Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An ethical dilemma

Noun | loy-al-ty | \ˈlȯi(-ə)l-tē\
a strong feeling of support or allegiance

There are fewer wars between countries today, than used to be. The kind of war where troops from two countries are out in the battlefield, fighting a physical battle to claim/defend things (land, natural resources, people etc.) that are important to them. True, there are still some parts of the world battered and bruised by that kind of war. But for the vast majority of countries, there are peaceful negotiations or political deals to resolve conflicts.

In such day and age, what does it mean to be loyal to a country? With concepts like “one world” and “global economy”, geographical boundaries are becoming less significant. The tribe of “born in one country, living/working in another” has multiplied in enormous proportions over the last few decades. Migrants or “economic refugees” (as some like to call it) have taken over the world. I am one of them.

In short, be it lifestyle, education/career opportunities, being close to other family members who have also migrated, being away from certain aspects of our motherland we do not like (and don’t have the mental framework to stay back and change) – whatever our reason, we all made a choice. The choice to move to a country that was not our country of origin. Some of us, have chosen to become permanent residents or citizens of our new homeland. Little wonder that most passports have two distinct fields – Nationality and Place of Birth/Origin. These two fields say a lot about who we are, where we come from, and the journey we have made (literally and spiritually).

And although we take pride in both these countries (at least most of us do, most of the time), every now and then, there is a dilemma. If I was hypnotised and someone asked me where my “home” was, I think I would rattle off the name of the Indian city I grew up in…and not the postal address of my current home in beautiful Australia. Not to say that I don’t love Australia. But I think the deep recesses of my mind haven't still processed or stored the new information – that I am now an Australian by nationality. There is a reason why psychologists go back to our childhood for those deep seated truths we cannot remember or verbalise. Our childhood doesn’t lie or hide.

 I am not sure what citizenship pledges sound like for other countries. But I know that on the day I gave up my Indian citizenship (unfortunately, dual citizenship is still a concept for us) and took up the Australian nationality, I read these lines:

And I think there is a reason why “loyalty” (meaning “true and constant support to Australia and its people”, as per the citizenship website), is the first thing I was asked to pledge. Because no one can take it from me, unless I pledge/want to give it. Loyalty can’t be enforced.

So, on this important day, as India and Australia prepare for the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup 2015, I am in a strange dilemma. I have received strange looks and have been laughed at when I shared this dilemma with other Australians of Indian origin. Of the responses I have got, some are:

 -  Once an Indian, always an Indian at heart. Go India!
 -  It’s a sport; we can choose any team to support. Doesn't have to do with loyalty to country. It is loyalty to team!
 - May the best team win.
 - We’ll be a winner either way, no matter who wins.

And while I love the last answer, it doesn't help me with my dilemma. Who would I cheer for when the match is on? I can’t jump in joy when an Australian wicket falls….and then celebrate again when an Indian batsman leaves the field. It is, unfortunately, an “either/or” situation. A dual citizenship, (although no more than a piece of paper to some), would make it easier for me. I would scream my lungs out in public, with no guilt, no shame in cheering for any one team (as both would then, equally and officially define me). But until that happens, an India-Australia match is never going to be just a game for me.

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