I will soon be approaching my 5th anniversary of the first day I stepped foot in this country and being me, it is almost imperative that I stop everything else and reflect on these last five life-changing years.
Honestly, sometimes I still find everything surreal and dream-like. Not necessarily because this is America, this is where all the freedom and hope lies. But mainly because this is not India, because this still feels like that rented home you are living in while looking for your own home home. Okay, I have to admit, a part of this whole surrealism deal is also cause it is America. Fine, you got me there!
Am I still enthralled? Am I still smitten? Or was I ever smitten to begin with? Do I still have that child-like wonder?
The answer is yes! May be not in the exact amount as I was the very first day, or the very first week but yes, I still love looking out the window at the busy highways, the buildings around me, the smooth clean roads, the beautiful tree-lined lanes ,and the peace and quiet. The smell of hot coffee is still very magical, certain smells bring to mind the inquisitive bright-eyed 24 year old from five years back. It is hard to put those feelings to words.
But with an almost 5 year old experience, also comes a certain boring truth- that this is it! Everyday life is everyday life, there is the same rituals of waking up, going to work, earning your little money, coming back home to your family, walking the dog, eating your dinner over a loud tv in silence and then going back to bed to start the same thing over the next day. There isn’t that coolness we saw in the hollywood movies, no I do not have a fun song playing in the background of my life when I do a great,cool thing, no nothing cool is involved. The only thing closest to cool is perhaps that people here can do the same things a little easily. There are devices and gadgets for everything. Yes, everything. You can self-checkout if you have no patience, you can go through the drive-through to get your quick, greasy food if you are not in the mood to walk and wait, you can sit at home and shop just as easily as at the store and you can afford to play on your smart phones, watch movies on your gaming devices on your big screen tv all with the touch of a button and easily not have a real communication with real people. Yes, life is a little easy here.
And I bet India is getting there. It won’t be long before I could not find out the difference. And some moments, my definition of home itself gets confusing and blurry. I mean I like living here, I like my life here and yes, I am now a little used to enjoying a few liberties. So, I am coming clean, I am not any different.
But those other times when I question things and feel like something is missing despite having everything in my reach,literally, I attribute that nameless something to ‘culture’. I guess that is what is the missing link. Culture – when you have everything you need and more but still feel an emptiness in your being- has to be the lack of feeling at home. And you know I am not quite sure if that need would go away if I somehow were living a different life where I was married to an Indian, lived in a thriving Indian community, did Indian things and knew only Indians.
I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to sit down here and dissect my stay in this place. But being me, I am almost being forced into it by my mind. I could just take it for what it is. I chose to come here and now I live here. That’s all.
But I do it because I cannot easily let things sink in because once they do, they become the everyday things, mundane and charmless. So, I like to keep them alive in my mind, playing them over and over till my subconscious reaches a conclusion.
I still find a lot of enchantment in looking out of my window at the grey clouds, at the occasional sighting of a person, at the clean roads and at the prospect of my individual freedom. Yes, I think I value my freedom the most here- the freedom to be me and the freedom to be able to lay low as much as I want.
The best outcome of staying in a different country is also the appreciation I have found for mine, the meaning in the term ‘back home’ and the gaining of a good perspective.
Here is to a quiet, low-key celebration of two countries, two cultures and many epiphanies.