Dressing in blacks and whites, sipping endless bouts of coffee at work, opening doors for strangers and some other ‘Swedish ‘antics later I realized, I may have become the country I live in.
India and Sweden are like the two sides of a coin – and in sharp contrast, too. We Indians chatter animatedly, stare at passers-by – we come from a close-knit environment and live sheltered lives from an early age. On the contrary here, it is considered polite to speak in low tones, not exchanging glances with random people for more than 3 seconds and being large independent beyond your mid-teens.
Despite raising eyebrows on this count, you wave it off and tend to stick to your habits. But then unknowingly you become the country you live in. You, who were once a timid, passive expat walking in hesitantly absorb the culture around you. You acclimatize yourself. You soothe yourself when you feel ‘left-out’ and at times and you ignore the snide remarks a foreigner passes about your country. You remain calm when someone asks you about missing your country and you try not to play the foreigner card when called for an interview.
You become the country you live in. You want to blend in. You wear Western clothes and party like mad with your new friends. You want to lean in. You want to make a point that you are the India they wonder about – a country that is nice and welcoming, trying hard and easy to decipher. Not the India that they are scared to step in now. Not the ‘poor ‘India they picture In Slumdog Millionaire. Not the India which is just known for a party place like Goa. But the real India, the India you know and they don’t. And you try so hard.
You try so hard every day, and one day you are tired. You stop trying and that’s the moment you become the country you live in. You don’t pretend anymore. You adapt. You get used to this way of life. Being quiet, ‘bearing ‘the dark winter and looking forward to the summer, not ‘staring ‘at strangers, not ‘wanting ‘ to speak English, replace it with Swedish, not ‘liking’ certain things about our culture, going to India to feel at home but miss the ‘other’ home here.
Is it wrong to feel this way or right? Nobody knows. But you gradually feel the difference, whether you want it or not. When you feel no longer trapped in between, you become the country you live in.