I am in my last semester of Masters, and for this semester I have taken electives that I, for once, am enjoying studying and participating in. One of the electives is Teaching English Internationally. Based on the course title, I assumed, it would equip me with skills to teach English in an international setting. It is anything but. The unit delves into the migrant experiences and how language is a major but not oft seen concept in the current era of globalisation.
A little background info about me. I was born and brought up in The United Arab of Emirates till the age of 16. My family and I then moved to Australia where we have been settled for the past 8 years. So, in a sense, my identity is an amalgamation of Indo-Arab-Aussie. I have married an Indian guy who hadn’t travelled outside India until our honeymoon in Europe. Whenever I travelled to India, it was only to my relative’s place. My husband, on the other hand, has travelled all over India. My husband and I come from different states in India. In India, each state might as well be its own country. My husband and I speak completely different languages, have different cultural backgrounds etc. Since I have always lived overseas, our upbringings are also vastly different.
I had never realised the importance of identity until I got married. I might look Indian, but my upbringing has never been because of “log kya kahenge?”. I was raised along with my two brothers but except for the fact that I should be back home by sundown, I never felt that I was limited in opportunities and freedom of expression. My in-laws are great people, but I was expected to behave like the Indian daughter-in-law. They never limited my movements, but I was expected to wake up at the beck of dawn. The food and language, albeit minor issues, were still issues. I am expected to learn a language even if the rest of Assam is fluent in a language I speak, Urdu/Hindi. Which came as a shock to me. No one can learn a language overnight. I felt like an outcast in a foreign land with a language that was alien to me. It’s not just Assam apparently. If an Assamese went to any other state of India, they would be expected to learn the language. And yes, I assume in a professional setting, that would do. But in a home setting, I would assume people would speak in a language that was understandable to all present. No? Just my family? Right.
My parents raised us in a way that wasn’t apparent in efforts but seeing families in India and their upbringing highlights the different way my parents instilled their values in us. It was never forced upon us and yet we grew up following their way. They taught us the principle of empathy. They showed us the beauty of Islam through their practice. The ideals of our Prophet for the whole of mankind and humanity was something we strived upon. My parents raised us to inculcate the good values of any culture, community or country and to disown the not so good ones. We were never patriotic to any country but I feel close to the Indians, Arabs and Aussies. They are not perfect but they can’t be stereotyped. And I, most certainly, do not fit into any stereotype. I am my own person with my own values. And I will not conform to anyone else’s expectations of how an Indian should be.