...to the mother i was a child...to the father i was a child....to time...i was just another story beginning...
I love the look on peoples face when I answer their question to the place of my birth. I was born on a sunny afternoon on 11th of May in the beautiful city of Baghdad, Iraq. My parents tell me that it was a beautiful city. Back in 90’s it was peaceful and overflowing with love. I have no memories of it whatsoever. All I have is a birth certificate with my name on it…a stamp of an officer from the Indian High Commission in Baghdad and something written in Urdu at the top of the page. The piece of paper is so fragile now…I can hardly believe it survived. I don’t hesitate to say that I was born under the rule of Saddam Hussain…I think it’s quite humorous. Though the people often reply with the lame question “…but you don’t look Iraqi”…to which I can only reply…”because I am not! I am Indian!” and then I have to explain how in the world I managed to get there in the first place! It’s even worse when people say “Oh you were born in Iraq! No wonder you are so fair!” WTF?? HUH??!!?? I have never been able make the connection between the place of your birth and the way you look…and I doubt that there is even one!
My dad went there as part of the Indian High Commission in 1984. My sister and I were born there…she seems to have no memories of it either. But now when I see the news every now and then, it hurts me to see the city in tethers… being plundered by the greedy and selfish…some of them with names and some without. Every now and then my parents start talking about a world that I have not heard of. A land where people were as fair as angels, cheeks flooded with red blood, children running around bare feet on the cold streets…playing tag. They speak of rotis the size of a large pizza…and thin as paper, being made on upside down pans. The people ate a lot of meat apparently and drank a lot of milk…goats’ and camels’! They speak of “dinars”...the currency of Iraq. They describe how beautiful the mosques where and how the sound of the evening prayers filled the air. Every now and then, my dad would recite something in Urdu as well. The most memorable memory of theirs is the day they arrived there. After leaving India in the midst of a hot summer, they were shocked to land in the bitter cold of an alien nation. They had never before left their mother land. Their expressions must have been somewhere between surprise and confusion.
Now whenever I hear the name of my birth land…it’s usually followed by the words “bomb”, “terrorist” or “suicide”. It’s a pity to see such a place fall apart. It’s a strange feeling of seeing the place where you were born become a land of death. My parents tell me I was a beautiful baby. The nurses passed me around saying “Oh look! And Indian baby! An Indian baby!”…either I must have been really cute or looked like an alien! I was barely a month old before we left the country and returned to India. It was soon after that the war began and the city fell victim to chaos.
We Indians tend to be very proud of our motherland and we never forget from where we came. We all talk about remembering where our roots lie and where we “belong”...so, how does one split his loyalty? I am Indian by heart, maybe not in habits, but I take pride in being able to link myself to a land lying beyond the horizon. Somewhere deep inside me there is longing to go back to my birth place and see the city where I was born. To see what became of the hospital where I breathed my first…what became of the home where my cries echoed. Maybe the neighbors will remember my parents. Maybe an unknown stranger will say to me “oh…how much have you grown….you Indian baby!” I wouldn’t say I am incomplete without this experience…but I long to breathe in that air again before I die. Though I doubt if I will ever be able to, but hope remains nevertheless.