I hail from Bangalore in India. I have been living in the United States for the last two years, an immigrant H1B visa holder. My family had a month-long trip planned to Bangalore during the kids’ summer vacation. We had an important family function to attend.
When it was about two weeks to go for the trip, I learnt that I could not travel. My US visa had expired in 2014. I was here on visa extension. I had to get my visa stamped, if I had re-enter the US. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available in India for visa stamping at this time. I was disappointed. I cancelled my trip. All the excitement died down.
“Oh, why was this so complicated?” My family went ahead with the travel. I entrusted my elder daughter of playing the role of a mother to the younger one and bid them good-bye at the airport.
In the meawhile, I spent at home alone watching a lot of TV. The “Brexit” happened. I wondered what the people would be thinking when they voted. A country as great as Great Britain, thinking the conservative way? Then I convinced myself with — I did think the same way when there was a huge exodus of people from different parts of India into Bangalore in the 90s.
Bangalore definitely improved a lot after this exodus. There were better job opportunities, better education, higher competitive spirit, a lot of intellectuals to meet everyday at the workplace. Bangalore was placed on the world map as the “Silicon capital of the East”. That definitely was a big plus for the city. I had very good friends from this “immigrant” category. My cook in Bangalore was an immigrant too. We all loved his food.
I consider myself a very liberal thinker, a rebel in my family. I did not give into religious beliefs and cultural practices, unless I see a meaning in them. However there was a tiny corner in my mind, that did not like the “new” people in my society. They were different from the original inhabitants. They spoke different languages. They looked a bit different. Their mannerisms were different. The tiny corner did focus a little more on their flaws than their good. That set me thinking, “Are humans culturally and genetically wired to ‘like’ birds of our own feather?” Do we exhibit the “territorial behaviour” as in many other animals? Well, whatever it is, I still wanted the good old “Garden City” of Bangalore.
I went for long hike with a friend of mine, who proclaimed that she had finally got her American citizenship. She told me about the ten-year long wait time. Also about how people were scampering in the crowds, to get their green cards and eventually, citizenship. She asked me to initiate the green card process as soon as I can. “Oh my God, this was again so complicated!”
“Countries are man-made boundaries.” The only progress we have made in past few centuries is the establishment of democracies — a political leadership chosen by people and not by descent. But we still have those logical boundaries. The logical boundaries that we fight for. The logical boundaries that constrain sharing of land and wealth with others. The perfectly legal boundaries.
The most commonly observed pattern is immigration from poorer countries to the richer ones. We teach our kids to share. But when it comes to sharing wealth with people unlike us, we always take a step back. We have identified all sorts of discrimination — gender, religion, ethnicity… I call this “Territorial discrimination”. Imagine a world where people could spread out where they want. Wouldn’t it have been lesser trouble?
I hope that the future generations can think of countries as history, like how we think of kingdoms today. I hope that the world will be one without barriers, open for everyone to live and travel where they wish. I hope to see a day where passports merely establish identity and not citizenship. I hope we are able to share our land, water and air with all inhabitants of the earth. I hope we will able to explore and share culture, knowledge, thoughts and lifestyle with all.
To John Lennon’s Imagine — You’re not the only one. I will surely join you. And the world will live as one.