Whenever I think of the word Diverse, my mind immediately brings up memories and images of India. I credit this to my 7th grade geography teacher.
Me and all of my classmares were Indian. Despite staying in Qatar, I went to an Indian school, had Indian friends and couldn’t speak Arabic to save my life (still can’t, unfortunately). I hated being limited to learning only about India. I wanted to learn about capitalism and anarchy not about the Indian ballot boxes. I wanted to learn about different countries and their histories not about the wildlife sanctuaries in India which is precisely the topic the syllabus commanded us to learn that day.
I think all my classmates and friends felt the same way. At our expression, she gave an exasperated sigh. “Why don’t you want to learn about India?”, she asked us.
“Because it is boring. Why would we need to know about wildlife sanctuaries anyway?”, someone said from the back of the class.
“Yea, if I really wanted to visit one, I would just google it”
My teacher closed her textbook.
And then she proceeded to talk about India in a manner that I found most fascinating. She talked about how India contained all the geography of the world in a single area.Rote memorization was a cultivated habit in Indian schools and I knew all the states and their capitals by heart. That day was an exception. I learned much more than that. It actually played into my childlike wonder and fantasy. I had never thought about it that way until she put in words. She talked of the Himalayan mountains- strong, magnificent peaks. She talked of white snow of Kashmir, the desert of Rajasthan, the almost-tropical beaches of Goa, the Deccan plateau, the fertile lands and soils of Northern India and the islands that dotted India’s southern coast.
The moment was nothing short of an ephiphany for 12 year old me. It bought up a lot of realizations accompanied with questions and thoughts. I have never lived in India for more than 2 months. The corniche skyline, the sand dunes, the sealine beach and the dhows here are what I’m familiar with. At the same time, I love Indian food, Indian clothes and the party-mode that seems to hang in its atmosphere. Whether it is Eid, Diwali, holi, dusshera, Easter or Christmas, India always seems to be celebrating something.
A friend once told me, a passport is nothing but a piece of paper.I think her words have a ring of truth to them. My passport screams Indian. Do I confine myself to that? Why did I feel a sense of pride when I looked at images of “Incredible India”?
I’ve been taught Hindi and I watch Bollywood films. I watch the India vs Pakistan matches and scream myself hoarse when India wins. Both my parents are from India and that is a country that I will always associate myself to and I love. At the same time, Qatar is what I know- my safe space, my comfort zone, my home.
I had written a story when I was in the 11th grade along similar lines. It was called Defining Me and I just stumbled across it a couple of days ago: