Roots. What a peculiar thing that can affect us so much when we least expect them to. I thought I had worked through a lot of my inner struggles with roots and identity by this age but I was so wrong. Why do I keep coming back to this country, why can’t I let it go? My father left India almost 50 years ago and I as an adult keep coming back as if something is pulling me here. Is there a stronger energy at play here that wants me coming back? What is the purpose of me feeling this way?
There are two days left of my trip and the emotions are already building up, that I am going back and leaving this behind. Once again, just like any other year, I am travelling back to Sweden. My home. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my life in Sweden and that’s all I have ever known to be my home. But I have never felt that I fully belong there, there’s just that big chunk of both my heart and soul never able to belong to Sweden and it is always left behind in India. I come back to try to find my pieces every year to try to feel whole. I have also started to accept that it might be difficult for anything to ever fill that void of never belonging anywhere. The trick is to find ways to cope with this empty feeling.
When I land in Sweden and travel back to my apartment on the smooth empty highways, it’s always a bittersweet feeling. I feel emotional over the fact that I have left something behind but at the same time I am embracing what is so familiar to me. The life in Sweden. What gets to me each time, is that I notice that my clothes smell like India and the scent of Sweden is so different. The air is much lighter. There are no noises from traffic, no unnecessary honking going on. One would think that it’s something you’d never miss about India, but it’s exactly these things that make India come alive. It’s never sleeping and you learn to be mindful and unbothered by the scents, the noise, the crowd and everything that happens at once. Once you get mindful and one with it all, it creates this feeling of presence and bliss that we have all heard people mesmerised with India talk about. The hippies.
Even right now when I am typing this, I am sitting in my bedroom in our shared flat and the windows are closed. But you can hear everything from the streets four floors down in the middle of the city centre of Colaba, Mumbai. During a few wee hours in the night it goes quiet before the city wakes up to the organised chaos. I am not someone who easily get attached to places, I like to keep my memories of people and places normally and that is what I bring with me everywhere I go. But there has always been something with Mumbai that has pulled me in. I believe it’s the contrast between the rest of India that I’ve seen (which is not much compared to how much is left to see) and the India that exists in Mumbai. There’s a vibe in this town that is hard to match elsewhere. Perhaps I am a romantic Pisces that only likes to focus on these pink cloudy thoughts whenever I describe this town, but I am positive that I am not the only one who thinks this way. Obviously it’s not the jammed traffic, the high air pollution and crowded areas that make you love this city. It’s what language it speaks to you when you listen carefully with your ears and your heart. What is the soul of this place? Does it connect with you? Why?
The flight is due to land at Indira Gandhi airport of New Delhi and the plane is travelling across the large city, passing through the thick layer of clouds, smog and pollution. When the plane is close to landing, the whole large metal cylinder is filled with a familiar smell or scent of India, something that others might find repulsive. But to me it’s filled with memories, emotions and a touch of belonging. Tears are filled up in my eyes when the plane hits the ground. I’m home. Once again.
The hotel we stayed at isn’t worth mentioning due to the overall experience wasn’t all too well, but there were some highlights of the service level and staff that is worth mentioning. The two nights in Delhi were a good touch-down base before our onward departuring to Punjab. You get a moment of acclimatising to the Indian climate, food and the senses get hightened.
I have been writing a lot through the years about belonging and identity since it has always been a struggle for me, being born in Sweden and having roots from such a colourful culture that is India. The clash between these two extreme worlds has been both a blessing and a curse, since it has opened me up to so much inner personal development I never would have been striving for if it weren’t for being torn in two directions. I have previously written about being a TCK in a world of being around people that have almost no other mixed background, which makes you feel different and strange from time to time. When I during the recent years found myself searching more inwards in my own identity crisis and started to accept that I am fine the way I am, both Swedish and Indian, I was able to grow strength to be able to tell my story. I felt for the first time that I was able to connect with other people that have a similar background, and my creativity became more heightened.
The last day at the Delhi hotel, we ate dinner in the restaurant at the hotel to be a bit more convenient and also to not have to rush around in Delhi traffic at that hour. No matter if we choose to or not, we eventually adapt to eating at Indian times, which is quite different than dining times in Sweden. Back home in Sweden one would eat dinner at 6-7 pm and lunch at 11-12 am. When we’re in India the dinner times are around 8-9pm and lunch around 1-2pm. I think it might be due to the fact that people go to work a little later on and leave later, which makes the whole day shift a few hours.
When we were dining at 8 pm at the hotel, the waiter asked us if we were from Sweden since he could see it in our booking. Obviously he could tell we had some sort of Indian (desi) background so he asked if we were here for the first time. I responded, no we’ve been here many times before since our background is from Punjab. He asked if we were born here or in Sweden, and this is where things would have been confusing if I were to trust my past experiences of being put in a box. His response to us being born in Sweden, was the sweetest I have received in India in a long time. He said, then you’re just as much Indian as you are Swedish and he smiled and giggled a bit. I agreed and he went on to talk to other guests in the restaurant. He probably didn’t know what that sentence meant to me, how much it meant that someone would acknowledge us as being part of this society and still be able to keep the other identity. He truly saw our Indian soul. We didn’t have to feel torn and puzzled between the two cultures. Not being forced to choose when someone asks us which one we consider our home, or which one we like the most. There can never be a clear answer to that question, I am always searching, and the more I search, the more questions I get.
The best part of being born in two cultures is the richness it gives to my life, to be able to live a life with both influences on a day to day basis. To be able to pick and choose (most of the times) what we like with each culture and keep those aspects in our life for the next generation. Coming to India annually means much more to me than can be put into words, it can never be explained, the emotions that run through my body when I land 7000 km away from Sweden. Despite being more restricted to do exactly what I want as a woman, to come and go at any hour, and having difficulties adapting to the lifestyle here; I still feel more alive and free. There’s a freedom and acceptance in the air in India one cannot find anywhere else. I might be biased, but that’s my truth.
Sat Sri Akal, Namaste, Peace and Love,
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
– Anthony Bourdain
I can’t seem to help it, this underlying urge to always leave and be on the road to somewhere else. I love the feeling of not belonging to one place, I like belonging to the world. Open. Free. Endless possibilities. I believe it has to do with my two cultures, Swedish and Indian. I love them both, almost equally. Almost. I weigh them back and forth, compare and contrast, which one do I like the most. For the moment.
Being a TCK (third culture kid) or more like a CCK (cross-cultural kid) in my particular case, one will always have to deal with these emotions of not belonging to a certain degree. Rootlessness. Mixed cultural belonging. Struggle to fit in. All of these things are all based in a TCKs/CCKs childhood of being brought up in a mixed cultural environment, where the guidelines of how to deal with it has been missing. Especially during the 90s/00s in Sweden. Growing up in Sweden, in an area where there were no immigrants, has its impact in the long term.
The travelling aspect of my life doesn’t only have to do with physical travelling from one place to another, I am almost always somewhere in a bubble. Typical Pisces behaviour, for those that know astrology. It’s a hard struggle to always remind myself to come back to reality, but when dreaming becomes part of your everyday life to survive, it’s hard to resist. If I knew how to astral travel, I’d be addicted to it. Sounds like such an amazing ability to be able to visit both places and people in all kinds of spaces.
Someone was describing how a TCK walks through life, as if we stand constantly at the airport gate, anxious, waiting for our flight somewhere, walking back and forth until we board our flight. That’s when we calm down and relax, in the window seat of the plane, viewing the endless skies and clouds overlooking everything. That feeling makes me truly feel alive. Never understood why, until I read about being a TCK. Check out my other post on what it is about and my experience up until now, here.
Peace and love,