Two Homes, Two Lives

Bringing India To America And America To India

I come home from India to the United States every year now to visit my dad. There he is in all his rakish charm, looking more Irish every time I see him: the sparkling blue eyes, the bright-white hair, the elfish smile. And he’s not the only one I get to see. I have an amazing family in America—our two older children, my sisters and brothers, my sisters- and brothers-in-law, a host of friends.

I love these visits.

I slip back into my life here as if I had never left. There are the odd quirks I have picked up unknowingly in my years in India (the head wag, the singsong, the obsession with ironing clothes, the easy assumptions about boundaries), which occasionally emerge as a reminder of my other life. But mostly I make the transition like a fish released into a deep lake. I drink coffee while I drive, and I drive carefully. I use the ATMs. I listen to NPR and the classical station. My brother-in-law and my nephews sing Irish folk songs, and I sing along. I cook the way I used to: quick, easy meals, which are prepared in no time. When the meals are over, we clean up after ourselves. I have wine every evening in front of the fire. I borrow clothes from my sisters and my daughter. I trade stories, recycle old jokes, and share memories. I am home.

And yet I’m not. My home is also thousands of miles away in a house my husband and I built. I speak another language there, Hindi, and I speak in another way: I use the familiar and occasionally the honorific. I...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.