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A couple of months ago I was out of town on a work related trip. I was attending a company meeting with colleagues from various offices in the US. We were all sitting at 4-5 round tables waiting for the speaker to start. Before starting, the speaker wanted the attendees to stand up and say a few words about themselves. I was the first in the row.

“Hello, I am Noorie Rai.”

“Hi, nice to meet you. So, where are you from?”, asked the speaker.

“India”, I said without even blinking; and as soon as I said that I knew that was not the intent of his question.

“Oh, welcome to the US.”

“No, I mean, I work at the Arlington, Virginia office. I am originally from India- is what I meant.”

“Oh, okay, so you are from Virginia.”

Argh …  that was embarrassing. It should have been pretty obvious that he intended to ask about my work location. But my response was instantaneous. What else would have I said if anyone asked me where I was from?

True – but then this made me think. Where am I from, really? At what point do you become “from” somewhere?

I am 31. I was born in Bareilly, UP, spent the first seventeen years of my life in Lucknow, next five in New Delhi and the rest in the US.

So, am I from Bareilly because I was born there? By that logic, Mother Teresa must be from Albania and Arnold Schwarzenegger from Austria. To some, that logic might sound sensible, to me, it just doesn’t cut it.

Or, am I from Lucknow because I have spent most of my life there? But should I conclude the answer to this intangible question from such a tangible numerical deduction? I’d say, no.

Or am I from New Delhi because the five years spent there contributed immensely in moulding my personality; as here is where I first started to live independently- if not financially then mentally.

Or am I from the US- for here is where I got married and started my own family? For here is where I really became independent- both financially and mentally.

How do I decide which place contributed to my life the most? All seem pretty significant, if I don’t rule by the numbers alone.

So, I thought for a while and asked myself- what does it really mean to be from somewhere? And after some more thought I concluded that to me it means- where your home is. No, not house, but home.

Sometimes when I am sitting in my own apartment, I still ‘feel like going home’ and I still ‘miss my home’. Especially, when I am sick or feeling low I feel like going home. Also, when I am really happy and excited I feel like going home.

So what is this home that I talk about?

I think home is the place with which you can identify yourself the most. It’s a place that gives you a feeling of being protected, safe and free. It’s a place that has always absorbed your tears reciprocated your happiness. It’s a place where you would want to be when you have nowhere else to go. For you, it may be where you were born, it may be where you grew up, it may be where you spent the most memorable days of your life, it may even be where you live right now.

For me, it is Lucknow. No, not the entire city. It is that house in Lucknow that’s my home- and it will always be. That’s where I am from. That’s where I want to be when I am happiest. That’s where I want to hide my face whenever I’m embarrassed. That’s where I can laugh most openly. That’s where I can express myself without being judged. That’s my home.

Aah, that was intense!

But for the sake of simplicity, for now, I’ll probably stick to- “Arlington, Virginia” and if prodded more-  “Originally from India.” If prodded even more, I’d probably refer them to this blog!