Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Where are you from?
This month on Art of Life we take you to the region in India I have always wanted to visit, Rajasthan. The allure of the palaces of Maharajahs and their Maharanis gives this part of the country a romantic feel, one filled with the promise of beautiful architecture and of course, stunningly intricate jewelry. I wasn't disappointed.

I have been to India many times -- as a child on family vacations and as an adult for work, but I can't say I know the country nor that I've seen all that it has to offer. The only parts I usually visit are Delhi and Punjab and what I've learned is that India is so diverse, both geographically and culturally.

When it comes to the luxury tourism industry, India is a leader. They have learned how to use the history (turning palaces into hotels), the diversity (what you see in the north is quite different from the south whether it's the food, the people, the landscape), and the culture to allure people from around the world in search of something different.

To be honest, when I was younger I never understood it when people would say they wanted to visit India to find spirituality. I know I'm Indian by my ancestry but I still felt a sense of culture shock the first time I visited the country without my parents about 10 years ago. I remember thinking how different it was to everything I had grown up with. Not to mention the extreme poverty that was right in front of me. But then it hit me. Just a few days before I had to leave I remember feeling so sad because no matter what there is a genuine sense of curiosity among Indians living there and a sense of wanting you to feel at home no matter who you are and where you come from.

While many still go in search of spirituality, for me it's different. I'm visiting the land of my ancestors, my family. It gives me a feeling of depth and history. Yet it's not necessarily a sense of homecoming.

One question I get asked a lot is, "Where are you from?" Seems like a relatively easy question to answer, right? Not exactly. I've had to think about how to answer that question many times and each time I'm about to answer I wonder, should I give them the short answer or the long one?

The short answer would be to say I'm Indian. After all, you only have to look at me to know that. The problem is, I have never lived in India and saying I'm from there makes it sound almost false. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely proud of my heritage, of belonging to what my mother likes to term, "A proud Punjabi-Sikh family." But to say I'm from India implies that I have lived there and have absorbed all that being an Indian entails.

I was born in Hong Kong and lived there till I was 14 when we then moved to Toronto, Canada. I lived in the U.S. for more than three, and I now live in London, England. So when I'm asked where I'm from, I think about all these places that have shaped who I am and how I think about things. To make it even more complicated, my mother never lived in India. She was born and brought up in Shanghai, China, and no, she's not ethnically Chinese. My father, though, is the real thing: born and brought up in India and moved to Hong Kong only when he met and married my mother.

It's true that our ancestral history lays the groundwork for defining who we are but who we become has a lot to do with where we grow up and live. I know that each city I've lived in has certainly contributed to my life experience. Who knows where I'll end up?

I'm not afraid to move to another country if it's what I want to do and where I want to be. In any culture there is that same history of movement. Our forefathers left the land of their birth because many felt they had to whether it was to avoid persecution or because there was a need to find better opportunities to provide for their family. I know that many of us who do that now certainly have a great appreciation for different cultures and countries. There is a sense of feeling comfortable anywhere we go. That said, we also add to the cultural landscape of our adopted homeland.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has to face that question, "Where are you from?" time and again. I'm still searching for the best way to answer that question. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Wherever you are and whatever history and culture you follow I wish you all the happiness 2007 has to offer and hope that the art in your life is colorful. For now though, I'd like to thank you all for contributing to this blog with your comments. I look forward to reading more in the New year.
Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Deja vu -- happens to me all the time. I was born in Oklahoma, lived all over the Midwest, up and down the east coast and traveled throughout Europe on military duty. Now a naturalized British citizen living outside London, I still get asked, "Where are you from?"

I usually just say Yorkshire and get on with my business.
Posted By Anonymous Stephen Van Scoyoc - Southminster : 4:34 PM, December 20, 2006
You are global citizen and you should be very proud of it! This is a true achievement!
Posted By Anonymous Jay, Houston/TX : 4:39 PM, December 20, 2006
I was brought up all over the world as my father was in the military. I then married into the military and so moved all over again. My son coined it best..."I'm a child of the world". I loved it and use it all the time now.
Posted By Anonymous Max, Stuttgart Germany : 5:04 PM, December 20, 2006
I was born in Montreal, Canada, but my parents are Italian. I sometimes feel isolated from the community I was born in and I am also seen as a vistor to the country that my parents were born in and where they grew up. I cannot lay claim to either country. I find myself asking, "Where exactly do I belong?" "Which country can I claim to be mine?" I can easily blend with the Canadian population and I can easily melt in with the Italians. I speak three languages fluently, which helps me with my need to blend in.

I've traveled extensively in Europe, but whenever I go to my parents' town, I speak their old dialect. The young people love hearing it because it reminds them of their grandparents speaking.

In the end, we are the sum of all the countries we've lived in. I'm part Canadian and Italian, I bring out the best of both countries to light. I'm a little bit Canadian whenever I'm in Italy and a little bit Italian whenever I'm in Canada. It makes life a lot more interesting.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa di Fusco-Carbone,Montreal, Quebec : 5:07 PM, December 20, 2006
You can say, "I'm from my mother."
Posted By Anonymous Candace, Toronto, Canada : 5:25 PM, December 20, 2006
I get the "Where are you from?" question all the time. Although the most straighforward answer might be "I'm from New York City", I think what most people want to know is, "What is your ethnic background?". The longer answer is, "I was born in Taiwan, and grew up in New York. I now live in England." If I can't be bothered explaining, I usually reply, "I'm Taiwanese". The worst thing is when someone then says, "Wow, your English is really good!". Or asks "Do you think you'll ever go back?". But this rarely happens thankfully. Rather than feeling slightly guarded by the question as I used to, I treat the question as a sign that the other person might simply be curious about me as a person. So most of the time I don't mind spending a bit longer to explain my background. For example, now that you (Monita) have explained about your upbringings and residence from Hong Kong to the UK, I am absolutely curious about your experiences in those countries.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, Cambridge UK : 5:56 PM, December 20, 2006
Both of my parents were born in Northern India Punjab and came to Kuwait in the late 1940s. My great-grandfather came to Kuwait in 1899 and then my grandfather in early 1920s. I was born in Kuwait and moved to the UK when I was 14 to study, visiting Kuwait only a month in every year for 11 years.

When I would come back it was a different culture to me -- like living in forgein land. People asked me where I was from, so I would say Kuwait but they wouldn't believe me. When I'd say India, they'd question me again. There was sense of nationality missing.

I left Kuwait after four years, to work in the UK for seven years. I got a good job in Kuwait and left the UK again. I've been living in Kuwait for 10 years and am still considered foreign by locals, and as a Kuwaiti by most ex-pats -- yet I don't speak the local dialogues fluently.

I can mix very easily with all kind of people and cultures. This is the great advantage living in a multi-cultural society. The world is defintely getting smaller and more international. This is one of the great thing my parents have done for me. I can live anywhere.
Posted By Anonymous jack, kuwait city, kuwait : 6:16 PM, December 20, 2006
Greetings Monita, Great article!

Being a first generation "Canadian" myself, of mixed origin (South American-Spanish/New Zealand-British) there tends to be an obvious immediate label on the external. The question of "Where are you from?" can be a loaded one as you stated. The question should be "What are your roots?" Having grown up in a psuedo-culture of muliplicity has increased my awareness of my own "roots," but at the same time, adopting my internal culture to that of my residing environment. Being aware of my cultural roots, I think, is a far cry from identifying myself as that culture. With my father being a white-anglo-Brit from New Zealand and having been raised in Canada, I identify more with that culture, but only because the majority of our country's customs I think derived from that.

There are obvious exceptions to the rule, but I think the best way to answer the question of "Where are you from?" would be with another question, and that is, "Where do you think I am from?"

Keep up the great anchoring!
Posted By Anonymous Brandy, Taiwan : 6:49 PM, December 20, 2006
I get that questions all the time also. I am half Indian, half English, was born and raised in England and now live in the States. But I've lived all up and down the East Coast, so there's not one particular place in the States that I'm from -- same for when I was living in England. I married a Turkish man and spend quite a bit of time in Turkey also. Our babies will be very "worldly". SO when asked where I am from I usually reply "I'm a child of the world," but i currently live in New York!
Posted By Anonymous Sonya, New York, NY : 7:25 PM, December 20, 2006
There is a fine line between patriotism, nationalism and xenophobia. Rooting out pride in nationality is vitally important in breaking down barriers which divide us as human beings. Patriotism, much as it gives us comfort through a sense of belonging, goes hand-in-hand with underscoring the distinctions, differences and ultimately the divisions that separate us as human beings.

On a personal note, Monita, you radiate peace and it is a pleasure to watch you on CNN.
Warm Regards, Douglas Moncrieff
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 7:36 PM, December 20, 2006
The problem with the "where are you from" question is that it can often (though not always) reflect underlying or even subconscious bigotry. There is a strong tendancy in the Western world to judge and classify people based on the color of their skin or the appearance of their facial characteristics, rather than who they are as a person. This has only gotten worse in recent years, where people with brown skin are considered Muslim terrorists or illegal immigrants until proven otherwise.

I consider myself to be American first and foremost. I was born and raised exclusively in the U.S. I have voted in every U.S. congressional election since I turned 18 but one, I have served jury duty, I've registered for the draft. But when people ask me where I'm from, and I reply that I'm an American, all too often I am chuckled at and asked where I'm really from, as if my response is inadequate. If I reply that my parents are from India, I am often immediately categorized as a foreigner.

I love and respect my Indian heritage, which I consider very dear to me as it does make up a large part of my character. I'm not ashamed in any way to be considered Indian by others. What upsets me is that this judgment is made not based on the fact that it makes up who I am, but almost exclusively on my outward appearance. Until the prejudice of skin color is removed from this country, there will never truly be a United States.
Posted By Anonymous Sharat, Portland, OR : 7:43 PM, December 20, 2006
This truly is a challenging question for me too. Maybe we are making more difficult than it should be but on the other hand, the question does make us take a step back and think. The immigration form always gets me when I write "Indian" in the nationality column and Fiji Islands in the place of birth column. Not to mention the stare I get from the immigration officers especially the ones in India.
Posted By Anonymous JC, San Mateo, CA : 8:10 PM, December 20, 2006
Surely it is a great thing to have such a multi-cultural background? The short answer is that I have always referred to myself as Vietnamese. The long answer is that my grandparents on my father's side are from GuangDong, China and Cambodia. My mum is part Chinese and Cambodian. I was born in Cambodia, living there until I was four and moving to Vietnam until the age of 13, before moving to New Zealand where I currently live. I am 27 and have spent 14 years living in NZ and have adopted a lot of New Zealand's Kiwi culture. I always refer to myself as Vietnamese because I don't know a lot about Chinese culture. I speak five languages, three in Chinese as well as Vietnamese and English, though I speak none fluently, which is a shame. I do love my background though and am able to move from one culture to the next. In the generation to come the world will becoming smaller and smaller until the entire planet is multi-cultural.
Posted By Anonymous Ian,Auckland,NZ : 8:33 PM, December 20, 2006
I think it's slightly dishonest to answer the question "where are you from?" with anything other than the location(s) where you were raised. That is, after all, where YOU are from. My ancestors were from Ireland, but it would be pretty silly for me to try to pass myself off as Irish. I'm an American, with an Irish heritage that I'm proud of and curious to explore. Whether or not you call yourself "Chinese," if you were raised in Hong Kong, I think that's probabably the best answer to the question of where you are from; alternatively you could say you were raised in several countries, and if people are curious they can press further.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly, Harrisonburg, VA : 9:25 PM, December 20, 2006
I enjoyed reading your piece and know how you feel. I was born in Belfast, N. Ireland and now live in Atlanta, GA with stops for varying periods along the way in London, Barbados, Boston & Rhode Island. I still feel very Irish in spite of having lived in the U.S.A. for almost 20 years. I've always believed that your sense of nationality/self is defined more by what is in your mind and heart than whatever piece of the Earth you happen to be living on at the time.
Posted By Anonymous Brian, Atlanta, GA : 10:10 PM, December 20, 2006
I was born in New York to parents of English and Irish descent, but lived in NY only for the first six months of my life. My family relocated to California until I was six. From age six until 22, I lived in Arizona, then until age 25 in Oklahoma, and finally from 25 to 50 in Texas.

My formative years were in Arizona, so I guess I could say I was from there. My longest set of years are in Texas, so I guess I could say I was from there too.

I can only trace my family back to my parents as the documentation beyond that is not in my possession.

Mostly I just tell people I am an American. I grew up in this country and I have lived by its ideals, so I guess that fits me. In the end, I suppose I am a Nomadic-American.
Posted By Anonymous David Darling, Orange, Texas : 10:12 PM, December 20, 2006
I know what it's like: both my parents are from India, but I was born in Singapore, lived five years in Hong Kong (where my sister was born), then spent 20 in Canada. Guess where I am now? London, England!

Until I moved from Canada to the UK, no one had actually called me "Indian" when speaking about my heritage. Although I've visited India, like you - I've never lived there, so to be described as Indian (even in Britain) took some getting used to; especially when my culture and upbringing was as a Canadian. But I guess color is a strong stereotype that still has influence in many countries both developed and developing.
Posted By Anonymous ash mishra, london : 10:18 PM, December 20, 2006
Where are you from? I guess the answer to that question should be where you have lived longest uptill now. I am sure for most people, that makes sense. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India for 22 years and then lived in Canada for 15 years and still am a proud Canadian Citizen. But where am I from? I guess India because I look Indian, talk Indian, think Indian, and eat Indian most of the time, but I would prefer to be global citizen without boundaries.
Posted By Anonymous Shripal, Calgary, Alberta : 10:23 PM, December 20, 2006
It is so true, the world is becoming a small village.
I was born in Trinidad in the West Indies and is now living in Western Australia. My heritage is Indian as my grandparents migrated to Trinidad sometime around 1890. Each time I meet an Indian in Perth we both marvel at how diverse our cultures are yet we look so similar in the way we look.
Posted By Anonymous Prem, Perth, Western Australia : 10:52 PM, December 20, 2006
I've been asked the same question all my life. I live in Chicago IL, and when I came to the U.S. I was five years old, so am I still Indian?
Posted By Anonymous Richard, Chicago ILL : 11:18 PM, December 20, 2006
Your question grabbed me immediately. "Where are you from?" It's a question I too always find myself struggling to answer when asked. Although there is not as much history of movement in my family, I am the first born American in my family -- born in Atlanta, GA but raised in a Jamaican household with Jamaican parents and siblings. I always ask myself the same question "the long or the short answer?" and finally after a few years settled on this explanation: "I was born in Atlanta, but my family is from Jamaica." It's a succinct compromise without too much compromise. Oh, and by the way, I'm now living in Japan. Great article by the way!
Posted By Anonymous Victor-Jay, Osaka, Japan, : 11:54 PM, December 20, 2006
Beauty and brains of Punjab, heart of a Sikh, culture of the East & West, Monita Rajpal is a product of the best combination one can imagine.

Bottom line - Monita is a Canadian of HK origins, coming from a proud Punjabi-Sikh family.

Wishing you more happiness, success and prosperity in 2007.
Posted By Anonymous Harish Soni, Bangalore, India : 6:20 AM, December 21, 2006
Hi Monita, thanks for posting a wonderful blog. No matter where you are, as a proud Indian, I feel a great sense of association with you.

Posted By Anonymous MANISH, KANPUR, UTTAR PRADESH : 6:51 PM, December 22, 2006
It is nice to see a hybrid Indian searching for her roots. Cartier is also searching for something in India.

Being an Indian, to me, is an amalgamation of many influences. It is interesting to see how the contemporary Indian looking Westerners are giving a new dimension to their universal outlook.

Best wishes for the years to come.

Rakesh K. Mathur
Posted By Anonymous London, U.K. : 1:04 PM, December 23, 2006
Sath Sri Akal, Monita!

Glad to know about your Indian connections and your opinion about Indians, in general. Well, here�s yet another connection of yours with India about which you will perhaps never know at all, if I don�t inform you. Everyday of the last four years, a prayer is said on your behalf, for your well being, at a local Gurudwara! The guy, who has organized for these special prayers, has paid up for it to continue for another 5 years, which is the maximum time period we the administrators of the Gurudwara take the payment for. I am sure the prayers will go on beyond 2011. I don�t know this guy personally but I wish, you visit this Gurudwara where your name is uttered every day and a prayer said for you, if and when you visit Bangalore

Saare Parivaar Nu Navi Saal Diya Mubarakha
Posted By Anonymous Manpreet - Bangalore : 2:40 PM, December 23, 2006
I'm a 22-year-old old Industrial Design Student in The Philippines. I tune in to CNN International while working on sketches -- I'm an avid viewer of Art of Life. It's a truly informative and inspiring program for aspiring designers like me though my interests are more to do with the direct opposite of this program -- like automotive stuff, defense technology, old school punk, ska, reggae etc. I watch this program because I want to be more informed about other aspects of design so that I can be more versatile.

So thanks to monita, the dude with the camera, the sound guy and everybody else who makes this show happen!!

BTW, I just saw the India episode -- the jewelry featured was probably some of the most detailed I have ever seen.
... but if i were the coach of the Elephant Polo team, I wouldn't put Monita in the starting line-up -- she uses the polo stick like shes raking leaves in the backyard. Swing the stick forward to hit the ball!!!
Posted By Anonymous Carlo, Manila Philippines : 7:50 PM, December 23, 2006
Elephant polo, eh? I thought I'd seen everything... ;)

Looked like a fun day you had there.
Posted By Anonymous Kristian, Denmark : 8:33 PM, December 23, 2006
I think you are an amazing cocktail, Monita. If you ever plan to visit Dubai, we would be glad to take you around. Keep up the great work you doing. Cheers
Posted By Anonymous Vikas Dubai : 9:32 AM, December 24, 2006
I am your fan I always watch you on CNN. I've always wondered if you were a Sikh as you looked like a Punjabi Sikh girl to me. While watching Art of Life, I thought I saw you wearing a Kara and I looked you up on the CNN Web site.

Keep up the good work giving us Sikhs a good name.
Posted By Anonymous London : 2:35 PM, December 24, 2006
Born in India to Indian parents, a Bengali, moved to the UK, at present a German citizen living in Germany -- all that in the past 34 years of my life. I have been asked this question several times, especially living in Germany, which is a lot less multicultural than the UK. My answer had been "India, that's my heritage," but I am an individual and a product of global civlization. In reality, one tends to assimilate and evolve. Birthplace and ancestory form only a part of the heritage, and heritage really does not define who you are; it's the individuality that matters.
BTW, I watched Art of Life today -- the Jaipur episode -- great program, Monita! Wishing you a great 2007!
Posted By Anonymous Rahul , Germany : 4:40 PM, December 25, 2006
Hello Monita,

I've watched your show Art of Life and seen you on CNN. You are a very professional anchor. I really like your show and I hope to watch more of it. Keep up the good work. We Asians are really, really proud of you! You rock! I hope that some time in the future you will visit The Philippines, my country, so you can see the beauty of my country like your own. Happy Christmas and Happy New Year too!
Posted By Anonymous sarah akmad,manila philippines : 6:57 AM, December 26, 2006
Hello Monita
When asked, "Where do you come from?"
You just say, "From my nearest family."
That's it.
Posted By Anonymous Mr. Geir Vitnaes Oslo Norway : 11:53 AM, December 26, 2006
Technically, you are not an Indian if you hold a non-Indian passport. You are a Punjabi (ethnic identity). Indians are citizens of the Republic of India (national identity). If your father held an Indian passport after 1950, you can apply for the recently launched Overseas Indian passport (OIC).
Posted By Anonymous Jacob, Dubai : 7:30 AM, December 27, 2006
We never belong to this place or that place... its dog's mentality. a dog think its my area, why other dog is in my area and starts barking at him. Similiarly Visa offices. What is mine? What is yours?
Posted By Anonymous Ashutosh Mishra, Mumbai, India : 8:24 AM, December 27, 2006
Where you are from is where you feel you belong the most. The crucial idea is your sense of belongingness. Of all the places you've been to -- regardless of the length of time you stayed -- what counts is which one you feel you really belong to. Your sense of belongingness will help you answer the question, "Where are you from?"
Posted By Anonymous Nino Sandil, Manila - Philippines : 4:55 AM, December 28, 2006

My wife and I love you and your show, and the last one we watched was the Indian episode where you rode an elephant. My wife exclaimed, "She is very beautiful." You are a very beautiful Indian Lady. That's your country. I'm sure you are very proud of that.
Posted By Anonymous Tony Agah, Lagos Nigeria( : 12:04 AM, December 29, 2006
We miss seeing you on "City T.V."
All the best to you in 2007.
Forever a fan
Satnarine Maharaj.
Posted By Anonymous Toronto, Canada : 7:48 PM, December 29, 2006
I am Indian, living in London. I too felt there is a short answer and a long answer when people ask about your identity.

I think 50 percent of what we are is inherited from our parents which is what they inherit via their roots. The remaining 50 percent is shaped by the kind of exposure we get from our school, friends, place, work place and ...

Whatever it is, I see a world which is a global village. In 10 to 15 years time, boundaries of nations will be history and will be seen only in maps.
Posted By Anonymous Godwin, London : 11:19 PM, January 09, 2007
I've faced that question so many times and cconversations tend to go like this:
"Where are you from?"
ME: "California"
"No, where are you really from?"
ME: "Born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Texas."
"No, you know .... where are you really .."
ME: (Realizing the answer they want to hear) "Well, technically, I am from my mother's womb." (Just to throw them off guard.)

The perception of an American is quite interesting because we live a pool of variations. Though America is founded on immigration, that exact mentality has been expanded into a much more complex context. I am a Korean-American. However, people forget that I will not be able to relate to Korean native peers because of social, economical and cultural differences.

It's a strange thing really. I hope the reality of globalization and the continually growing population of American society is embedded into mindsets.

The phrasing of questions is the real dilemma, but behind that shows a hint of ignorance or a lack of awareness.

Thank you for your article. It is an issue that is very, very important to me.
Posted By Anonymous Esther Kang, Los Angeles, CA : 11:02 PM, January 10, 2007
Happy New Year to you and your crew. I enjoyed the show and was especially motivated by the elephant segment to do something I haven't done in more than 20 years -- go to the circus! I'm from the States but have lived in Valencia, Spain for the past 10 years, and while circuses come and go, I tend to take my children to an "animal-less" circus at Christmas time as we are vegetarians and feel strongly about animal issues. Sadly, many circuses (and zoos)in Europe don't take the same care of their animals as we do back in the States or in the UK so we have traditionally steered clear of these. However, a small, one-ring circus, Circo Mundial, came to town and I decided that while my children are young enough to both enjoy a circus and formulate their own opinions, we would go. We did and enjoyed it very much and the animals, six horses, five tigers and one elephant were all in good shape and looked well-treated and looked after.
Perhaps if you ever come over to Spain, Valencia could offer some unique setting and stories for your show, especially with the America's Cup and luxury spending and living on the rise here. Regards, Richard Morris
Posted By Anonymous Richard Morris, Valencia, Spain : 12:35 PM, January 15, 2007
Hi Monita!

I can relate to what you're saying. I get the same "Where are you from?" question every time I meet someone new. Like you, I'm Indian but I grew up in the Philippines. I know very little about India.

I sometimes feel that a part of me is missing and that I can only find that piece once I step on the land of my ancestors. My greatgrandfather was forced to leave India at 19 to find a better life. Though I never got the chance to be with him I feel that I owe a lot to him. I hope that in the future I'd get to breathe in what India and being Indian is all about.
Posted By Anonymous Saleema, Manila, Philippines : 4:57 PM, January 23, 2007
Hi Monita, this is one of the best blogs ever. You have raised a very interesting question and I believe you are a global nomad and you should be proud of your heritage. Ask our son -- his mother is part Greek-Maltese-Italian, was born, raised and worked in Amman, Jordan, went to school in Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut and Athens. His father is Danish, over the past 24 year I have lived in five different countries, and can trace his ancestory several hundred years back. Alexander who 17, goes to Bonn International School and has lived in Jordan, Greece and since he was three in Germany -- is he German? no, he is also a global nomad, who is very proud of his intercultural heritage. He is also moving to the UK in autumn to start university.
Posted By Anonymous Hans Henrik Friis, Bonn, Germany : 12:16 PM, February 05, 2007
Hi Monita,
First of all, I am very proud of you and I am very proud of our Indian heritage.
I am an Indian political cartoonist living in South Africa.
I also have a teenage daughter who looks very much like you.
Regards, Nanda Soobben
Posted By Anonymous nanda soobben,durban, : 7:11 AM, February 08, 2007
Great experience. One gets to hear same question even when you are within the same country. I was born in Delhi and brought up in UP, India and did my college from US. Currently in Bangalore and living here for some time now.
I think the answer to the question partially depends on what the other person wants to hear. If I am talking to someone originally from Bangalore he or she would know that I am not originally from the state even though I may speak the same language most of the time, he would expect me to admit that I am not from the place. So I got to say I am from Northern India. Similarly, when I visit my home city I sometimes say that I am living in Bangalore from some time now. But, I think you are who you really are. By that I didn't mean ones nationality, but perhaps your way of thinking, the language of the place you think in, and may be to some extent the psyche of the people living there. I will continue to think in Hindi throughout my life, so I gotta be from UP, even though I may loose some of the individuality of the people from that place.
Posted By Anonymous Surbhil Jain, India : 8:32 PM, March 12, 2007
It is hard to define oneself if your heritage includes the Sikh empire, a Sikh Kyshratiya Jat lineage, a language and culture closer to Pakistan's than most of India's and you are not born anywhere near those places. It is harder still when your formative years are spent in an exotic place that is the land of your (and your parents) birth like Malaya, and English is your first language although you speak another 4 or 5. Harder still when your educational background is truly English, you are married to a lovely lady of Chinese Malaysian heritage and you are all Australian nationals. We just settle for 'dinky-di true-blue Aussies'. Our neighbours and friends will not have anything less for us and neither will our children.
Posted By Anonymous H.S. Uppal, NSW,Australia : 7:05 AM, March 17, 2007
Welcome Home Monita... Welcome home :)
Posted By Anonymous Jasmeet, New Delhi : 10:25 PM, March 21, 2007
hey thats interesting..

anand iyer
Posted By Anonymous ANAND IYER, London. : 9:42 AM, March 27, 2007
i must say this is indeed a very interesting topic.. coming from a multi-cultural background myself, the question 'where are you from' is indeed one of the hardest questions i can ever encounter.
Posted By Anonymous lucia, eastern europe : 10:58 AM, April 05, 2007
I was born in Canada of Caribbean parents, lived in Canada for 17 years, went to university in the USA and subsequently lived and worked in NYC for 18 years. Now, I have been living in Sweden for 7 years and I have half Swedish children. I feel like I am Caribbean NewYorker!
Posted By Anonymous J.Jules, Stockholm,Sweden : 7:06 AM, April 06, 2007
So often I am asked in my language, Malayalam, "Where is your house?" which means where are you from? Today I have no house of my own, not even a rented one. I spend a few months at a timew with my children in Toronto, Johannesburg and Sydney and some time in India - Kerala. I have spent nearly a decade each in Pondichery, Ethiopia, Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa. Those who ask me these questions of identity are usually in for a long story and we end up laughing.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Vempeny, Sydney, Australia : 6:00 AM, April 13, 2007
Hi Monita, I'm Indian and pursuing a mixed relationship at the moment and coming from where you belong - it's quite easy to see that this question of "identity" can sometimes disconcert individuals from a mixed-background, especially during the growth phase in one's life many questions come to mind and there is this unique sense of "belonging" - not many easy choices come in picture. Diversity is still a blessing - it makes you a well-rounded, well-travelled (of course) and open-minded person - it's people like you that show the path of progress to the rest of us. Keep up the good work - you're my favourite CNN anchor not the least because you're Indian and I'm coming to post in your blog again. Bye.
Posted By Anonymous Sayak : 7:23 AM, May 15, 2007
Hello Monita,

Did you know that a lot of Indians went to Suriname (South America) at the end of the 18th century?
There are also people living in Suriname with the name Rajpal.
People in Suriname see you everyday on CNN. I think that it would be interesting if you did a program on Suriname. In Suriname people with roots in India are called Hindoestanen. They see them selves rather as Surinamese than Indian.
Did you know that the Miss India Worldwide 2007 is from Suriname? Here name is Fareisa Joemmanbaks. Go to the website at

For more information on Suriname:
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:52 AM, June 10, 2007
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. Please note that CNN makes reasonable efforts to review all comments prior to posting and CNN may edit comments for clarity or to keep out questionable or off-topic material. All comments should be relevant to the post and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.