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!


Raman said...

Think globally and act locally fits well for those of us who are first generation immigrants. One of the 5th generation Americans once told me that Asian Indians are rich in their culture dating as far back as 5000 b.c. whereas American's have only 240 years of culture since 1776. I explained to him that U.S has people from 180+ countries and if we add up all those cultures, there is no place in the world other than U.S which is more richer than U.S.

Welcome to the citizen's club.

Aim said...

Hmm well you are not alone, I am sure of that. This new era is taking people to so many experiences that it expands the understanding. When these feelings of Country evolved they did becos it was required for reasons of stable and settled life. It does not have much meaning now.
you are right we don't need to feel the betterness of being in one group. Maybe we do miss the camaraderie of being in a group, but again it is subjective. I feel one can feel camaraderie with any group they are with at the moment, but not act with everything the group does. Or maybe i am being shallow with my experiences and have never known the real camaraderie of being in a group :-D

Ram Viswanathan said...


Global Citizenship.. that's a great concept and the ultimately flat world.. but we humans will never make it a reality.. (not in my life time..)

Raman is right.. US is the melting pot of cultures.. and we can do all the things you have mentioned at ease without raising eye-brows..

Uma Gowrishankar said...

It is difficult for those who have not left their homes, countries to understand what identity crisis is. It is good that people who have left India opine that they have multiple identities. It is heartening to see you essay diverse identities and celebrate the multiplicity that the universe offers. I toast to your liberal spirit.

Nithya said...

Raman: Thanks.

Aim: I understand and agree with your points. And you are not being shallow at all.

Ram: One can always dream though, right?

Uma: I think that you have understood exactly what I was trying to convey. Your comments have touched me deeply. Thanks a bunch.

DJ said...

well written.