Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Belonging…

on October 31, 2007

I’ve begun to notice a subtle shift in my perception relating to my role in my community. It has been six years since I first set foot in this small town of Hanover, NH. I have to say, I frankly don’t remember much of my first day, I was probably too jet-lagged. My first tangible memory of this place is one evening in my first week or so here, when I stepped out of the campus theater from a movie, and saw the big green with the clock tower lit up. The night was beautiful. and the place seemed heaven on earth.

I’m still in love with this place, this enchantment of seasons. Yet, I have to say, I have not had that deep sense of belonging, that this is home, till sometime recently. In these six years, two of the years were spent in another town called Keene which is about 75 miles from Hanover, due to daalu’s work. Keene was a lovely place, and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet some very special people, who made a difference in my life.

It has been about 6 months since we moved back to Hanover, with both of our jobs here. Neither of us has a long commute anymore, and it sure feels like a blessing. And for the first time in my life, since leaving India, I have a sense of community. That I belong here. That my actions affect others around me. They form part of my environment. I have a say. and whether or not I choose to participate in different activities, my very presence has made Hanover a little bit different from what it would have been otherwise.

Its hard to say how I’ve started feeling that sense of belonging. It may be the first time I went to the local organic farm-stand and saw that there were several folks who believed in shopping locally and who encouraged the community. and that I had a choice to do so, as well. It could be when we go to restaurants and cafes, and actually know the people who serve us. and we care about them. It could be when I saw the guy named Rob (who did our framing previously (and did a great job!) and whose store was closing), on the main street and asked him whether he was still going to be around. (he has now started a new store!). or when I go to yoga class and I know I belong among the yogis who nod to me and smile, and who greet me with namaste at the end of the class. Or when I go to the grocery store and actually find naan (indian bread) and paneer-some very indian ingredients.

The first time, someone called my name on the street, I thought to myself-that can’t be my name. Noone knows me here. That was some years ago. Slowly, over the years, people recognise me. They call me on streets (which I love!). They make me feel like I belong. that I’m home.

I’m reading this wonderful novel called ‘Shantaram’. Its based on the true experiences of this australian prisoner who escapes from prison and goes to Bombay, India. This guy (called Lin baba) is a man with a genuine heart. who embraces life, and struggles with his past. The book is mostly about his love for India. Each page teems with the reality that is indianness. And somewhere in the beginning of the book, there is this incident, where he is in a taxi driven by an angry, forever cursing cab driver. They get into an accident, and his friend who is with him, has this stricken look, and pulls him outside the taxi, as if their lives depend on it. and their lives do. For, an angry mob, who have witnessed a woman dying in the car which the taxi hit into, now want revenge. The whole mob targets the taxi-driver. and that is the end of his life. Its an eerie sensation. and someone from Bombay knows this is a very real incident. Lin talks about how shocked he is. and how ashamed he is of the mob’s behavior, of taking the law into one’s own hands, of taking a human life. And how helpless. He feels helpless because he is afterall an outsider. outside the fray. This is not *his* country. What can he do.

A similar incident repeats itself about half-way into the book. and this time Lin baba does not keep quiet. He knows Bombay. and at heart, he has become an indian. this is his people who are getting carried away in their angry and thirst for justice. He is ashamed of them, but this time, he does not keep quiet. He tries to save the life of the driver. He can no longer be outside the fray. He now belongs. and he can do something about it.

When I read this, I thought, how true. A sense of belonging is truly when there is the feeling that we ourselves also support others, in addition to being supported by them. Its the feeling that our actions matter in the bigger scheme of things. that we can no longer hide behind the *solo* curtains. We are now on stage. And our collective actions are reflective of our individual selves.

I knew I had arrived when I had a dream last weekend in which my dry-cleaner Julie featured! It was a bizarre moment, when I woke up from sleep and realized it was a dream. that I’ve actually become part of the daily-activities around me.

As my grant gets submitted today to NIH, I’m yet again reminded of how many people have helped me so willingly and patiently in getting this through. I feel supported yet again. And I knew, as I baked thank you cookies for them over the weekend, that they would appreciate it. and they would think of me. 🙂 .

And I can’t help but wonder, what does it really take to belong? is it really experiences outside us? or a shift in our inner selves..?

With love, S.

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