Wednesday, 02 January 2008 19:00 GFP Columnist - Haresh Daswani

ImageThere will be a small group of people in the world who live through a lifestyle I am in. It is, in a way, being an international citizen or not being a citizen of anywhere at all. I was born in the Philippines, with Sindhi parents, mom was born and raised in Singapore, dad was born and raised in India. Our grandparents in both sides of the family came from Pakistan. 

And, as some sources would also state, some of my great grandparents might have come from Afghanistan, who have come from Persia, some centuries ago. My family bloodline never did have a place of their own, and after a certain amount of time, did wander off to another place for a better life. 

I do hold an Indian citizen, and I do feel Indian. But when I did go to India, I felt different from the rest. Strange enough, I do feel ultimately different from all the Filipinos as well. If I do attend a party, I would look different, and people would look at me in that fashion too. There is always that sense of being in the spotlight at any given point. Being a foreigner in the Philippines does give them a sort of celebrity status, but not in a very positive way.

It is different to not really have a place to really attach oneself to, although I do pride myself for being Indian, my roots are not so deep. What is most disturbing though is that there are locals who do not like us because we're entrepreneurs, and they're not. This was the same difficulty my grandparents had to go through in Pakistan (being Hindus forced them to migrate to India during the massive exodus), history does not really change so much.

The positive side of things is that one can get used to being a foreigner of the world, and choose where to go and know the boundaries. It is already accepted that I might not be able to totally relate to my fellowmen in India, or that I will not be ignored or looked differently in the Philippines, we get used to it. But we are a small group whose childhoods were different, as we tried to keep our own culture whilst being in a foreign land, only to realize that we have not been able to keep all the culture, but mostly the religion, enough on the language, food, movies, and music.

There is a distinct difference in our perception of the world. We become observers of everything rather than players. Our opinions can be harsh and yet objective, we don't really take sides as there is no side for us to really take, and thus can make a nationalist not be very fond of us. This might have been the reason it is so easy for us to migrate, it is easy to uproot a tree with barely any roots on the ground.

There are some places we foreigners can sneak to, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Here, everyone is a foreigner, and everyone ignores you unless they need something. Suddenly, you make friends because they want to be friends, women (or for female readers, men) look at you because they find you attractive, and not because you're different. Yes, these places are heaven for international citizens, whose identity is a melting pot of cultures, a book of different ideas and ideals.

After a short lived vacation or business trip, we do have to get back though, and proceed with our normal lives. But there is always one thing, if anyone is out there who falls into the same group I do, worry not, for we are more than open and happy to make new friends, just keep your roots shallow and your mind open, your country is the world.

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