As an Indian student in France, the so called “college” experience is different than what one would expect. Letting go of the fact that one is away from home for the first time, in a country where there are extreme language barriers and one has to cook for themselves, the experience, according to me at least was somewhat of an awakening. Politically, I have always been active. Whether in the form of debate or protests, my political alignment has always been a part of my identity. Unlike Khursheed however, I was and am more of a person who runs towards conflict rather than away. Despite this, I cannot deny that I too have felt the need to leave, to experience life in a different form of surrounding. Perhaps, that was the why I left the country for my higher education.
Khursheed’s idea of the Kashmiri conflict is something that gave me a different perspective on the issue. The idea that freedoms negates identity, and that the fight is a collective effort not for the kashmiri people but freedom for the individual was something that I hadn’t thought of before. To me, it gave a different dimension altogether to the complex topic that is Kashmir.
In France, the South Asian identity is not one that is too complex. One is either from South Asia or not, and it doesn’t really matter if one is from Pakistan or India. However, on a personal level, one’s nation begins to matter more. The need to be “Indian” becomes more prominent, not for the society that one lives in but for a personal distinction from the others around me. As an Indian student, we want to make ourselves distinctly different than those around us, not make sure that we are not mixed up as Pakistani or Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan. This is not due to prejudice, but for a need to retain our link to the country we have left, and to create a connection with the country we now live in.
Khursheed’s interview made me think of how each person is different, on how our roots define, to a large extent, our ideologies. Just as how there are many different views on Kashmir by the Kashmiri youth, there are many different ways on one deals with the identity of an Indian in France. Our identities have so many different layers with each layers having different memories attached to them. We make these identities, deciding on what takes preference where. As an Indian in France, I am first South Asian, then Indian. As an Indian in India, I am just a student with strong political and social ideologies. In reality, I hope I am all of these.