Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Care ?

In quick succession, two of my good friends got converted. Well, not religiously, but by citizenship. The conversion is, of course, played down by citing it to be a routine administrative manner but, the focus on the topic left me thinking why I remain "what I am" ?

A bunch of things outwardly construct my identity. You can go with that as it is filled in any mundane form. Name, parents' names, birthdate, birthplace, citizenship, religious, sexual orientation. There are things in that list, which can be changed and things which cannot be. Coming to the first point of the list, name. It is not very uncommon to see people changing their names. You can find small notices on newspapers as required by law - "Myself Ananta Pradhan, as per affidavit, will now be known as Ananta Paik" - something like this. I have known people who, even without getting through the legal hassle, managed to get their names altered. Like, "Hi, I am Sandip, please call me Sandy". A part of their identity changes.

Coming to the last point of the list, sexual orientation. In a society where, the majority did not learn to accept minority with grace, having certain sexual preferences are viewed with contempt. That leaves little choice for many people who, remain in a dilemma for maximum part of their growing years. They sometimes take the hard step and leave an identity behind to get more at ease with the society. This reminds me of another interesting case, when a friend of mine joyously jumped to the minority group. Well, not the minority in terms of sexual orientation. It happened like this. Just after our entrance results for engineering were announced, the friend beamed with joy even though, his ranking was quite poor. He whispered in my ear - "my father got me an OBC certificate, thanks to our surname!". That ensured his entry to the prize departments of engineering studies.

What about citizenship ? Do you keep one or leave one ? As in particular if you are staying abroad for long duration. What are the pros and cons of it ? How to obtain one ? Actually, I never ventured to figure out how to get one in European countries, where I am staying for last 3 years. I heard floating stories like someone marrying an European woman, who demanded some money just to offer the coveted citizenship to the aspirant third-world citizen. I had a small encounter with an unknown person from Bangladesh, who met me by accident in Zurich train station. He kept on talking and impressing upon me on the citizenship-by-marriage scheme. I was so flabbergasted by the proposition that I could barely carry the conversation. Years later, I heard stories of immigrants who tear their passport upon arrival, so that the host country will never be able to officially deport them. In another interesting storyline, a friend of mine got quickly married to his country-woman before applying to a north American country for immigration. On enquiring about the sudden hurry, I was told that the immigration gets easier if certain criteria are fulfilled such as, marriage, children, higher education degree. So, don't be surprised if someone cites citizenship as the motivation for pursuing a PhD on molecular biology.


The question remained to myself, why I remain an Indian citizen. A quite proud one on that. Despite having thousand and one complaints against the way my nation is run. The answer is simple. After every self-complaining and frustrating sessions, I get the BIG question. What did I do ? I know that by adopting another citizenship, I can get past a lot of complications for at least international travelling, which I do quite a lot. However, my confession is that, I am doing possibly very very little for upholding the nation, which helped me to become what I am - not to mention by enriching my thoughts tremendously. I cannot imagine a more rich inheritance from any other nation (ok, getting a bit jingoistic here). Now, if I join the wagon of phoren citizens, I will even forget the pain that millions of my countrymen go through like asking to remove their turban or being interrogated at the airport just for having a long beard. The question is - whether I want to suffer by travelling in a local train with the crowd or if my task is so important that I give up the pain and enjoy the fruits of my life by driving in a SUV ? The answer I have is that when we forget the pain, we forget the duties, too. Like never knowing what it is to live without drinking water and electricity.

However, as with any matter of identity, the choice remains entirely personal and arguable for you. My small ray of hope is that my friends keep cooking Indian food and tells me that once they are back to India, getting back Indian citizenship takes only few years of continuous stay, which they want to do someday.

The poster is of an academy-award winning film Citizen Kane. Watch it !

6 comments:

  1. well put .. I sincerely believe I've met that Bangladeshi person in Zurich rail station .. He was suggesting the same to me .. Actually he started with this, "Do you have paper?" .. I said, "Yes, I do have one publication during my bachelor degree. But my master thesis is not mature yet to yield another publication" .. He snorted back, "No, I'm talking about legal papers. If you don't have it, get married."

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    1. Ha Ha, he surely was a commissioned agent then !

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  2. I sincerely believe that a piece of paper can never change your identity. Once a desi .... always a desi !! :)

    -Sarvo

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    1. @Sarvo, I am uneasy accepting the fact when putting the query to myself. The identities like religion, appearance, citizenship are partly of our inheritance and partly thrust upon by external factors. Like, I am a subdued Hindu, who might become an explicit one under extreme provocation. Just got a bit emotional after the visit to India :-)

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  3. It's personal choice dada. You may get your Blue booklet back after few years of European mask.. but it is almost difficult to carry the insecurity, the pain that comes with it.

    I could get the maroon identity in 2011, but was not sure if I would enjoy it. I am still scared to lose the blue identity, despite being very proud of it :)

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    1. @Pankaj,
      Sure, it is personal. I was trying to find the reasons for myself and ended up here.

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