It is in India I first was called a foreigner. I suddenly felt the trauma of new Australians or their children, never really accepted.
“Foreigner?” he quizzed his Hindustani accent giggling, derisive but not mockingly so (“You are not Indian, us you will never understand”.)
There is always a distance, like the man and wife who in public speak with formulistic politeness, never fist name.
You ask someone to translate. But it is never your words. Instead a summary, a question is asked, they answer as if somehow your mind has been read.
But it is never me. I understand enough Hindi to know i said nothing of the sort.
You travel and a friend promises to translate the Hindi speaking guide. Five minutes of talk is condensed to 20 seconds. “He said ….” No requests for clarification or questions allowed. Asking for the details is met with disdain. “You ask too many questions, you are always in your head.”
It mirrors my inability to speak Hindi well.
Of course I don’t understand every cultural nuance.. That’s why I want my words translated correctly. That’s why I want to ask questions.
I want to understand. How can I explain to you that this is my home, the land of my heart. How do I prove to you I don’t feel I belong in Australia that sees me as too India, while you call me too Australian?
I am denied meaning of the experience and without meaning, I have no story – no narrative –that defies me.
I am left rootless in another land, a foreigner.