Many people define home as the address listed on your driver’s license. Where you were born. The town you may go to school in. But for me, Odisha has always felt like home.
My parents were born in the state of Odisha, India. Although I was born in America, I’ve never quite felt at home there. Through the holidays and summer vacation, I stayed at the Sabrang Village in Odisha. I was easily mistaken for a native; tanned, bare-foot, and fluent in my mother tongue.
There was something about the village. As soon as I stepped foot in my motherland, I was instilled with a sense of belonging. While most kids from America that were first generation complained about having to visit India, I secretly enjoyed it. Most complained about the heat, the lack of video games, and the messiness. I loved everything about it. As they would complain, I would silently nod. However, for me, the sticky, hot weather was enjoyable. And I felt like I could be myself, as I was surrounded by people like me.
Most of my family lives in India. Pretty much all of my extended family lives there, except for one aunt. Visits to India were filled with meeting old and new family. I was shocked to see how many cousins I had. Hearing stories about my roots, and getting to see how my ancestors lived meant feeling closer to my identity and to my culture.
For most people, home is where they have their meals. Food was an important factor that tied me to Odisha. The delicacies such as dried fish, and goat curries instilled a feeling of comfort and safety in me. As my parents and I would arrive at my grandparents house, we were greeted with various classic Odisha dishes. Some included shrimp curry, dried fish, spinach, and more. The smell alone comforted me as something I was used to, and somewhere I belonged.
Odisha always brings a sense of belonging in me. I may not have been born in India, and my passport may list my New Jersey address. But to me, Odisha is my home, the land of my ancestors, and my culture.