Chapter 9, Pt 3 of 4
COMING OF PEACE
“I came to my senses when I had no money left, and had to take on a part-time job. I would have given up my medical studies altogether if my wife Gwenneth hadn’t come to my rescue.”
“Oh, you had got married, too, then?”
“Yes, but I had no money to support her. In actual fact she supported me to some extent, and thus helped me to carry on with my medical studies.”
“And you qualified at last. I must say it is creditable for you both.”
“We have two growing children now as well,” he added.
“Do they know anything about their grandparents and other relatives in India?”
“No, not at all. I never talk to them about India. I want them to get thoroughly assimilated in this country. I don’t believe that one can be loyal to two countries at the same time. I don’t want them to be frustrated and belong to neither this country nor India. In fact, Mrs Chowdhary, this is where we Indians make a mistake. We come to live in other countries, and yet we still dream of our Homeland—India. We never seem to get free of the old sentiments and ties.”
Dr Madan then generally criticised what he called the “Indian Mentality.” I listened for a while, and told him that there was some truth in what he said.
“But when we criticise Indians, Doctor, let us not forget that we are no different from our brothers and sisters in India. We have also got their weaknesses, you know. This question of assimilation in the country of your choice is rather a thought-provoking one,” I added. It certainly was. I couldn’t get it out of my mind the whole day. I laid awake thinking about it.
It wasn’t easy to belong to two countries. What was the meaning of assimilation in the true sense of the word? The Oxford Dictionary gave the meaning as “getting absorbed into a System or Country.” and I knew that Dr Madan meant the same. Was it possible, or even wise for a person like myself, who had been born and brought up in India, a country, which had its own strong culture and traditions, to get completely absorbed in this country, or in any other country, if it came to that? Was it wrong to dream of your old country and the dear ones you left behind: your parents who sacrificed their all for you and gave you a good start, and helped to build your character? Wasn’t it your duty to be grateful and loving towards them for all your life?
They were your old and trusted friends, so why should you abandon them simply because you had preferred to settle down and start your working life in another country. Surely it was possible for you to have a big enough heart to make as many new friends and acquaintances as you could, and still keep your old ones? What a vast field of knowledge and interest was open to you. One could get accustomed to the divided loyalties to two countries, especially when they were friendly countries.
I wondered whether Dr Madan had in mind some of the Indian people, who, while living more or less permanently in this country, refused to mix with the British people. They even considered themselves superior to them. That is positively a wrong way of going on. That did not benefit anybody, and what lonely and uninteresting lives those people must lead through nobody’s fault but their own.
No. I wouldn’t like to live like that. I thought, and yet I was determined to keep in contact with my old friends and the country.
It was now thirteen years since I had started my new life in England, and I felt it was high time that I paid a visit to India. I probably would have done so earlier had it not been for the war. Now that that was over, my first desire was to revisit India, to spend some time with my dear parents, relatives and friends. The memory of my old, familiar world came crowding into my mind. Its clear blue skies, the noise and bustle of its streets and bazaars, its exquisite natural sceneries, and also its vast stretches of parched barren land. Its terrific heat, dust and flies, too. How would I react to those after being free from them for so long, I wondered.
For various reasons it was not possible for us, the whole family to go away together, so it was decided that I should go and take our ten-year-old son, Vijay, with me. As I made preparations for our voyage I thought about the changes my dear ones in India will find in me.