Saturday, Jul 02, 2022
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Essay

Rooting For Home

In humans, as in plants, roots grow deeper if left to grow in one place, untransplanted

Rooting For Home
Narendra Bisht
Rooting For Home
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Jawaharal Nehru was torn between his native place and the culture he absorbed from Britain. In the postscript to his autobiography, he said, "I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also sometimes I have an exile’s feeling." However, it’s always seemed to me that in the end India, the native place, won in the struggle for Nehru’s heart. The evidence is that moving tribute he paid to the Ganga in his will. Asking for a handful of his ashes to be sprinkled on her waters, he said, "The Ganga, specially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilisation, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga."

Although I am in no way comparable in achievement, or importance, to Nehru or Hardy, I also have felt a tension between what I would call two native places, India, the place of my birth, and England, where I was educated. My father was born in the west of England, not far from Hardy country. He was the first member of his family to come to India. My mother was born in the then East Bengal, and her family had links with India going back three generations. But from my earliest childhood, although I was living in Calcutta, I was left under no illusions about where I ought to locate my native place. I was consistently reminded by my European nanny that I was a little English boy. She had been employed to ensure I didn’t come under the influence of "the servants". So I didn’t have Kipling’s advantage of being taught to speak Hindustani by an ayah.

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