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Not being at home

  • Published
    12th Sep, 2023


In recent times, India has witnessed the emergence of a distinct brand of nationalism that centers on the concept of home and belonging.

Contemporary Nationalism and Notions of Home

  • Exclusivist Nationalism: Over the last decade, a distinctive form of nationalism has gained prominence in India, which shapes public discourse by categorizing individuals as either "genuinely" Indian or as "outsiders" and "anti-nationals."
  • Defining Home: This nationalist ideology revolves around rigid definitions of home and national identity, emphasizing a sense of belonging while excluding those deemed as "outsiders."
  • Shift from Anti-colonial Nationalism: Unlike the anti-colonial nationalism that embraced a more inclusive perspective, this contemporary nationalism emphasizes a narrow and exclusionary view of home and nation.

The Importance of Not Being Completely at Home

  • Transnational Thought in Anti-colonial Nationalism: Figures like BR Ambedkar, Mahadevi Verma, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, and Jawaharlal Nehru within anti-colonial nationalism incorporated transnational thought, emphasizing that Indian identity should draw from both local and global influences.
  • Questioning Parochialism: These thinkers highlighted the importance of never feeling completely at home to avoid parochial nationalism and bigotry, as strict demarcations between insiders and outsiders can lead to intolerance.
  • A Different Vision of Dwelling: An alternative perspective on home and belonging is rooted in Indian history, where thinkers like Rahul Sankrityayan and Harivansh Rai Bachchan proposed the philosophy of "not-being-at-home" as a way of engaging with the world.

The Philosophy of "Not-Being-at-Home"

  • Ghummakkad-dharma by Rahul Sankrityayan: Sankrityayan advocated for a philosophy of "ghummakkad-dharma," which encourages individuals to explore the world beyond their immediate roots and provide assistance to strangers, regardless of language or origin.
  • Dwelling in the World: Sankrityayan's philosophy of not-being-at-home fosters a sense of dwelling in the world and challenges exclusive ideas of home and belonging.
  • Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Perspective: Bachchan's musings on attachment to an ancestral hukkah that changed over time reflect the dynamic nature of identity and the capacity to envision home and ancestry in multiple ways.
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