Citizens of the world or just homeless?

The other day I had about four kids in my car. My kids are half Indian and half Danish; and Tobias carries both a Danish and US passport (because he was born in the US; just like Obama) while Isaiah has a Danish passport. One of Tobias’s friends in the car has an American mother (but she was born and raised in the UK and has Indian ethnicity) and a Danish father; and another one of Tobias’s friends is adopted from Africa and his father in British and mother is Danish.

They started to have a discussion about where each one of them was born and where they were from. And so I told them that they should think of themselves as citizens of the world because that’s what they were.

I have always thought I was a citizen of the world. I come from many places. I was born and raised in India; I studied, worked, married and gave birth to a kid in the states; and now I’m in Denmark where I work and well, I also gave birth here.

Interestingly enough I came across a hairy situation a while back at the workplace where someone said that I wasn’t Danish enough, which was detrimental to my career. Regardless of the fact that this was completely racist; it got me thinking about where I was from. I’m not Indian enough anymore to be Indian; they won’t have me – and I didn’t fit in properly even when I was growing up there. I’m not really American; though I assimilated the culture and Americanism (and still cook turkey every November with the trimmings) – and now I have a Danish passport, have lived in Denmark for ten years, written a book set in deep Denmark (The Sound of Language) and half my family is Danish – but I’m apparently not Danish enough either.

Fact is that even growing up I didn’t belong to a state in India either as most Indians do because Daddy was an army officer and we moved around a lot. I never learnt how to read and write in my mother tongue: Telugu; because we were taught Hindi in school.  When people ask me where I come from in India; I say Hyderabad because my parents are from the state of Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad is the capital; and I lived in the city the longest I have lived in any one place, which was eight years.

So where exactly does this leave me? Am I a citizen of the world or is that just a euphemism for being homeless?

I wonder if  I’ve been spending my life thinking I belong everywhere and I can fit in anywhere and live anywhere – and maybe I’m thinking I’m fitting in snugly like a round peg in a round hole – but the holes don’t think I do. (Pun intended!)

Now you’ll say, come on, Amulya, that’s one person who’s mouthing of garbage – but I get the feeling it’s not one person. But I also think that it’s not my business what people think – even if what they think and how they feel about my lack of national identity affects my life (as it did my career in this case). Because, at the end of the day, I can’t change that I have enjoyed living in many places. I can’t change the fact that I have two children who are half Danish. And I don’t want to change the fact that I have a Danish husband. It’s the way it is. And I like it.

My father says that life is like getting a hand in poker. You get three cards and then you see what’s on the table and you make the best of your hand. I agree. But I think I have great cards in my hand and regardless of what’s on the table it’s still going to be a great hand.

So to answer the question – citizen of the world or homeless? Who gives a damn? And does it really matter?



  1. Perhaps not a citizen of the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean ‘homeless’ either. It means your home is less about ‘where’ and more about ‘who with’. You aren’t homeless so long as you are with those who love you. It means your home has foundations from all over, more like a travel trailer than a castle, but it’s how you furnish it.

  2. Daniel Schrader says:

    A citizen of the world is too broad a generalization to be meaningful. What are the defining features of this, breathing and the absence of a clear national identity? That is not really enough.

    Through most of human history we defined ourselves by our family and by our tribe. You probably don’t have a tribe to fall back on, but you do have family. Hopefully, that is enough.

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