A Man Without an Address: The things we don’t talk about when we talk of exile

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My classmate at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, Saraswati Narayan, who went by the pet name Chachu, asked me, “Are you from Bangladesh?”
“Yes.”
“Where are you from?” I ask her.
“We are from south India.”

She didn’t say, “Indian”. Which means, Saraswati Narayan’s identity was of a south Indian.

She was from Kolkata, but her family was internally displaced, in a manner of speaking. Her father had moved there for professional reasons. Maybe, one day, he’d go to some other city. But their identity would always be “from down south.”

People from different parts of India live in other parts to work or do business. In a sense, they are homeless too. They identify themselves as belonging to some state — “I am from that state”; “I am a Bengali, a Bihari, a Punjabi, an Odiya”. This is their identity even though they are citizens of India. Maybe, one day, they would return to their land, each to his home. In that sense, they are not unmoored. But their main identity is regional. Read more

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