I interrupt my regular blog posts about life and learning in Morocco for a special announcement: I drank chai in Rabat! Not the appropriated “chai tea” found at cafes, but real Desi chai with real Desi people, both of which are not commonly found in Rabat. I don’t even drink chai much back in the US– the most I’d do is drink a few sips if I make it for my dad– but I must say, there’s something about drinking Indian black tea with milk and spices so far away from home. And for that, I have to thank the Indian Embassy in Rabat!
It’s funny, but I often find that here in Rabat, a significant part of my life involves finding “home.” Homesickness during a year abroad is incredibly real. I don’t always feel it acutely as “missing home,” but it’s very much there, manifested in random moments of unfounded emotional sensitivity, or larger frustrations that come up from time to time. And so, in pursuit of a bit of “home,” a friend and I set out on a mission earlier this week to visit the embassies of our heritage countries, China and India, respectively.
Our trip to the Chinese Embassy was brief: we were denied entry at the door, because we didn’t have an appointment scheduled, or any actual official business to accomplish. Expecting the same of the Indian Embassy, we almost turned back, but just for my peace of mind, we agreed to make the extra 30 minute hike to the Indian Embassy.
At the door, I explained to the Moroccan guard that I wanted to visit the embassy because of my cultural heritage, and we were quickly ushered in to meet the receptionist, who actually ended up being an alumna of the YES program! Shortly, we were met by two Indian officials who sat down with us, and offered us the delicious chai. I’m still surprised that the two diplomats, who surely had work to accomplish, took out time to sit down, talk, and drink tea with two American high school students for a solid half hour. It was so nice to speak in Hinglish again, and to learn about their work and lives here in Morocco, as well as how the Indian foreign service works. Even though I don’t have an Indian citizenship, the officials stressed that this was “my embassy” and that they were happy to help with anything that I needed. They even invited me to a Republic Day reception, and I certainly intend to attend!
I haven’t met many South Asians in Rabat, but each time I meet some, it’s been so heartwarming to see people’s reactions when they meet a fellow Desi. At a multicultural event a few weeks ago, I met some people from the Pakistani embassy, whose faces lit up when I told them I was originally Indian, and they spoke to me in Urdu and treated me as if I was from their own country. Aside from my participation in Indian classical performing arts back home, I honestly have not been widely involved in the Indian community in Austin. Maybe it was just something I took for granted, given the fact that my life at home is quite Indian, and many of my closest friends are brown. Here in Morocco, I find myself making more of an effort to connect with my heritage country and seek out South Asians in Rabat, and I’m so thankful for the kindness and hospitality that I have received. ❤
Although this is unrelated, it would be wrong for me to write this post, which references my love for my Indian heritage, without acknowledging the current political situation in India, which is saddening and terrifying. The government of India, which adopts Hindu nationalist beliefs, recently passed the Citizen Amendment Act, which fast tracks the ability to acquire Indian citizenship for religious minorities from India’s neighboring countries, excluding Muslims. The act violates the secular constitution of India, and the beliefs that the country was built on, by singling out Muslims and has divided the country’s population on the lines of religion, which is inherently so anti-Indian. In addition, peaceful protests led by students of various religious backgrounds in multiple universities in India have been met by violent police brutality, including beatings and tear gas. Since the beginning of the protests, the death toll has been climbing. It is truly sickening to see that the Indian government is not only legalizing religious discrimination, but is also violently silencing dissent and curbing citizens’ right to freedom of speech. For those who are unaware of the situation, please take some time to look through the following links and gain an understanding of what is going on India at the moment: