Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nanha Munna Rahi Hun

... so came my 4 yr old daughter singing from school one day! And I was totally taken in by surprise. When had I last heard that song? I tried to recall. Probably in the 80s, when DD was the only channel available and Chitrahaar was a popular family entertainment program. This cute kid in sepia would sing this song with full fervor. And to now hear my own daughter sing it after probably having heard it maybe 2 decades ago, well it was surreal! I had a silly grin on my face. She told me how her teachers were teaching all of them a bunch of songs. And when I asked her to sing the other songs that they had taught, she sang bits of 'Saare jahan se accha' and some from 'Hum honge kamiyab ek din'. This was in the first couple of days of August and of course it didn't take me long to realise that they were practicing for the Independence Day celebrations.

The sights, smells, sounds from childhood pretty much define home for me. As an adult, though the appeal changes and one seeks for other shores and other sights, the thought or the feeling of 'home' always kind of gives the warm fuzzy feeling. Some of the neighborhood sights of Bangalore, the feel of the lazy foggy mornings when Bangalore is still only waking up, the smell of the sampige, all define home for me. In the same way, though I was never raised in Kerala, the smell of the soil there, the total rustic scenes, the tunes of some of the native birds still manage to tingle this one corner of my heart. Similarly for my husband too, things that define home are, I am sure, pretty Indian. Why am I trying to define home? Let's look at it this way. What if we had continued staying in the US? Our kids would have assimilated the sights, sounds, smells of the place they are growing in. Nothing wrong with that. Just that those subtleties would have slowly defined 'home' for them. The sights and sounds in the US are something that we love too, but it would probably never feel like 'home', with such strong competition coming from various nooks and corners of our own childhoods; those are ingrained. And in this 'if' scenario, lets fast forward a few years. Our kids will still be our kids, but with a totally different concept of home, which is probably ok. But, I am quite sure it would not have been very ok for me. 'Home' is a lot more than a 4 letter word to me; 'kids' is another 4 letter word that means the world to me. And to have the kids not even remotely think of 'home' as anything that is 'home' for me would have probably been hard. I don't know. Maybe not too. I may have started defining it differently for myself also. Either way, I still would have had the warm fuzzy feeling for many things Indian, for things from my childhood here. We would have probably sent the kids to a bunch of Indian classes in the US, but unfortunately that would still not cut it, IMHO. And she may have never learnt to sing 'nanha munna'. :)

The world has changed a lot since when I grew up. So has India. Raising them here is still going to make the nuances that form childhood memories very different for them. Irrespective, at least there is hope that the 4 of us - kids, hub, and I - may end up having a couple of common things to identify our childhoods with. And in my old age, when I sit chatting with my daughter/son over some nice hot chai, if we can talk fondly about a couple of things from our past in Bangalore or India, then I am sure I will have our R2Iing decision to thank for hugely. :) What do you say?

Nanha munna rahi hun, desh ka sipahi hun,
Bolo mere sang, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind!

Happy Independence Day my fellow Indians! Happy 60th, dear India!


nags said...


Very nice post indeed. My father sings this song every now and then and so this song is heard many times at home for me. The concept of 'home' in this post is really nice and I share the same feelings about 'home'. The paragraph about chatting on common things in old age is touchy. Thanks for the nice post.

Wherever we go, how much ever we travel, we are still Indians at heart! - Vande Mataram.

- nags.

Chitra said...

Thanks Nags! I am glad you liked the post.

Rupesh Mandal said...

जय् हिन्द्

Mosilager said...

Hi, found your blog through your flickr photos.

Last time I heard it was when we were playing antakshari with a bunch of 'south asians.' the indians burst into 'nanha munha raahi,' the pakistanis tried to shout us down while the bangladeshis were laughing their heads off. The nepalis and sri lankans didn't have much of a clue of what was going on. good times...

Latha said...

Hey Chitra,
I am so with you on this matter. I have always associated little things to warmth of home - my neigihbours playing Vande mataram on Akashvani every morning, the flower waala shouting "huvvu bekamma huvvu" every morning, the smell of "ogranne" wafting through on the streets right about noon.. little things that i took for granted when i was back home! Now i miss those and long for my kids to experience those little experiences! Your posts always make me nostalgic. Though i dont comment everytime i vist u're blog everyday and look forward to another post from u!
Congrats on the awards and pictures of the flowers are lovely!

Anonymous said...

You bring up an interesting point about what 'home' means. My parents emigrated from Kerala to Bombay in the 50s. They assimilated as best they could - learned to speak passable Hindi, started having chapathis for dinner, came around to accepting one of their daughters having a 'love marriage.'

I am sure that for my parents it is Kerala, with its sights and sounds - coconut trees, mangoes, Onam, torrential rains, veshti-wearing chettans, trade unions, boat races - that can be called home.

Although we spoke Malayalam-laced Tamil at home, my brother & I were typical Bombay brats who would speak in Hindi to each other. Still do. Hated South Indian food (molagootal, rasam, loved Mysore Pak).Couldn't believe the kind of jokers that were Tamil movie heroes. And, dare I say it, a little ashamed to be labeled 'Madrasis.'

It was not until we moved to the South in 1980 that I started appreciating their background. My heritage.

My point being, I sometimes think that the culture gap between my parents and I was probably the same as what it would have been between your kids and yourself, if you had stayed in the US.

In other words, wouldn't "dating in high school", now, be the same kind of mental leap as "love marriage", then?

Thanksgiving now, the same as Ganesh Chaturthi then?

"Hot dogs and barbecue" now, the same as "bhel puri and vada paav" then?



vidya said...

Hi chitra and others

Nice post indeed and quite timely too. I have a different take on this subject and am presenting them here. I am in the processing of R-ing2I and am not sure "home" still has the same relevance to me. I went to US as a newlywed and started my new life there (sort of like being born all over again). I had a son soon and to me it looks like we both kind of grew up in US together. Yes I was an adult by then but I had neither shunned the American life nor tried to compare it to India and see which is better. I return to India after almost a decade and find that a lot of things that are nostalgic childhood memories to me are gone. I totally cannot relate to the SMS culture today. And since my kids and I pretty much learnt/experienced the life together we have a lot more to talk about in common about US (atleast as of now) than India where our perspectives differ by atleast 2-3 decades.
On the subject of the I-day, I experienced the fullblown fanfare of celebrating India's 60th anniversary of Independence. We have indeed come a long way in the past 60 yrs and we have long ways to go. I still feel very nostalgic about the songs that you mentioned, however, amidst all this I find that the I day has degenerated into yet another fun-filled holiday. When I grew up the highlight of the I day used to be the parade (both local and at Delhi) and I used to watch it among the crowds lining the beach road in Chennai (Marina beach anyone?). I wonder how many kids today (including my own, guilty guilty) even know that there is a parade in Delhi and in the local city and even those who know manage to watch it somewhere?
Keeping with the old hindi song theme
"Koi lauta de mere beethe hue din" :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Chitra,

Your blogs are simple, stirring and informative in nature - Enjoy them!


Anonymous said...

If you were so fond of going back "home" why stay in US long enough to rob someone else of that job, that opportunity and did I say GC???

Smitha Narayanarao said...

hey chits,

Proud to be your friend :-)

keep the posts coming

Poppins said...

Lovely post. I know what you mean and can relate totally.

Anonymous said...


A well written post and it is difficult to put these kind of feelings into coherent words and bring out the essence of one's thoughts exactly. Kudos!

I am also an r2i-ed bangalorean and felt that many things that i associated with my childhood growing up in India would not be understood by my kids when they were growing up in the US. Along the lines of prev commenter, i went to the US for a masters and built my independent personality and my own family while living there. I did feel at home there. So it was confusing for me whether India was home or the US was home. After returning to India and thinking for the first few months that i was very different from the people around me, i slowly recognized my inner feelings that i feel comfortable here just as i felt when i grew up here. Heck, this is my place. All those memories are strong and buried inside. It takes much lesser time when you return back to feel a part of the India that surrounds you. The bonus is that your kids are also seeing the real India (with all its plus and minus) and absorbing it in a way that you cannot create when you take them to Indian classes in another country. My conclusion is that i feel at home in both places but as my kids grow up i will require more effort to feel part of the US than India.

Coming back to the point of your post, I have also felt the way you felt and it makes me happy just to know that what we experienced as kids and made us happy are being felt by our kids too even if it is in a different time and place. The kids may have a different memory or intensity of that feeling from this experience. But the parents and kids can relate to it. That is a connecting bond and one that is worth it all.

- Shree

aargee said...

Hi Chitra,
Nice post. Though I share similar( rather congruent :) ) feelings, I really can't put those in such nice words. Great post...

Vijay said...

Sigh !!! The good old days...Its amazing isn't it that something as simple as a song or an aroma can trigger of these wonderful memories...

When I r2i'd in the early 90's (unfashionable at that time), I was asked why I was depriving my son of the US. My answer was that he'd probably thank me for it...

Gopal said...

Heard the song on Sunrise radio (here in the UK) yesterday and have been humming it since then. Just reminded me of the time I sang the song 4 decades or so back. Keep it up. Nice writing.


mumbaigirl said...

Happy Independence day! I finally did the tag. The nasty anon above seems to miss the point

Veena Shivanna said...

A thoughtful post Chitra, I guess certainly 'home' can be defined as where ever you live with your lovely ones with that protection and feeling you enjoy.
That was nice that your kids and you enjoy the stay here. Of course these songs brings nostalgic memories of past, human enjoys past and future more than the present isn't it....

namvor said...

lovely post chitra.

for me its 'vande mataram' - gives me goosebumps. love the a.r.rehman version too.

Debbie Ann said...

I wonder why I feel defensive about the US when reading your posts. If feels a little like another post saying I made the right decision, didn't I, didn't I? and looking for reassurance. Or maybe it only sounds that way to me. I think there are fine reasons either way for staying in the US or for coming back. You get to do whatever you want, but it just seems there is a lot of insecurity around it, and then in some subtle way it comes across as India really is better for my kids than the US. Maybe. Maybe not. There is no way to know.

My dad was born in Hungary and lived there until he was 15 yrs old, but I am relieved he didn't take us all back there to live. Yes, his definition of home may be different than mine, but we love each other so much that it doesn't matter. So I can't sing the songs from his childhood. It has never seemed like a loss between us.

Chitra said...

rupesh mandal, welcome to my blog.

mosilager, thanks for the anecdote. Funny! :)

Latha, thanks for your kind words.

Raj, yes something like that.

Vidya, I love the US too and like it for whatever experiences we had there. US is home for me too in the same sense that you say, cause we set up our home there for the first time as newly weds too. And of course we already spoke more about all this over the phone. :)

Anon1, welcome to my blog and thanks!

Anon2, welcome to my blog.

Smitha, thanks! I am proud too to have you as a friend. :)

Poppins, thanks!

Shree, welcome ot my blog. You said exactly what I would have. Right on!

Aargee, welcome to my blog and thanks for those kind words!

Vijay, I totally understand.

Gopal, welcome ot my blog and thanks for your words!

mumbaigirl, thanks! Anon2 is welcome to his opinions. :)

Veena Shivanna, thnks! You are right with the last sentence.

Namvor, thanks!

Debbie Ann, I am sorry my posts make you feel defensive about the US, cause that is so not the intention. I love the US too and have said it before. Calif is home cause husband and I set up home there for the first time as newly weds. Nothing will change that. Just that I am probably comfortable keeping the kids where our parents are when they are young and are absorbing and imbibing things around them. As adults, they can do what they want. This is just for me. There are tons of Indians who choose to raise their kids in the US and are perfectly happy with that decision. That is why the 'maybe's because obviously tons of other options work well too.

As for "I made the right decision, didn't I, didn't I? and looking for reassurance" - hardly. I am not seeking for reassurances and that I can assure you. :)
"it just seems there is a lot of insecurity around it" Unfortunately, no insecurities too. You just have to take my word for it. Some of the readers here are my friends and can vouch for it, if needed. :)

"in some subtle way it comes across as India really is better for my kids than the US." The word "MY" needs the stress here. I do think this with regards ot "MY" kids. I don't have any opinions when it comes to others' kids. I know of Indian kids who are doing great in the US. But, in our small set-up and with the given parameters, I do know that raising them here is good for them and me.

I am glad you and your dad have a wonderful relationship. ALWAYS happy for people with happy and successful relationships.

As always, thanks for your comments and participation. Really.

Poppins said...

@Chitra, you forgot to reply to the anon, and you "stole" his GC and everything. Mean of you ! :)

@Anon: Nobody and I mean NOBODY steals somebody else's oopportunities. You make your own.
Why don't you walk up to BCIS and ask them for Chitra's unused GC if you feel so strongly about it?

@Debbie Ann: Hey, this is not fair at all. Why would you take this personally? I read Firang Squirrel's blog on
her impressions of Bangalore, I don't dispute even the most uncomplimentary things (and a lot of them are) she says because I can almost see why she would say certain things. And even if Chitra was saying the US is not a great place for kids, which she is not, what's wrong with that? Like she says it, it is her kids.

If you want to know my opinion, Life in the US as a brown person was not all that great for me,
and therefore I chose not to bring up my child there. There was a generation past that had NO opportunities in India and were forced to put up with whatever to give their children better lives. Thankfully, that has changed. So we're moving back to our hometown now, is that bad? Obviously Chitra is not living her every single moment thinking 'Oh thank god I moved back'.

I'm positive it's almost a forgotten thought and she's so caught up with life's routines in India now. This is her R2I blog,
so she mentions it.

You miss SF all the time, so I can understand why you feel so much about it. But you have to understand that we are talking
of two different perspectives here..

Chitra said...

Poppins, thanks for your comment. I did respond to anon. I welcomed him. :) I also told mumbaigril that anon is welcome to his opinions. :)

Debbie, this blog is mainly written from a returning Indian's perspective. That is all. It probably does not hold good from many other points of views. The blog is also written primarily for other people who may be in my shoes now, who were sometime ago, and who will be in the future.
And what Poppins says is true. I am not living my every day thinking about my move. Whenever some thought or feeling crops up, then I just blog about it here, since this blog is R2I specific.

Bharani said...

hello chitra, i ve been reading ur blog, all ur posts are so good.....especially about Bangalore, when i read ur posts about Blr i feel as though m in Blr,right now m in the US just waiting to be back as m on H4.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Nanna Munna Rahi Hun.........and about this post its so nice to see ur childhood in ur kids....i like all ur posts.......nice writing

A Muser said...

Hi! First time on your blog thanks to s.b. who referred me to you in ref to my post. :) Just wanted to say that I've taught my 3-year-old kiddo "nanha munha rahi hoon" (we live in the U.S.) -- she enjoys the song, and I love to be able to pass it on to her! She also knows "jana gana mana." It's great to share these wonderful memories with her, even though I don't live in India anymore.

Chitra said...

Bharani, thanks and welcome to my blog.

A muser, welcome to my blog and good to know. :)

vineeta said...

Im so glad i came here. This has to be the most hearwarming post I have EVER read. Its a small thing- the way we feel about our home - our country and being in India all my life I have never had to think/deal with it. but my brother has gone there (U.S)recently & is married- I do think about his children- I saw the film namesake. I loved it. Its such a subjective decision- I have these discussions with my mom equating moving from Kerala to Bombay 3 generations back. for me- this is home. not kerala. but both are in India- so does that make it better?
In the middle of writing this- i just scrolled up to see the other comments - my, u seem to have generated quite a bit of a storm- but its natural- home is a word that brings many strong emotions- and with us moving towards a global village- most of us have had to deal with this choice directly or indirectly.
Chitra as long as we can be at peace with ourselves the rest is fine & as they say each to his own. But it still warms me to read about yr baby singing "nanha munna" :)

Sujatha said...

Another perspective if you're intersted - "home" through a child's eyes (http://blogpourri.blogspot.com/2005/08/where-is-home.html). As Vineeta says, to each his own. :)

Nandini said...

Hi Chitra,
Thank you for sharing your experiences of R2I, its a decision that so many of us face.
I am in the US and am expecting my first child, have been thinking about it a lot. I am all for R2I, and reading your blog has made me more determined!
Thanks again and i will definitely be a regular visitor to learn more!

Anita said...

Hi Chitra, I came across your blog today and must compliment you on how effortlessly you seem to put all your thoughts down! i wish i could do it too :) Well, me n my hubby are thinking of moving back to nammma Bengaluru too, sometime next year, but kinda uncertain if that is the right thing to do, considering our kids who are 6 n 5. We live in Copenhagen, Denmark from many years,more than 8, but have an American citizenship...so are a little confused, i must admit, of whether to move back to the US or India! But i am a true blue Bangalorean and to me that is home. I'm as comfortable in Skybar or Fuga as i'm in Adigas or Vidyarthibhavan. At the moment, we are looking at schools in south B'lore n i see that some have already closed admissions for next yr! I'm looking at The Valley School, Bishop or maybe Kumarans, as i hear that's good. But having said all this, this whole idea of moving back is still new and we are not very sure if it will be a good decision in the end. I heard that primary education is better in India than in the US n that for the higher grades, the US is better..i wonder if that is true?
Anyways..it's tiem to call it a night here in chilly Copenhagen..will check on this blog again soon..any input from any of u R2Is will be much appreciated!
Thanks-A. Rao.