Where Are You   From?

Let’s pause here for a moment.

This has been a very common question in life – hasn’t it? And yet the answer is seldom straightforward and always changing. The answer changes based on who is asking and where are they from. It changes based on where you are now. It changes on what you want other people to think of you. Sometimes it can be offensive labeling you as an outsider. Other times it can be endearing when you realize the person asking might also be from wherever you are. But if you have lived in few different places in your life, it can be just plain confusing.

So…where are you from?

Do I want to know your city of birth or where you grew up or where you stayed for 10 years of your life? Or do I just want a country or even a continent? Why do I even care? What does that piece of information tell me about you and your life? Or is it just a conversation starter?

But seriously where are you from?

You are an African.

It doesn’t matter if you are one girl from a state of 27 million people – I know who you vote for.

It doesn’t matter if you are from a country with 9 different time zones – you love Vodka don’t you?

You live in a country with a hugely complicated racial makeup and history and which is almost a miniature of the world in its complexity but you like cowboy hats and you love guns!!

It doesn’t matter how south of Texas you live – you must like spicy food.

No matter who you are of the 1.5 billion India – I know your job.

Doesn’t life become easier when you stereotype. I wasn’t asking where you are from – I was asking who you are and you just answered it with a word. Thank you!

But what I actually meant was where are you REALLY from?

100 years old national land purchases, 300 year old famines, 1500 years old wars, 2000 year old invasions or 20 million year old mountain formations have more to do with who you are than your personal interests and education and experiences.

I will admit perhaps all these stereotypes would have had some meaning even just 50 years ago. Information wasn’t that wide spread. Interaction among countries and cultures was minimal for the common person. Such a person may have been somewhat similar to his or her parents or grandparents. But mass media and then internet has very effectively broken down these baseless human barriers. And along with the barriers the stereotypes has to come down.

Where are you from?

It should be an impossible question to answer since there are very no natural walls in the world left. We have scaled every mountain and sailed across oceans. And country borders are just that…country borders for ease of governance. They are not really cultural checkpoints anymore unless you are unfortunate enough to live in some hardcore dictatorship like North Korea. We are encouraged from childhood to think of ourselves as citizens of our country not just from a district or a state. Isn’t it time we apply the same logic to international borders?

Anyway – where am I from you ask?

I am from everywhere. So are you. We are from everywhere.