Saturday, November 18, 2006

Global Citizenship

I recently became an American citizen by choice as it provides lot of convenience in traveling around the world and that is something I'd like to do. But during this process, I've been wondering about my nationality. I'll have a very hard time identifying myself as an American even though technically that is what I'm. I am a born Indian and that is how I identify myself most of the time. Just because my citizenship status has changed, I can't stop thinking of myself as Indian and start thinking of myself as American (maybe it will happen with time, but I don't know that now). I guess I can eventually start thinking of myself as Indian-American, if that is the right use of that terminology.

But regardless of what passport I hold, it is hard for me to think of myself as belonging to one country these days. I've been able to experience and/or get familiar with different cultures since coming to the US and can see the good and bad in all of them. So when I eat idli or listen to SPB's songs, I feel very very Indian. But then, when I see Jon Stewart or Bill Maher on TV or cheer whole-heartedly in a sports game, I feel very American. When I drink a good beer, I feel German. When I listen to Chieftains or any other good Irish music group, I feel like an Irish. When I read Kundera or Klima or Skvorecky, I feel as Czech as I could possibly do. When I eat pizza or tiramisu, I am an Italian. When I see a good mambo or salsa dance, I feel like a Latin American. When I see or read about any Holocaust related stuff, I empathize with the Jews so much that I could be a Jew. So I feel like I'm a mixture of all these nationalities and cultures, that it has become impossible to identify with one culture these days.

Needless to say, I can't understand why one sub-caste or caste or religion or state or country would think they are better than some other. The only upside I can think of with completely identifying with one group (be it a religion or country) is the sense of camaradarie. Which, people like me, will have to do without. I'm sure several people who have left one country to live in another would feel this way. Most of the times, it is good not to be blindly part of a group. Sometimes, it feels like being in a limbo. But then, people like me don't go hurting (both physically and emotionally) people that are different. That in itself is gratifying enough. Here's to feeling global!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Move and other things

I'm back from a short break ... well, sort of, as I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to blog. Lots of things have happened in the past few months...the big move to Houston and becoming an American citizen. This post is partly about the former and the next post might be about the latter. Having come from a city as big as Chennai, we never wanted to stay in the small town in Oklahoma for very long. So we ended up staying there for only seven years! While it has its good qualities such as it would never take one to get anywhere more than 30 minutes and one never gets stuck in traffic, there wasn't that much to do even when one drives more than an hour. But this is where one makes lifelong friends and has wonderful barn parties. So after some time spent in rustic peace, it was time to pack the bags (the number of bags seem to keep increasing with each move, not sure if that is good or bad) and move to busier terrains. While the new place and experiences were exciting (Madras Pavilion in Houston was one big factor!), it was sad to leave a familiar place and good friends. There is something to be said about known surroundings.

Anyway, we drove to Houston (about a 10-hour drive) twice in two weeks and the second one was harder (on the dog than us). But we made it one piece (or three pieces to be precise) and got settled in our new house. I love our new house as it has lots of features I have always wanted and there are miles and miles of walking trails that one could (and has) get lost in. However, I was not prepared for the hectic week days. Now I have to wake up at 5 am (which means I have to be in bed by 10 pm to have a restful night's sleep and that means I have to miss Jon Stewart and that is just not fair) and still I don't get home till after 5 pm. There are several restaurants and stores nearby now but I either don't have the time or energy to go to them as often as I thought I would go. There is some activity of interest every weekend but we have become more choosy now as the weekend is only two days long and I need to catch up on my week's worth of sleep. But still it is all good. We go to work in a vanpool that is quite a fun group, where for some reason, I get teased quite a bit. I try to experiment different cuisines at restaurants and that means I don't have to cook quite as much. While I stil miss some things about the small town we lived in, this is the right p(l)ace and choice for us now. The winter weather is good and it will be quite hot in summer but that is not now.

There is a dog park (called bark park) nearby that we try to take Kutti to as often as we can. I think that we love it more than she does. The first few times, she was not sure what to do and so just stood there or loitered on her own. But the last time, she actually played with a couple of dogs. This dog park feels like heaven as you see dogs of all kinds and sizes running around and playing in the water. Some dogs absolutely go crazy here and don't want to leave at all. It has been fun to go there and hopefully will be for Kutti also pretty soon.

While part of my reason for not blogging is the move and busier days, the other part of it is my losing interest in blogs in general. It appears to me that lately the blog world is becoming more like the real world we live in, with all its infightings and character bashing. While it is to be expected as we are all only human, the escape from reality that blogs provide seem to be in peril. So I've been introspecting as to what use are blogs when they seem to be following the same path as the regular world. Why do I have to read about whose religion is better and whether one can post gruesome pictures on their blog or not in a blog when I can read that in the mainstream media? But I am going to write for at least some more time as it feels good to write and some (even though it is one or two) people seem to wonder when I don't write.

Alright, now on to some fun stuff. Next week, I am off to Paris (yes, the one in France, ooh la la!). I'll be there for about five days and am planning to soak in as much of Paris as possible. I've talked to our hotel folks once so far and I just love the way they talk. I am so looking forward to the trip and hope it lives up to my expectations (how about that?!). If anybody that reads this is in Paris, please do drop me a line, as I believe in local folks than any tour book (even if it is Rick Steves).

And then, in January, we have our big India trip. Three of our friends who have never seen India are venturing there with us and so it is upto us to show them the Incredible India. Not a small task and so I'm planning on spending December planning for it. Again, if anybody has any ideas, shoot me an email. By the way, we will be in Chennai mostly but are planning a few trips to some nearby places.

So in addition to the busy days at work, I am planning on these two trips, and I realize that I enjoy vacation planning. Maybe I should consider becoming a travel agent, huh?! Just writing about travel has made me cheer up and that is a good sign.