Journey to my roots by Sangita Wilk-Sanatani
October 2016: I sat on my bed in my ancestral home in Bengal looking out the window and vividly remembering images from previous journeys. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I reviewed my past experiences and then asked myself: What is THIS journey about? Neither child nor mother, just myself here… in search of my roots, my heritage... my Bengali heart!
I arrived in the comfortable home of my cousins in Kolkata before moving on to our village home where one of my main ambitions was to learn Bengali, of which I only knew a few phrases. I easily got in touch with villagers, and during evening walks sang with children and practiced simple conversation. Sitting on the train to Santiniketan, in the process of typing a message: “On my way to the home town of Rabindranath Thakur (our national poet)..”, when I was filled with emotion. Where did this sentiment come from? Who within me sent and who received this sudden wave of love and devotion
I originally planned returning home for Christmas, but as the time approached, my heart cried so badly that I needed to seriously think about extending my stay for another 2 months. I struggled against feelings of guilt and the opinions of both my Austrian and Indian family! Finally, I surrendered to the Greater Heart and, looking back, it was actually in these last two months that the transformation really happened!
Frequent reflection of my family history – between Kolkata and Santiniketan -I journeyed through waves of enthusiasm, disillusionment, and finally a sense of integration.
„Me in Bengal“ and „Bengal in me“ had become One.
On the morning of 25th February 2017 my suitcases were packed, and I knew I was taking a flight back to Europe. Still, it didn’t FEEL as though I was leaving. I felt as though I had always been there and would remain there. After nearly 5 months, I had mastered the language to a confident level … a beautiful experience of self-guided learning.
I still had time for a last day trip and I set off for the botanical garden in Kolkata. The great banyon tree was calling me! It is awe inspiring to look at something that resembles a forest and imagine this is one tree… so many stems growing out of one central root: Doesn’t this say something about us as humans? I finally understood that I had roots in Vienna and in Bengal and it was possible to be two and more at the same time.
The anecdote of this final outing: Different tickets were sold – whether you are a foreigner or a local. The chap behind the counter examined me and asked “Where do you come from?“ I replied in Bengali, giving my (Kolkata) home address... He handed me the ‘local’ ticket, and with a feeling of deep gratitude I realized I had been accepted!