family). Growing up in an Indian joint family, I was consistently taught the practice of greeting others with a ‘namaste’ despite their age or ethnicity. I have always wondered about the purpose behind this salutation and why it plays such an integral part in our culture. When I asked my grandmother about this, she told me that the literal meaning is “to bow down” and is said to express, politeness, hospitality, and gratitude towards the other person. It represents and acknowledges the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us and not only greets people but connects the two individuals at a spiritual and emotional level.
This is when I realized both these cultures are so diverse yet same in the sense of fellowship and harmonious coexistence and I am so grateful to be an amalgam of the two worlds. The surrounding community has taught me a sense of belonging, acceptance, and respect for others
I smiled and replied, ” Singapore and India”