I woke up yesterday morning missing India. I’ve missed India in an abstract way over the last four months, of course. I’ve missed Indian food, and missed my rhythms and routines and missed my friends and
missed the books I left behind. But I wasn’t missing any of those things yesterday. I was missing India, the place, the place where I knew where I belonged (most of the time). I missed India as a place that was home.
I’ve talked to lots of people about where I’m from since I started university. It’s one of those inevitable questions that is always going to come up. I have got my answer down to an art now. First ‘uh, that’s a hard question.’ A pause. ‘I was born in New Zealand, but I’ve lived in India for most of my life, and I moved back for university.’
They often tell me that it ‘must have been interesting’ growing up in India. I agree, and have a few anecdotes to talk about which get the right kind of response, that doesn’t alienate me too much, and makes me look ‘normal’. I remind people that growing up in New Zealand would probably be ‘interesting’ to many other people around the world.
I talk about Indian food. Most people know Indian food, and this makes my background more accessible to them. Most of the time, I manage not to launch into my spiel about why the word ‘curry’ irritates me. Often this makes me feel hungry.
I’m not very good at leaving places. This is because I like to think I’m somehow about nostalgia and sentimentality. I don’t think I did a good enough job of saying goodbye to India. And yesterday, when I had found my feet in this new place and found my own routines, and found a lot of things which I like about living and learning here, I finally had the space to notice that enormous grieving hole within me.
I miss India even when I belong in Aotearoa. I miss India even when I’m eating naan and chole. I miss India even when I’m speaking Hindi. This is me, acknowledging that loss.
I don’t think there’s an easy cure for this grief, and I don’t want one, because I’m afraid that if I stop mourning India I will be less Indian. But I do miss hearing Hindi. So I’ve decided that during May, I’m going to try to watch a Bollywood movie every week.
Will the movies make me roll my eyes? undoubtedly. Will I watch without subtitles, even though I love subtitles? yes. Will this provoke further blogposts? probably. Will they make me better at Hindi? i can only hope. Will they stop me from missing India? no way.
I think I’m going to get a prime video subscription for a month, mostly because I want to watch another TV show that’s on Prime, so hopefully they have Bollywood, otherwise I’ll try and find a netflix account I can leech off. This is a Project. This is a Concrete Thing I Am Doing To Hold On To My Identity. I don’t know if it will help. But in the spirit of experimentiation….bring on May.
So I’d love some Bollywood recommendations if you have any! (ideally they would be in Hindi). What do you do when you’re missing a place? tell me in the comments!