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Stranger in a Strange Land!

India is my home country. At least that’s what my passport tells me. However, reality begs to differ in this case. Yes, I definitely am an Indian. There is no doubt about that, but I have lived in India only for the first four years of my life. When I was five, my parents decided to move to Kuwait. Since then, I’ve considered Kuwait as my home. Life in Kuwait was a whole new experience for me. The weird inscriptions on the streets (Arabic) looked exotic. The long body-length shirts the men wore looked weird. I saw a camel for the first time.  I had never seen such barren landscape before. Everything was so different. At first, I missed “home”. I missed my friends. I missed my school. I missed rain. Being new to the country, I was warned by mother not to wander away from the building compound. This I sincerely heeded as the country scared me. The lack of traffic in the streets, the lack of people in the streets, the lack of birds in the trees, the lack of trees! This was all too much!! But slowly, as time moved on, I began to embrace my new home. I got used to the setup. I picked up Arabic. I made Arab friends. I slowly began to lose touch of my true culture and began to embrace a foreign one. After living in Kuwait for 13 years, it was time I went back. My parents decided to send me to college in India, as it is economically feasible and since it’s my home country. I wasn’t too bothered about it. I had lived in Mumbai before the big move. Hence, I was under the impression of completing my under-graduation in Mumbai. I started brushing up my Marathi and thinking how sweet life would be! New friends, new experiences! A chance to start all over again. Then it hit me as hard as a brick. “You’re going to Coimbatore.” my dad told me. The fact that I was going to South India scared the daylights out of me. The place was completely alien to me. Sure I wanted new experiences and adventures, but not this new! I had never been to the South before. I didn’t know Malayalam or Tamil. My parents told me not to worry. My brother did his university there too. He managed. They believed I would pick up the languages in time, just like my brother. Little did they know that my brother had a thing for languages. Soon, I travelled with my dad to Coimbatore for academic reasons. At first, everything was fine. The South wasn’t too bad. It was a lot like Mumbai, minus the tall buildings and the Hindi speaking crowd. Before long, I began to think, “Hey, it’s pretty neat down here. Maybe this is just what I need!” With this thought in my mind, I happily went back to Kuwait. I had a very positive feel about Coimbatore and eagerly waited for the day I returned.

So began my journey to the mysterious land of Tamil Nadu. My first day in Coimbatore wasn’t bad. I was at my uncle’s place. He made sure that I was comfortable and happy. Soon, I moved into the campus. This was the first time I was ever in a hostel, so it was exciting! I made lot friends very quickly. Some of them were like me, NRI’s. Everything was going great, until the day I went out on my own. That’s when things started going downhill for me. Life in India was a whole new experience to me! The weird inscriptions on the streets (Tamil) looked exotic, the dhoti clad men looked weird. I saw a Papaya tree for the first time. There was so much nature around me. Trees, mountains, birds, animals, CLOUDS!! There was too much traffic! Too many people! Not knowing a single word of Tamil or Malayalam, I took the city on, and got battered miserably. I couldn’t even communicate properly with the people who knew English as I had a slightly different accent. If I spoke to anyone in Hindi, I was given a look of anger! Back in Kuwait, when someone didn’t speak Hindi or English, I would instinctively start chatting away in Arabic. This happened here. Unknowingly, I would speak to the locals in Arabic sometimes. This just made them run away from me. I couldn’t travel on my own. I couldn’t shop on my own. I couldn’t live on my own!! It was like a massive life-scale Déjà vu! I started getting the exact same emotions that I got when I moved to Kuwait first. I missed home. I missed my friends. I missed my school. I missed the desert. Slowly and painfully, I began to adjust. However, it wasn’t as easy as before…

I managed to gel with Kuwaiti life with ease as I was just five years old back then. I hadn’t been exposed to anything. This, however, was something totally different. I stared at tall trees with awe! Whenever I would see a hill, I would point and stare at it (Kuwait is nothing but a flat desert). When I saw a peacock crossing the road, I was lost! All the things that seemed normal to anyone who lived in India mesmerized me. People used to think I was nuts (some still do). Even now, if I walk down the street and see a squirrel, I stare at it till it runs out of my line of sight. All these small things captivate me.

It has been a year since I moved to India. Even though language still is a problem for me, other things aren’t. I have got used to the wild (yet exciting) traffic of our country. I don’t scare away people as often as I used too (with my random hellos or bouts of Arabic). I have learnt to use public transport. I have learned to be Indian (in a way). Stranger in a Strange Land? Not anymore!

However, squirrels still intrigue me…

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