The significance of “Three lives by Thirty”

“But no, he had survived it. He was born twice in India and a third time, in America. Three lives by thirty.” (21)

This passage from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake is laid out in a simple manner yet the depth of its meaning stays hidden. The last line in particular,  is strikingly powerful, so each time I read it; it leaves me with admiration and subtle amounts of curiosity as to what more it has to offer.

Although its been over a year since I first came across this quotation, I thought it would be a great idea to dig up my previous blogs and pull one out to share with you my experience with my three lives.

Ashoke survives. To him, each life is followed by a life changing experience and so each time he goes through a difficult challenge he considers it as rebirth. Each experience, be it the train wreck or the immigration to America turns out as life altering. Ashoke associates change with a new way of living, something to which rather than adapting, he needs to learn to do all over again.For him, it turns out to be a process, where he needs to find his place, figure out how everything is done again, and so clearly each life is a consequence of a negative factor or hardship.

When I read this line first it struck me not only because it has such a significant meaning to it but also because it completely connects to my life. However, unlike Ashoke, it does so positively.

This is how I felt when I came to Canada the year I turned 13. Although for me it is more like “Three lives by Thirteen”

Sometimes I feel like I belong nowhere, caught in the mist of three completely different countries, each of whom in their own way hold their own stance. I was born in Saudi Arabia so that makes me an Arab. But my parents are Indian, so that makes me Indian right? However I live in Canada now, so am I Canadian?

My parents consider me Indian, they say I am what my passport is, but honestly what does a piece of paper signify. I refuse to let a booklet represent who I am. I know however that I belong, and I belong to each place in its own way. And maybe because I belong to such contrasting places, I find myself more adaptable to change.

Now, what does it really mean to belong?

If you look up the dictionary meaning it will tell you: To be rightly classified in or assigned to a specifiedcategory

But how in the world can my identity be assigned to a country when my true values and belief are so diverse. Therefore, I have come to understand that…

Being born in Saudi Arabia, I sense a direct link to this land, a sense of patriotism. The ecstatic feeling I get when I observe those beautiful lights through my airplane window. I just can’t wait to get off, breathe in the fresh air of my homeland or use those crispy currency notes, each Riyal having its own rich smell.  I love being driven at 145 km/hour through the city while savoring delicious shawarmas from an all time favorite restaurant.  None of which I could find in another country. Saudi Arabia is also where Islam, my religion, originated from and hence this country is like a rope which ties my core beliefs together. So to me this is absolutely where I belong.

Yet, each time someone mentions India, I feel responsible to make them understand that it is more than just a country with millions of people suffering in poverty. It stands for its diversity and beauty. The variety of culture it posses, to my knowledge, no other country has. It is a growing nation with tons of value and it is here where I get my mother tongue from. I realize that I am big on culture – widely languages and so I recognize where my roots are. Each time I hear the beautiful Indian National Anthem, I feel proud to be a part of this country or when I hear a westerner exclaim how much they love Indian food, I have the urge to tell them that is where I belong.

Still though I am delighted to live in a place where people are always smiling or opening doors for others, where diversity is celebrated and unity is encouraged daily, where I get to meet people from different parts of the world and learn so much by what they have to share. And so come each November I wear that poppy on my left with pride and go Skating on the longest canal in the world every winter. Canada is where I live now and this is where I belong.

“So now I can proudly say that I am a third Arab, a third Indian and third Canadian and this is what represents me best. I have had a unique opportunity to explore three countries, to celebrate three cultures to belong to three nations tolive three lives by thirteen.”


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