What India means to me

Map of India

I have developed a very strange relationship with my motherland.

I was born in India, but my parents took me to the UK when I was five years old. They tried to come back and settle in their homeland twice during my childhood, but it never worked. They were absorbed in their medical careers, which required them to be in the UK.

My sister and I spent a couple of brief school years in India, looked after by grandmothers and other relatives while my parents went back and forth between continents, trying to manage work and family life. For both my sister and me, India was our first home, our native country, undisputedly. As a young child who had known no other territory, ‘Mr India’ was my favourite film. But gradually, everything I took for granted as my natural identity became questionable.

As I struggled and succeeded to learn British English in London, my grip on Hindi began to falter. As I became accustomed to my friends’ ways of being and doing things, the memories of my childhood home began to fade. Those brief spells in which we tried to come back to India were like a temporary reawakening – a door to the past that would open and pour its wisdom into me for a short time before shutting again. My relatives thought I had become ‘angrez’, even thought I hardly thought of myself that way. In India. I became ‘different’, and in the UK, I was ‘different’ too.

So now, years later as I write this, I am very aware of what India represents to me. It’s more than just an idea; it’s a reality that I feel everyday. It’s huge and complex, something that I won’t ever be able to explain fully. Every time I feel a sense of ‘Indianness’, I am aware there is a ‘Britishness’ which rests uncomfortably alongside this. After all, the countries struggled against each other historically, precisely because their identities could not integrate fully with each other.

Whenever I am in India, it’s tempting to see stereotypes all around me: spiritualists, poverty, chaos, consumerism. Only when I actually talk to people personally – the rickshaw wallahs, relatives and their neighbours, dry-cleaners and taxi drivers – I see the reality behind the overpowering image of India. The authenticity of other people’s cultural behaviour allows me to see what it means to be Indian.

Despite this feeling of identification, I disagree with the concept of national identity (the idea that an individual can be defined by which country they come from). I see my identity as drawing from, yet separate from, nationality and culture. What I understand about India is cultural rather than political, although I’m aware that there is a connection between culture and politics which cannot be ignored. Even the naming of a country is political and represents a territorial division.

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Who are you, REALLY?

Are you a man, woman, black, white, accountant, lawyer, wife, etc. etc.?

No. You are not any of those things, essentially. You’re just playing the part for a period of time.

Are you alone, isolated, separate from everyone else?

No. You affect everyone and everything that comes into contact with you. You affect the energy of this beautiful planet through your thoughts, words and actions.

It’s so hard to see this from our human eyes. Even though we spend each night sleeping, leaving the physical body at times whilst our souls explore the world beyond, we forget all of that and dismiss it in the morning. Some people travel out of body, or have a near-death experience, or they have deep telepathic insights, but we keep ignoring all these messages, dismissing them as hallucination or irrationality. What is more irrational is the way we humans are living on this earth right now. Just eating, sleeping, working, doing things mindlessly without any awareness or care. Is this the reason we came to this earth? To take a few breaths, go through the motions, and then just leave this place?

No. We came here to experience something amazing and something beautiful.

Is your life amazing right now? I don’t mean it in terms of what you do, I mean in terms of how you feel. We came here to feel something incredible, possible only on this Mother Earth. If we do not feel wonderful despite having everything, then we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. This means we have a choice to reconnect with our original vision and purpose: it’s a matter of free will.

The vital energy, the most powerful transforming energy which can change despair into bliss is love. Love is the energy which binds all of creation on the spiritual level. It starts from love for one’s self, goes out to touch the planet as love for every other creature (whatever phase of growth or ignorance a life form may be at, it has the potential to be great), and it becomes the nurturing energy of God which sustains the health of our planet, of Gaia.

If you feel out of touch with the rhythm of nature and the potential goodness of life, its unseen magical power to nurture you, heal you, sustain you, then read some accounts of near death experiences. It will remind you of something familiar seating in your soul. Visit this site.

Programmed identities

A close look into the psychology of the human mind reveals some startling observations about this thing we call our ‘personalities’. The fact is, most of the time it’s just an act. I’m not disputing the existence of an authentic self, and I don’t believe in the post-modern concept of there being no universal truth, but the essential self is very difficult to locate.

Jung created personality ‘types’ based on our general approaches to life, but these approaches are influenced by self-image, which in turn is influenced by society, media, nurture, and only a small degree of nature. So, most of the time, our personalities are just an act of how we want to be perceived. A lot of ‘de-programming’ would have to take place before the personality can really shine through…

A recent programme on Channel 4 in the UK looked at the authenticity of national identity, and found that it was very easy to see through it. The programme was called 100% English; it asked some people who perceived themselves as 100% English what it actually meant to be English. These people saw themselves as English because they believed their genes were 100% northern European. Based on their sense of self, they judged and classified others. One man said that an English person ‘does not have black skin’ and has British ancestry for at least the past 12 generations. Every single one of these people did a genetic test which discovered that there was racial mixture in their genetic ancestry. Those with little genetic mixture were thought to be boring, as the scientist described mixture as a good thing which resulted from various cross-cultural migrations. The people who felt themselves to be 100% English took back everything they had previously said about their identity when they found out they were Middle-Eastern, Asian or East European in varying degrees. Their whole perception of themselves and others changed instantaneously, which probably changed their behaviour, relationships, and ‘personality’.

As we already knew, national identity is not inherent, but how do we locate that which is..?