My journey back to myself has been pockmarked with several points where I’ve questioned and examined belonging. Belonging is a theme I visit often, as I heal parts of myself and make efforts to integrate them — to really belong to myself fully again.
In recent times my focus has shifted from beyond myself to the world around me — both immediate and extensive. I have been asking What is my place in the world? Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? Where and how can I belong? And I find myself deeply disillusioned and let down by the ideas of belonging that crop up around me. Wishy washy, idealistic notions that sound pretty in words but are very difficult to put to life. Lip-service by the rich and privileged who cleave to feel-good ideas of connectedness and togetherness but think nothing of putting their support behind acts and bills that scream disharmony and throw entire sects of our people under the bus. Religious ideas of love and togetherness that they otherwise hold close are rendered null and void when the same mouths and brains that do things to tell me they’re backing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.
I’m sick of the hypocrisy.
This makes it very hard for me to belong to groups that I ought to belong to by default. My family, my neighbourhood, my state, my country.
Today, I question where I belong. And I’m constantly looking for a spark of some signs of belonging in people around me. But it’s getting harder and harder to find.
I am the great granddaughter of staunch Gandhians. My great grandmother spun khadi at home, and she and my great grandfather marched with Gandhi in many acts of civil disobedience. My grandmothers older sister even went to jail for it. And yet, those same Gandhian values that I’ve grown up being dinned into my head, are altogether washed out today. My family is mostly unrecognisable when it comes to politics. They’re supporters of the fascist forces that celebrate Gandhi’s assassinator. I simply don’t understand it.
How then, can I say I belong to this? When I have nobody to converse and dialogue this with? When ideas of respect and politeness are conflated with dishonesty.
I can no longer be dishonest so I’ve chosen silence for too long now. That silence is slowly snapping.
My building is filled with upper-caste, patriarchal Brahmins who have displayed their displeasure of our unbrahminical ways more than a handful of times. I definitely don’t belong here. But I shut the door of my home and I make do.
I have for very long now questioned how I feel about belonging to India. The truth is, I don’t feel it at all. I have resented being Indian since 2014.
But something interesting happened this week. Over this week at all the protests I went to, though, I felt a surge of belonging. Like I had found my people. Like all is not lost and we may have just not sold the country to a majority of hate-mongers.
There is something incredibly softening and nourishing about finding this kind of connection. In receiving it, I realised it s something I have been missing it for way too long now. I have walked around feeling like an alien in my surroundings, around my family and everywhere else for just too long
So what I felt this week, I’d like to think is a start of something new, a new wave of healing yet another part of myself that has been deeply hurt and excluded.
Registered my protest today by beginning to read BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Woefully late in life, and just a quarter of the way through this is essential reading for every Indian (every human really), in a country that’s being fast made to forget the very idea of India that birthed our constitution and our identity as a nation. Essential reading for people being lulled to sleep slowly in a hateful frenzy. Essential reading for a staggering number of people in my immediate circle who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
I can’t do much to change people around me, I think. As always, I realised today again that I can only work on myself. If what’s going on in the country today means anything to me, I can only inform myself and solidify my politics. I can only show up more often. I can only do everything it takes to put my entire being behind knowing exactly what I am talking about when I say,
I refuse to buy this hatred that insists on making me believe that I don’t belong in my own country.
I can keep speaking my truth. And I can keep consistently choosing love.
Because without truth and love, I’m going nowhere in this search for belonging.