I suddenly feel - almost for the first time - very depressed. Oh, yes, with a laugh. But it seemed either age or recession caught up with me. I spent an useless weekend doing nothing, wondering where I am now and where I wish to get to. Not for the first time, those who know me will testify, answering the second question was very difficult. It almost seemed like a series of flashing images, an endless list of alternative futures. But, for the first time in my life, I craved for some certainty.
My first problem, indeed, is that I am homeless. It was always there - I sure recall days long time back, when I shall stand on the terrace of our family home in India on a wintery morning and feel that I do not ever want to go away, but at the same time telling myself that I must go and see the world. I lived a life of compromises - going away with a promise to return - but I obviously know how difficult it is to return, to anything, at any time.
I intended to study abroad, see the world, when I was young. That did not happen. I almost never knew how to do that, and I am still figuring out. That's a legacy of my comfortable provincial past, where uncertainty or ambition could not touch me. Like many others around me, I saw my world - the lovely wintery morning which I can still visualize with my eyes closed - disappearing, but lived in denial about this altogether. I almost assumed that I shall never grow up [and those who love me tells me that I haven't]. Funnily, I also thought that the world will remain exactly the same when I complete my travel and do return - no one else will grow up too.
Do I blame globalization? I could, but then it made me whatever I am. I defaulted into an IT course and worked - first as a technician and then as a preacher - for the advent of the Internet, and how it will change life in every corner of the world. I was preaching it to fringe communities, remember, to the small town Asia, and it took real faith to do that. And, I practised what I preached and built my life around Internet. To this day, I have more virtual friends - and I am talking about the quality of friendship than the number of friends - than flesh-and-blood ones. My life, work, studies and beliefs, are all built around the Internet. I was destined to become a regular blogger long time ago.
And, then, globalization caught on with me. I always consider my stay in Bangladesh to be some sort of a watershed, when my beliefs changed. That's the first time I lived in another country, and frankly, that's the first time I lived outside Calcutta for some time at a stretch. The first thing it did is to break stereotypes in my mind. I was, indeed, suitably warned before going to Bangladesh - about the problems of living in a Muslim country, about the adverse feelings Bangladeshis have about the Indians, all that. I still consider the four years I lived in Dhaka, on and off, to be the best in my life yet. I met some of the best people I know, genuine friends who I shall treasure all my life. Also, that broke my imaginery barrier about who I am and what is an acceptable future.
I remember when I announced my plans to migrate, my manager told me that Bangladesh did it to me. Her thesis was that since we lived in usual expat comfort in Bangladesh, I have been spoilt, my expectations have been spoilt, and therefore, I can not settle back in the usual, mundane, tough working conditions in the home country anymore. She was on the money, but she could not understand the causation. It was not about comfort, it was about confidence. There was a sort of a Sinatra factor - if you could make it there, you could make it anywhere - and the fact that I met so many enterprising Bangladeshis who were not ready to accept what life handed out to them. One must admit that the life in Bangladesh was far more difficult than India, particularly West Bengal, where people live in a sort of grey eventlessness, wherein the life in Bangladesh is usually fraught in danger and instability. But, Bangladeshi businessmen and common people take that in their stride and make the best out of what they have, a remarkable quality worth observing. This spolit me - the confidence and the urge to seek my own path regardless of what I seemed destined to do.
But, indeed, this was always going to be a lonely journey and that's what I feel now. I can not indeed expect a return after renouncing what was laid out for me - a life in a job, usual progression - marriage, mortgage, pension, death - and the social design we are all born with. Today, there are these moments of sadness, loneliness, and of lost identity, when I wish to return, be the same person I was born. But, the moment the subject was broached, conversations progress into - you can't go back - or you should not come back. The life I am living pulls me back with the force of habit, the life I have left behind rejects me for my betrayal and sets out a conditional welcome peppered by impossible rules. It was almost like - give up your consciousness and return blind - and one knows that the alineation is so complete that there is almost no choice but to reinvent oneself completely.
I am a migrant by choice and that's a sin. No one understood why I left and no one wants to understand, therefore, why I may wish to return. I know this already - we all like formulas and if one is not behaving to the pattern, it upsets people. Recession was one such window - where I could have failed and returned - but I am possibly too proud to hide behind a formula, even for the sake of acceptability, what will essentially be an act of choice.
But, then, these journeys teach you one thing - that life, though short, have endless possibilities. I crave for my identity as the drums tune up for the pujas and white, light, clouds bring up the autumn in Kolkata. I feel homesick. But, some point of time, I realize that I have already embraced the world and my identity has changed - to that of a traveller.