A Rootless Tree

I started writing this post, and then somehow closed it without remembering to save it. In retrospect, that was fortunate, because I believe I had been rambling quite a bit.

I’ve been debating whether or not to blog about this for some time now, too, as it’s kind of personal, and I’m one of those people who gets queasy at the thought of putting myself out there on the interweb-thingy. So if you read this and feel like the thought is incomplete, that’s probably why.

Anyhow! What was I rambling about? Well, this semester has been an enlightening one in many ways, but mostly because it has brought about a crisis of identity. My wonderful supervisor tells me this is completely normal, but it is still quite freaky. And unsettling.

A number of things (which I shan’t enumerate for fear of starting to ramble again) caused me to realize that I wasn’t really sure who, where, or what I was. Or am. I still haven’t figured it out. Some might call me a CBCD – a variation of ABCD. (For those of you who don’t know, that’s an “American Born Confused Desi,” Desi being Hindi for someone from India. The CBCD, of course, is the ABCD’s Canadian cousin).

To a degree, this is true. I am a CBCD. But I’m not quite sure I’m Canadian any more. It says I am on my passport, but I don’t really feel Canadian – unless I’m around Americans. Even then I am aware of the superficial nature of the identity I dawn. History has been a large part of realizing this. This semester has shown me that Canadian history, the way Canada would like me to think of it (which I will get into at some point in a future post), isn’t my history at all.

In talking with my supervisor, she suggested to me that my identity is postcolonialism. I realized at once what she meant, but then also that even that identity has many different meanings. People like Gauri Viswanathan, or Edward Said, or even Gayatri Spivak, they own their postcolonial identities. They come from places that were colonized, and they have a solid footing from there. Me? I’ve got feet in the ocean. I don’t know where they belong. I can’t own my postcolonial identity, because I don’t know what it is. And that’s troubling.

But it’s also normal, I guess. For now, my crisis is my identity. It sounds strange, but I feel as though I’m waiting for something to hit me, for something to happen that will show me where I belong – physically, academically, culturally, etc. (Wow, that does sound clichéd. Yeesh!)

I am not particularly fond of this corner of the pseudo-space of the postcolonial but for now, I guess it’s where I am at.

I am of the postcolonial generation of uprooted trees. Not all of them transplant well.

4 thoughts on “A Rootless Tree

  1. It sounds like you have a classics case of “English-Canada syndrome.” We only feel ‘Canadian’ when we compare ourselves to others like the Americans. This also was a problem for the British in the 18th and 19th century. Linda Coley argues that their identity was formed first by comparing and contrasting themselves to Europeans, and later to their imperial subjects (like Indians).

    • It’s weird though – even if you think of it in terms of Orientalism – I ‘other-ize’ aspects of Canadian culture and different aspects of Indian culture. So what I have is some mashed up in-between in which both are and simultaneously are not the “Other.” But I think your diagnosis is right to a degree for sure. I define my own identity by comparing and contrasting, though I guess I’m not always aware of when I do it. Interestingly, I remember reading somewhere that in most colonies, nationalistic sentiment grew within the diaspora in Europe, North America, and neighbouring colonies where they came into contact with groups which gave them the opportunity to define themselves against an “Other” or “Others.”

      But yeesh! We must be in grad school if we’re analysing our own identities.

  2. Identity-confusion is totally part of being Canadian (which you are my dear, or at least part of you is, you can’t escape it!) .. hence the conversation we had today about the inherent connection I have always felt to Ireland, where I have never lived. But is it truly our nationalities that define who we are? I’d like to think not 🙂 as proud a Canadian as I may be. Canadian, Indian, or floating in the ocean, you’re still Arpita, and that means wonderful.

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