I have always been very proud of being an Indian to the core. Despite a lifetime in the Far East, my father, a proud media man in the INA (Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose), never gave up his Indian passport. In college, I even won a Femina Best Letter award for a letter in which I wrote that I felt truly Indian because few people recognized me as a Sindhi. Most took me for Punjabi, Maharashtrian, Bengali, even Muslim, depending on the clothes I was wearing when I met them.
Then I became even more Indian: a Sindhi married a Punjabi, children born and bred in Gujarat, a Sindhi-Parsi son in law, a Sindhi-Gujarati daughter in law and another Kashmiri. Sara Hindustan Hamara!!
I was born in Singapore and brought up in Jakarta, Indonesia. That made for an Overseas Indian mentality which looks back at India with a romantic attitude, enhanced memories of a happy childhood and detailed ones of India’s drawbacks. Fortunately I returned to India at age 13, an impressionable pre-teen and proceeded to fall in love with India and absorb her astonishing values and variety.
The reason for the early return to India was my father contracting Parkinson’s and being advised to return home. Before coming back, my father took my mother on an extended Far East tour to meet her brothers at Phom Penh, Saigon, Manila, Hong Kong and Japan; also obviously the hope of finding some cure for his then little-known ailment.
My three sisters and I set off for Bombay from Singapore in a liner. One the first day in the Indian dining room, the waiters piled our plates with rice and topped it with dal, vegetables and curd quite indiscriminately. We turned up our noses and declared haughtily, “This is not how food should be served.” Before we reached his table, the Captain had been apprised of our complaint. Thenceforth, we supped at the Captain’s table and partook of excellent meals served in all the style that bespeaks A Captain’s Table.