I have been reading Aparna for quite some time now. I enjoy her posts about her kids, Ads and Y, on her sort-of-mommy blog and those on books, travel and other things on her non-tot blog. I have always found her posts interesting, informative and thought-provoking. She comes across as an intelligent, balanced, informed individual, who clearly values her kids but loves to make time for the other good things in her life as well. I admire her for that.
Today, I bring to you a guest post by Aparna on the subject of change, and how it has affected her life. Read on, folks!
Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Aparna! 🙂
I was chatting with a friend and neighbour some days ago when she mentioned that her husband had gotten an offer, the acceptance of which would require him to move to Belgium, with his current company. She wasn’t too keen on the move. Her elder son is moving to 8th grade soon, the kids will find it difficult to make friends in a new country, they don’t know the language, it’s an entirely different culture out there, it would be so tough to deal with the harsh winters there….yada yada yada… she rattled off her reasons for not being all that interested in the offer. True, true, all true, I admitted; yet, I tried very hard to convince her to move. Why, I would have moved in a flash!!
She smiled. Really?, she asked. After all you’ve moved around already?
I’m not sure if my roving childhood has anything to do with the fact that I’m always up and ready to move every couple of years. It feels to me that my current restlessness is a logical result of my early circumstances, even though there are plenty of real-life examples to the contrary as well. Friends who have moved around a lot in their early years have now settled down in one city, and do not want to ever want to move out of their home, not even to the next street.
I’ve been a nomad all my life, except for a few years of stability during my high school and college years.
It has been a life of constantly letting go and moving on.
It has been a life of very short-lived friendships, a whole lot of acquaintances, and a very few old friends. It has been a life of 11 schools, 12 cities, 2 countries, at least 20 houses we called ‘home’, and more moves than I can keep track of.
It has been a life of belonging nowhere and feeling at home everywhere.
What have I missed? I’ve missed friends who grew up with me in the same street, friends who were part of my life since kindergarten. I’ve missed the luxury of living in and loving a city or town with my whole heart, knowing every street and landmark like the back of my own hand. I’ve missed speaking in the typical local idiom of a native Chennai-vasi or Bangalorean or Mumbaikar. I’ve been asked if I ever felt rootless, and I answer that my roots have always been with my family and where they are is where I root myself!
And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Growing up in states culturally very diverse from my austere South Indian roots taught me tolerance. Being the perennial outsider gave me perspective. Navigating a different school every year and a new city every other year taught me self-reliance. Being ridiculed and singled out every now and then (for example, because I always wore a bindi to school) made me grow an extra layer of skin! And knowing that I was moving on made me tolerant and empathetic. After all, I had nothing to lose by being nice!
If there was a downside to that life, it was that it made me too nice. I was so used to adapting that I adapted and accommodated even when I did not need to, bad habits that I am trying to discard to this day!
In sum, what I gained is far more precious than what I never had. Therefore, exposure to different cultures and milieus is something I crave for my kids, too. I believe it will make them much more self-sufficient, independent, empathetic, flexible, risk-taking, tolerant and interesting people. Our world is on the cusp of powerful socio-economic changes, which are rocking the boat everywhere; learning that change is the only constant is probably one of the most important things the new generation needs to learn in order to successfully navigate and flourish in this tricky, uncertain world.