The idea of “back home” for one Indian expatriate

Former Indian expatriate (who is now a returnee to India) Mohan Krishnamoorthy recently described for DNAIndia.com his idea of India as “back home” when he used to live in Australia and how his perception of “home” has changed.

Mohan’s essay began with him relating how the stewards were preparing for landing and one of them remarked to him: “Nice to be back home, I’m sure.” The question left him off-kilter because he had lived in Melbourne for 17 years before moving to Mumbai in 2009 for professional reasons, leaving him to reply:

“No, actually. I’m travelling from home to the city I currently work in.”

However:

The irony is that in all my years in Melbourne, I would always refer to India as “back home”. I would often talk almost longingly about the vibrancy, the anarchy, the energy and the chaos of life “back home”. I would weave in phrases about life “back home” in many normal conversations. So much so, that my Australian colleagues and friends would often ask if I intended to head “back home” to India some day in the future.

Nevertheless and when Mohan finally returned home to India, his repatriation was not an easy process:

As a returnee, I needed to quickly re-emerge from the value time-warp I was in and readjust to a society and a culture that had changed quite dramatically. This was exceedingly difficult for me considering I – like many other returnees – had gained and absorbed an Australian identity even without actually realising it.

He also commented that:

The longer the “returnees” live overseas, the more difficult it is for them to reintegrate into their home of origin. The readjustment is not only to a different pace of life but also to a community identity that is shaped by values very different to the ones locked away in their collective memories.

After the initial shock of returning “home,” Mohan concluded that home for him is more about the place where he is happiest, most at ease, the least awkward and where his friends are – conclusions every expat or returnee would be wise to consider.

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