There was a time in my life when the question ‘where is home?’ would have been an absurd one. Born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I had never been on an international flight until after high school (save a short trip to Calcutta by road in tenth grade). Dhaka was the only home I knew. At eighteen, I prepared to go the US for my undergraduate studies, without an inkling, that I might be opening my heart and my life up to another home. I was sure I would finish college and return to Dhaka. I never would have believed that the pursuit of a foreign education could alter my psychological bearings, unhinge my physical associations and tug at the very roots of my being.
In college, where I looked, talked and thought differently from most of my peers, the first thing which rapidly came under scrutiny was the matter of where I was from. It was no longer just a city I had physically inhabited but an invisible badge of identity permanently stuck on me, sometimes to my detriment. Are you from India? No, I’m from Bangladesh. Is that in India? Well it’s right next to India. Do you speak Hindi? Do you walk barefoot? Do you wear the dot? India evoked a world that was far beyond a place; it was a complex organism that dictated every part of a person who claimed to hail from there – their skin, their language, their food, their religion and even ‘the dot’ on their foreheads. To make matters worse, I didn’t even belong to India but some godforsaken little spot on the world map, wedged between India and Myanmar. Some lumped me together with Indians anyway while others decided that Bangladesh, being one third the size of Texas, simply didn’t deserve so much attention unless perhaps I admitted to living on a tree. It didn’t matter whether a few years down the line, I felt at home in the little town of South Hadley and a few years later still, I fell in love with New York City hard enough to tattoo a Big Apple across my body. What mattered was that I was not expected to.