I have three email ids that I use apart from my office email id. A yahoomail, which was my first and now used for facebook and offers and such spammy stuff, my gmail, which is for all contact purposes and another gmail, for my blog. My id on yahoo has the word ‘cosmozen’ in it. I had read the late Kalpana Chawla, a great astronaut that I respect and admire, use this word to describe herself and for being ‘a citizen of the universe’. I found it very apt to use it for myself, because I believed I did not really belong to any particular place in India. I have always had trouble answering when people asked me where I was from. I moved to Pune in 9th grade, so now I can comfortable say that I am from Pune(and I love the sound of it!).
A lot of people ask me about my family’s origin. My family has been pretty nomadic since the beginning. All of my family members are far flung across half of India. I would like to document what I know so that someday I can show this to my next generation when they get confused where they are from originally, just like me!
Beginning from my mother’s side, which is a little more complex than my father’s, she has lived most of her life as a single woman, with her 3 sisters in Ajmer, Rajasthan, where I was born too. My mom’s great grandfather belonged to Ajgaon(Ratnagiri district in Konkans), Maharashtra. He moved out of it in search for jobs. My Ajoba(grandfather) was born in Mahitpur, Madhya Pradesh, and grew up in Indore(Madhya Pradesh). Then, he got a job in the Indian Railways and moved to Fasilka, then Punjab, now Haryana. My Aaji(grandmother, was born and brought up in Akola(Jalgaon district), Maharashtra. After their marriage, he moved to Rajasthan. My aunts (and the other babies who did not make it), were born and brought up initially in several Rajasthani villages/towns like Surajgarh Shekhawati, Naraina, Sanganer, Sikar, with mom being born in Akola, and finally settled in Ajmer where my Ajoba built a wonderful house where I spent my happy first 6 months and then several summer vacations. Two of my aunts are based in Jaipur and one in Ratlam(Madhya Pradesh).
My father’s family hails from a village called Raver(Jalgaon district), Maharashtra. A century ago, my great grandfather moved to Indore for his job in the collectorate office. My Appa(grandfather) was born and brought up in Indore, while my Aaji was born and brought up in Akola, just like my other Aaji. My grandfather worked and retired as a principal and English Master of the biggest Marathi high school in Indore. Indore has a very prominent Mahrashtrian population, with their own Marathi Samaj and their events. There are Samajs(if that is a word) in Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad also. My father and his three siblings were born and brought up in Indore itself and went to the said school. My dad says it was very embarrassing to be in the same school where my grandfather worked. All his mischiefs were reported straight to his father! Haha!
My cousins are widely spread in Jodhpur, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, and in Southern California.
My parents had an arranged marriage in Indore. I started living in Indore in my 8th month. We moved to New Delhi(1st to 2nd grade), Ahmedabad(3rd to 5th grade), back to Indore(6th to 8th grade), and finally in Pune(9th grade to BE). Now I live in California, but I can confidently say that I am from Pune. In my 11th and 12th, my dad lived in Mumbai alone for a job he had there. For the record, my father and his extended family are the only people with the surname in the world. It could have been Raverkar, but instead is a really weird name, that sounds like a food item. My dog was born in Indore and brought up in Pune. Well, he is a part of the fam, so needs to be documented too.
With my family living in so many different places, there have been various advantages and disadvantages. I am not going to count the disadvantages now, because I have already posted about it earlier, and I am trying to move away from them and see only the positive picture now. We have experienced so many parts of India. My mom cooks wonderful food incorporating Mahrashtrian, Rajasthani and north Indian flavors in her recipes. Only my dad’s Marathi is perfect, like all his other language skills, including Gujarati. My mom’s Marathi and mine, well, is like a newbie talking. Our hindi is perfect and is the primary language we converse in at home. My dad speaks to me often in Marathi. But when my mom does, it sounds very unnatural, and I feel like she is going to scold me for something. Living in so many different places, we have experienced amazing cultures like, Dilli ka soft and succulent Paneer and chaat, A’bad ka kite flying, fafda-jalebi and the wonderful dandiya, Indore’s unmatched street food and sweets, and my most favorite school, and finally Pune’s lively Mahrashtrian cultural mix and the youthful energy. I feel lucky that I have experienced so many flavors in my lifetime and hopefully will continue experiencing the same. It makes a great conversation starter and has made me a bundle of anecdotes and stories. Maybe that is the reason I love travelling so much and being all touristy or nomadic. We made it a point to see everything we could around the parts of India we lived in.
So, when I read Kalpana Chawla using the term ‘Cosmozen’, I felt very drawn to it. It makes me feel belonged and grounded, but not tied to down to a spot. It makes me feel like I am flying, yet my feet are rooted to a place I call home. I may be a jetsetter in the future, and I feel ready to face it with happiness and a thirst to experience it all.
I shall welcome any travel with open arms!
Writing this post left me with such a warm and fuzzy feeling for some reason. Whenever I feel lost and uprooted, I am going to come back and read this post, to remind myself of why ‘Cosmozen’ is such a cool term.