“It’s a hard place to leave but an even harder place to live.” –Papa F aka PG’s philosopher dad.
I know for a few days now I’ve been mostly sharing about the beauties of my motherland and there are so many. Every time I land here, I have the urge to move back. It’s an unique experience to go from minority to majority. Few of my friends can share this experience with me. As loud-mouthed and in-your-face and even bitchy as I can be when sharing about the immigrant experience, the truth is it is a lonely one. One in which you try to explain and share and articulate the longings and fruits and flavors, but the words are never enough. Worse than that a hand full of people in my life can relate on the same level. Being a minority means you have to patiently take inane comments and laugh them off like they’re no big deal. It means that people judge your culture based on stereotypes and think it’s okay to crack jokes using these same stereotypes. It means that a piece of you will forever yearn for your motherland and you will hold your memories so tightly that they will hurt.
So yes, being here feels like coming home to your mother’s comforting arms—on one hand. On the other hand…
I am also an American woman and so my independence is not favored here. No. Not the way I walk. Not the way I let my waves run free in the wind or the way I walk faster than my husband. The first adjustment my outgoing self has to make is to accept that all the servers and drivers and hotel staff will only address the man I’m with. Thus the cycle goes: they address him, he looks at me, I answer them. But then we get comfortable and start reminiscing about the good old days of Mumbai and it all seems fine—until we go to our next cab, hotel, destination and go through it all over again.
Then there’s domestic traveling. Rules and courtesy are thrown out the window. One person makes you pay for overweight baggage, while the next lets it slide. Walking through security lines is every woman for herself. If you take an extra three seconds to pull out your laptop, then four people cut in front of you. Worse, if you aren’t aggressive enough, you get pushed to the end of the line which is not really a line but more of a split end. By the time you arrive at your gate, you’re annoyed and now hunting down that one person who cut in front of you just to give her a look of “Don’t think you got away with it!” By the time you arrive at your gate, an organized western line sounds like a field of sunflowers.
Finally and sadly, there’s the food. If ever there was a blessing and a curse, then it’s the food of India. Only if you are me. Love is a weak word to describe my relationship with Indian food. It fills my soul and transports me to the best memories of my childhood. It is comfort and feeling in the form of sustenance. When I see it here, saying no is depression inducing. So I eat and eat and eat ignoring all warning signs that actually my stomach is now more American than Indian. Then, in the middle of the night usually all warning signs have stopped and the storm drops: stop eating or stay near a bathroom for the rest of your trip. It never happens when you expect it and worse you can go for days thinking this time my stomach won’t get upset, but it will, it always will.
Now, I love my country and can’t ever get enough of it. Still I have lived in the States for 25 years now and it is what I know. It is my culture now which breaks my heart a little to admit. But without my American self, I can’t fully appreciate India and it’s brilliant insanity. Without the independence that America gave me, I wouldn’t be able to travel all over India with Neil being more dependent on me than the other way around. So, my identity remains woven together a little of this and a little of that. I dream about living here again or starting an all girls school when I make my first million and maybe I’ll live out that dream some day. For now I know my limits and know that leaving here in a couple of days will be hard; however, living here now after all of what I know and all of who I am would be much harder.