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ABCD vs CBAD – “You don’t belong here!”

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Most would have heard of American Born Confused Desi (ABCD)… but what about CBAD? Canadian Born Adopted Desi?

No one fits into a simple description. Country of origin and cultural heritage are just a couple of pieces of a very complex puzzle that makes up a person and then distinct people into a community.

I enjoy stories of others, like me, with a longer term embrace of a country other than the land of their birth. Beyond the traditional ‘expat’ is something else. In my case, if it was the reverse – India to Canada – I would be considered an ‘immigrant’. Comfortably settled into my ‘adopted’ country where my everyday ‘lingo’, cultural reference points, life experience and reality is… well… Indian.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I tried to join a forum for India bloggers. I’ve seen it featured on many blogs I enjoy so thought – why not give it a whirl?

Apparently I don’t belong.

Status: This blog was rejected as it did not comply with our submission guidelines. Sorry!

With the rejection, I received a brief note indicating my nationality disqualifies me. I wrote back sharing more insight about my circumstances to be greeted by a resounding silence – despite follow-ups.

From Bolobhi.com

From Bolobhi.com

Funny thing is, identity is not such a simple thing. As submitting your passport is not part of the application process, could they be applying a perceived nationality by name? How problematic is that?!

  • If I used my ex’s last name (Agarwal), I probably would have been accepted
  • Or even my sister’s name (Chandra), might have sailed through!
  • Yet more troubling, would an Anglo-Indian name (like Denzil Smith) also be denied?

There is something quite contradictory about their unwritten ‘nationality’ policy.

  • There are members with nationalities other than India, just ‘desi’ names.
  • And at least one from another country whose only ‘India’ link is a fiancé she hopes to join… one of these days.

Clearly this forum doesn’t want me… which is entirely their prerogative.

If I ever spoke with the mythical powers behind it… I imagine the conversation might go a little like this…

IB: So…. you are trying to tell us you are from India. Where?

Me: Mumbai, India.

IB: Yeah but I mean, this must be… like… temporary right? 

Me: I can remain as long as I keep my passport valid. 

IB: Umm… but like you just moved here or something.

Me: Actually… It’s been awhile.

IB: So a year or two I guess?

Me: Nope! A bit longer…

IB: I bet 5 years ago you didn’t live here.

Me: I did.

IB: But not 10 years ago.

Me: I did.

IB: OK. But no way you did 20 years ago.

Me: Actually… I was living in Delhi then. So I guess you are correct – I wasn’t living in Mumbai. And then in between I was back in Canada for a few years….

IB: And you weren’t born in India…

Me: No…

IB: (Triumphantly) See! You aren’t actually FROM here. You weren’t born here. You aren’t really Indian. So you don’t belong.

On several levels they are not wrong. My passport is not Indian, my ethnic heritage is not Indian and yet my adult life has been inextricably linked to this country.

It begs the question – what does it mean to ‘belong’ to a place?

Clearly I could go on… what it boils down to is a blended identity. A bit of being betwixt and between. Neither here nor there but both.

I’m comfortable with being excluded from this forum. Just as I’m comfortable with being what I’ve decided to call ‘CBAD’.  I’m proudly Canadian born and equally absolutely delighted to be ‘adopted’ by India!

So thank you both India and Canada and huge hugs to all the family and friends who are happy to say ‘You belong.’

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26 Comments

  1. Detroit to Deutschland says:

    In my opinion, you belong where you want to belong and where you feel comfortable. Since you have spent much of your life in India, have integrated yourself into the language and culture and made a life for yourself in that country, you “belong” there. That’s my “expat” opinion though 😉

    I would think that the people of India would be interested in hearing the opinion of someone who willingly moved to and remained in their country. That is a compliment to them and their land if you think about it. Most people remain in their home countries simply because they were born there and that’s it, they feel comfortable. But we expats move abroad and seek out our countries of residence out of desire, passion and interest.

    Maybe one day they will change their mind. I wish you a great weekend and all the best!

    -Josh

    • Well put Josh! And honestly, I’m not fussed about the Indian blogging forum. Was simply a lark trying to suss it out. An interesting reminder about ‘perception’ though. My everyday life is entirely comfortable – India is ‘home’ – it is as simple and as complicated as that! 🙂

    • As a Cleveland to Ireland person, I totally agree! I doubt Germany has the same diaspora Ireland has – but you’d think the locals would be complimented on our choice of country!

  2. Sarah M says:

    Really interesting how they make the distinction. I suppose we’ve all met expats who start behaving like they’re Indian (or Chinese or whatever) when they’ve only been in the country a month or something, and maybe that’s who they’re guarding their precious forum against.
    My mother always told me not to try and play with the kids who were so snobby they don’t want to play with me. You don’t need them.

    • Haha! I agree with your momma! She is one wise woman. 🙂

      I guess because I’ve never circulated in the typical expat world here I’ve avoided the worst of this ‘instant expert’ lot. Personally, I think that’s a good thing. 😉

  3. lafemmet says:

    Sadly, this idea is found everywhere. I skype with a lovely Indian lady who found me through my blog. She is having serious problems fitting in in Serbia. 😦 I hate that others can so easily reject outsiders. Sometimes it really hurts. That does not seem to be you. 🙂 I am glad of that.
    My philosophy is “The more the merrier!”

    • I can imagine Serbia would be quite an adjustment from India. While I enjoyed my time there in 1990, suspect actually living there would be an interesting challenge! 😉

      Aside from this silly rejection, I honestly have no real complaints about being accepted in India. I’m ‘white’ though and that unfortunately makes a difference.

      A recent racist comment about Nigerian’s by MP Giriraj Singh is only one of many examples.

      Perception is a funny thing though. My partner is Anglo-Indian… with me by his side, he’s faced an increase in questions like “So, when did you move here?” or “How long have you been here?” or “Was it difficult adjusting to India?”.

      Similarly, folks from the NE face discrimination as they look “chinky” (not my description!)

      India, like many countries, has a habit of not treating all its citizens / immigrants / visitors equally.

  4. Methinks you should start your own forum 🙂

  5. Not your people clearly. Anyway- the world loves a Canadian- or an Australian! I found that when I write about a culture most people love reading about themselves- and then 1% send me hate mail. Whatever.

  6. Archana says:

    Great post. It’s a conundrum, belonging to more than one place, having an identity in tangible and intangible ways…we’re our own tribe!

  7. Love this post. Sorry that others don’t see your gra (an amazing Irish word that means so much more than just love) for India. Maybe there is a word you have that means the same?

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