PHOTOS AND TEXT BY AMBER KIDNER
Our resident contributor from India will no longer be writing and photographing from South Asia for us. She has changed continents. Again. Which is no straightforward undertaking, as she describes here.
I’ve loved residing in foreign places, places I was not born in nor brought up in.
I loved moving as a young adult to multicultural London, the crossroads of the world.
As a singleton, I loved being playfully pursued by young, single Indian men who helped populate my corner of London. I’ll never forget one young man’s parting words to me as I walked along the high street: “May all your dreams come true!”
I loved sitting in the living rooms of many different friends sipping chai and talking about the Koran, about Sikh beliefs, about family dynamics, about migration, and about identity under stress from change and isolation.
I loved spending my early-married years abroad—in London still—having two children, and through them becoming even more integrated into our immigrant-heavy suburb of London.
Then it was time to move.
This time, to India.
While London had been close and familiar, Delhi was so very foreign and far away. My husband, American like me, and I learned so much during our three years in that great city, and I’m left with an awareness that I’ve got so, so much more to learn from India if I choose to do so.
But now we’re in St. Louis, Missouri.
I like to think of this move as a laughable providence of God. We did not see this coming but have been sure it was for us.
Yet I still feel heavy with grief and tears as we continue to settle in. I have been thinking of myself as being in pieces, with parts of my heart left behind in the places I’ve lived in and loved.
Recently I’ve been reading a shortened modern prose version, by R. K. Narayan, of the ancient Sanskrit epic “The Ramayana.” In the opening pages of this epic, the teacher Viswamithra is telling Rama a portion of Ganga’s story.
He says: “We attain a full understanding only when we are aware of the divine and other associations of every piece of ground we tread on. Otherwise it would be like the passage of a blind man through illuminated halls and gardens. That is the reason why I have explained to you the story of every place we have passed through. You see that river now. It is Ganga flowing along the valley, coming down from the Himalayas, carrying within her the essence of rare herbs and elements found on her way. She courses through many a kingdom, and every inch of the ground she touches becomes holy. Ganga cleanses and transforms.“
I like these images of storied ground and of a flowing, living river carrying goodness as she moves from kingdom to kingdom. Right now my family and I are in the thick of major transition, and all that I’ve known of my life overseas feels like a wad of memories and emotions in my gut and in my throat. But over time maybe this will loosen up and become for me streams that flow and bubble with transformative power.
And so towards that end, I say this:
“Hello St. Louis. Thank you for having me.”