They say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
I wonder what they would say about me
Born in a town in the east of India
I barely ever spent any time there
Is it really home if every visit makes me feel like a tourist?
Cautious at every twist and turn, beaten in enthusiasm by the yoga-peddling white cultural colonialist?
It was only a matter of months and I was headed to Dubai
Most commemorate flying, while I can’t even remember my first flight
Opportunity beckoned in the golden sands
I soon found myself crawling with knees and hands
Crawl turned to walk and I started to talk
Not in Hindi, not even in my mother tongue
Rather in English, as I had been conditioned
I grew older and spent time around the elders
They disapproved of my illiteracy in my mother tongue. Don’t they always know better?
Cartoons from the US and sports from the UK. What about my roots?
I wasn’t born American. I wasn’t born British.
Is it really home if I never lived there?
So I was immersed in conversations with elders, my patchy Odia today a result of these efforts
My schooling took shape as well
English was the primary language, but Hindi and Arabic wanted a piece of the pie
While Hindi took grip and brought Urdu along, my Arabic was nowhere near as strong
It didn’t matter as I belted out both songs
Jana Gana Mana and Ishi Biladi
Singing praises for my motherland and also the place I could most reasonably call home
But is it really home when you’re an expat forever?
I lived for 18 continuous years, but it could’ve been 58 and it wouldn’t matter
I now find myself, twenty years into life, in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin
In the United States, the land that gave me cartoons and songs
But even before setting foot, I knew I wouldn’t belong
The stamp in my passport made that very clear
There do exist paths, the roads often taken
The roads that have shaped Asians in the United States
But for all intents and purposes, once I’m done, I must be gone
For I’m an “alien”
Madison may very well feel like home
But is it really home when those in power don’t really want you here?
And those who do are left largely powerless?
In a journey to find myself, I could be called many things
Perhaps most disparagingly a coconut
Darker-skinned on the outside and white on the inside
But all I seek is greater insight
I don’t feel fully Indian, I don’t feel Emirati
I’m certainly no Brit and certainly not a Yankee
I guess this leaves me with one single question
Where is home, actually?
Anupras Mohapatra is a former opinion editor for The Daily Cardinal and currently serves on the Editorial Board. He is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Journalism.