Longing for Home

If you are a fan of A. R. Rahman, or of fusion music, check out this video:

It made me cry.

The song is from the movie “Swades” and it captures an Indian living in America yearning for his home land (video of the song in the movie with subtitles is here).

I have had this feeling most of my life.

But unlike in the movie, my yearning hasn’t been for India. I left there when I was 11, just long enough to have the feeling for India in my bones and somehow not long enough (at least for me) to create an unshakable bond.

Since I moved to America, I have felt like a mutant. Half my body made with the soil of India, and the other half with the soil of America. That I am in my essence a trans-national and trans-racial being. That my being cannot be contained within national boundaries. That I am a being in search of that fusion soil which is my home.

Where the hero in the movie looks from America to India, I look from the present to the future.

To a time when my kind of fusion being feels grounded in a social fabric which self-consciously and openly nurtures it.

Is that future coming in a decade or a century? Or is that future what is called heaven or nirvana – which flowers not in physical or cultural terms primarily, but in terms of consciousness and spirituality?

Surely it is more the latter.

But still, the physical and the cultural are not nothing either. They can be powerful to lifting up consciousness.

That’s what I felt seeing the video of A. R. Rahman Meets Berklee College of Music.

Is everyone on that stage yearning for India? Maybe some. But not all. Many are Indian-Americans, who might be as in between worlds as I feel. Some aren’t even of Indian background. But they all share a common yearning, for a new mode of being, speaking to a hunger for going home.

Home – wherever that is for you. In whatever dimension or mode of consciousness.

It speaks to a growing global awareness – a new mode of cultural being. Where we can see that being fusion selves is not a new phenomenon, but has been the reality for thousands of years. Since the dawn of the first large societies, which were complex enough to have people of diverse backgrounds sharing a common life.

Does this mean I am against nations? Or that I am not committed to America? Not at all.

I am a resident of Maryland and also a citizen of America. My commitment to my city and to my state doesn’t take away from my commitment to my nation. Likewise, I am related to my family and friends in ways I am not to my neighbors.

That I have deep bonds with people outside America doesn’t take away from my bonds with fellow Americans.

Perhaps there is a guy born in America who moved to India when he was 11, and is now an Indian citizen, and who has the yearning for a global soil where the multiple sides of him can live together. I share something deep with that person.

But if I am trying to work on my country, I work with my fellow Americans. That only we can do together. I can do many things with my counterpart fusion guy in India . But I can’t vote for public officials with him, nor work as fellow citizens. Just as no matter how close I am to my neighbor, I need to first build my home with my spouse and my family.

Me and my fusion counterpart in India can share notes. Share life trajectories. Share ideals, hopes, dreams, frustrations. Share new cultures and modes of life. Share the dawning of a global spiritual awakening.

Even as we also wish each other luck in our engagements with our countries. I can be a fusion person and an American. Be a fusion person and be more –  politically and institutionally – American and Indian. In fact, that is how I am. There is a lot of India in me. But also a lot of India that is not in me, that I lost or that never developed after I moved here.

There are many different dimensions to human life. To any individual life. Cultural. Familial. National. Intellectual. Spiritual. And many others.

The longing for home can sometimes feel as if all these dimensions have to line up into one uber longing – the longing which underlies and unifies everything. As if really the cultural, national and spiritual longings are all the same. As if being Western, Christian and American overlap into one longing. Or Eastern, Hindu and Indian. And so on.

I can feel the pull of this temptation. It has a certain centrifugal force which can take root from deep within one’s soul.

But it tramples over the intrinsic diversity within one’s own life. There are – and can be – many different kinds of pains, longings and joys. There is no need for them all to line up. When I listen to A. R. Rahman’s music, or read Tolstoy, or watch the Super Bowl, or hang out with my family, or am engaged at work – there is no one longing which all these have to meet. There are many forms of longing, joy, curiosity, puzzlement, sadness and reflection.

Being with that diversity within oneself and in the world is itself a way of finding one’s way home.


3 thoughts on “Longing for Home”

  1. > I can feel the pull of this temptation. It has a certain centrifugal force which can take root from deep within one’s soul. // But it tramples over the intrinsic diversity within one’s own life.

    This is a great point. There are a cluster of related emotions here — nostalgia, homesickness, longing, sentimentality, loss, angst, desire, frustration — all wrapped up into a yearning for a landscape that one can inhabit fully. This does not have to be a spatial dislocation, either. I suspect that for many people in the US, a Norman Rockwell painting can be a similar resonance and call to a particular time.

    I think it is worth asking, how does the “centrifugal force” operate to “take root”? My own sense is that it is the pull of a daydream, a reverie that one gives in to that gradually seems more real than one’s actual lived life. I don’t know if this is quite as innocent as the Swades song makes it out to be — for example, the Hindutva movement is a politicized and religionized amplification of this emotion. There is even a program (called “Ghar Wapsi” — or “Home return”) aimed at reconverting lapsed Hindus back to Hinduism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghar_Wapsi).

    In short — I mostly agree with the points in your post, but I’m also a little wary of this sense of home-longing because it is an “easy” and “seemingly good” emotion that gives the warm fuzzies, and this lulls us into flowing along with it.


    1. Certainly the longing for home can take different forms, some benign and some not benign. For many years for me it was a kind of longing for a place on this earth, like wishing I wasn’t such a mixed person, and that I could be “just” Indian or American. As I realize there is no such thing as “just” Indian or American, this longing for a particular place is dissipating. But the longing itself is there, transmuted into a more spiritual longing for God, akin to how devotee of God longs for union with God. This seems to me perfectly fine. Religious fundamentalism combines these two forms of the longing (the one for a particular place/culture with the one for a transcendent place/God) into one mega-longing.

      The Swades song itself in the movie is perhaps much more “innocent” than either the fundamentalist longing or the spiritualized devotee longing. In the movie it is a little more akin to the Beatles’ songs “Penny Lane”. Though whereas the Beatles’ song is more wistful and playful in its nostalgia, the Swades song is more serious, and more like India calling the hero back to her.

      Liked by 1 person

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