If you’ve ever lived away from relatives, away from your native place, then you have experienced what is called an identity crisis. You are a second generation migrant, so you do not fully understand the local culture. But you do not know your own culture that well either. Since you visit relatives in your native place, you are in touch with your culture, but just about. So you’re stuck somewhere in between. Neither fully here, nor fully there.
This identity crisis is something that sets in early in life, and never goes. Loyalties are divided. Your ancestors belong to one place, but you have grown up in a different place. You have adopted certain qualities from both sides, and you are trying to find out where exactly it is, that you belong. Where you live, others find it hard to understand your roots. And you find it hard to adopt theirs. You prefer your own culture, and wish people around you would try to accept you for who you are, and not try to impose their own culture on you.
In your native place, you feel like a stranger. You have not grown up in that environment, not had the chance to know so many relatives, and find it hard to speak the language that is supposed to be your mother-tongue. You have a few relations with whom you have been fortunate to interact with your whole life, and there are a host of others whom you have probably met once in your life, if you’re lucky. When you meet them, it feels like some formality. You do not know how to react, you feel uncomfortable.
Then there are special occasions, like weddings, when everyone shows up, and you feel completely out of place. You don’t know most of the people, and they don’t know you. Half of them are living on the other side of the country, and the other half on the other side of the world. Many times, you have to double check and find out how it is that someone is related.
This is when you begin to doubt if you really belong there at all. So where do we belong?
I’ve never been surrounded by relatives. It’s always been the four of us. Five, till my grandmother(father’s mother) was with us. Relatives have always been at a distance. I hardly know anyone on my father’s side, as he hardly is in touch with anyone. The little I have come to understand of my father’s family is when we get news of a wedding, or a funeral. It’s very strange. Even if you’re completely cut off from family, somehow, from somewhere, the letter reaches you.
On my mother’s side, I’ve tried fruitlessly to keep track of the hundreds of relations. It’s hard enough trying to get to know your cousins who have grown up in completely different circumstances and environments. Add to them you parent’s cousins, and their kids, and your grandparent’s cousins and their families!
I sometimes envy my friends who have practically every one of their family members living within five kilometres of their house. At least it is easier to keep track of them! On festivals they can visit each other, arrange get-togethers with cousins and enjoy.
It must be so much fun to live in large families, or at least in the same town as most of your family. You can decide to meet up and have lots of fun. I’ve heard my parents tell stories of their childhood, when the entire family would be together, and all the cousins would get together and play a game or enact a play, and just have a great time.
But when you live thousands of miles away from them, you begin to feel all alone. It feels like there’s no one around. And the feeling becomes worse when there is a festive occasion. Your friends are busy with their own families, and your family is far far away…