More than half a century ago a man left the green fields and farm lands of western Maharashtra to try his luck in the glittering city of Mumbai. His mother had passed away a while ago and he left behind his father and younger brothers with the promise to bring them to the city. In Mumbai he found friends, a small place to live, got his degree as a certified accountant, and a job. Eventually he started his own company that manufactured chemicals and trained his brothers to manage that company. That man was my uncle, who brought his younger brothers from a small rural village in Maharashtra to Mumbai, give them better education and to give them a chance at a better life. Once he came to Mumbai, he never went back to the village except to visit the other relatives there every now and then. He got married and found matches for his brothers one by one, including my father. Everyone started their families in Mumbai and nobody gave a thought to return back to the village. The second generation of my family (my cousins and myself) decided to come further away to improve their lives and a few of us immigrated to the USA. Like our elders before us, we have not given much of a serious thought to going back to our lands. Like my uncles and my father who were immigrants to Mumbai and eventually became citizens of Mumbai (called mumbaikars), we have slowly become Americanized.
People all over the globe move from their home towns and home countries and become immigrants elsewhere. Mostly they move for a better life, better opportunities for families, and sometimes just for the sheer adventure of living unmoored in a new place. I moved away from my home when I was young to find a life different than the one I had back in India. Maybe like my uncle I thought this was the right move to have a better future; but unlike my uncle I didn’t have to bring any of my family here with me.
When you move far away to make your life better, you leave something behind…usually elder parents, other family. You lie to yourself saying you will be back one day but you never get back. Whether it is moving 350 km to Mumbai or 10000 miles to US, it is a move where eventually you will never look back. You have to make a life where you move in order to be successful, but the happier you are in new place the guiltier you sometimes feel about all that you have left behind.
I don’t know if my uncle ever felt the guilt or worry about his move decades ago (he wasn’t the kind of person to talk about his feelings), but he was very happy when his daughters moved to US, he felt that like him they were moving on to something better in life. I just wish I had asked him about all this when he was still coherent, I wish I had talked to him about how to immigrate when you leave half your life behind.
I returned back to Boston this Saturday. The six weeks at home flew by with amazing speed with time well spent with family and friends. I was a tourist in India after such a long time, and realized that I should probably see more of my own country while I can instead of cribbing about not being able to visit other countries due to visa delays!
While Mumbai will always be home, Boston is my second home now and there is a constant battle between life/job in one country and family in other. I probably was too young to realize this struggle when I decided to move abroad for education and job. But it’s for the good, to make the best of what you have been blessed with and enjoy your privileges! So welcome back to Boston!
Living out of the country, I have missed out on lot of Indian weddings over the years. An Indian wedding is like a festival, celebrating the good luck of the happy couple and a chance to show off your wealth and social connections. Unlike olden days when the weddings lasted a week, in these days of inflation and urban living the weddings last only couple of days, but be assured these days are packed with fun on every level.
I had a chance to attend a very close friend’s wedding on this trip. The preparation before attending the wedding is as much fun as the wedding itself. Buying fancy Indian clothes, shopping for beautiful Indian jewelry, matching the clothes, jewelry and shoes…I am sorry but the quote from MasterCard advertisement is perfect here, “Spending time with your close friend on her wedding…priceless; for everything else there is MasterCard!” Or for everything else there is a bank called “Dad”!
The best part-it was a destination wedding, far away from the noise and sweltering heat of Mumbai crowds, this was a wedding nestled in the hills of Dalhousie, in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. The drive up the hills to Dalhousie through those narrow one lane roads was a fantastic experience; thankfully I wasn’t the one driving! Needless to say the wedding was absolute fun. Thank you to the lovely couple for including me on their special day. It was also a great way to spend quality time with my parents, touring around the north, seeing Taj Mahal and other beautiful monuments. I had almost forgotten the joy of dressing up in weddingy Indian clothes, over the top blingy jewelry, non-stop eating and constant hugging! Attending a friend’s wedding has the added benefit of you being practically anonymous as you don’t know most of the other relatives. There isn’t anyone around to judge you for the amount of alcohol and food you consume. Also there is no one to question you on your singlehood, though there was a moment when my friend tried to be a wing woman and introduce me to a guy in what had to be one of the most awkward introductions ever; but that is a story for another time.
India Series I
Last Saturday I landed in Mumbai after 4 years. Before my trip I was very anxious because I felt I had been out of home for so long I had forgotten the ways and manner of Indian living. But I could feel tears prickling behind my eyes when I saw the twinkling lights of the Mumbai skyline as my flight started descending on the Mumbai airport and I started looking forward to seeing the sea of Indian faces. On landing, the immigration was a pleasant surprise as it has been really streamlined with lots of counters and the international terminal has been completely revamped. While I didn’t find it absolutely rave worthy, it is definitely lots of steps up from the previous terminal and at least on par with the international standards.
Being at home initially was a very surreal experience, you know when you don’t believe where you are sort of a feeling! For me it felt as if I had never been away, everything that was familiar to me was still the same, and at the same time some things felt so very different. As long as I was home it was familiar, but stepping outside, I couldn’t remember some of the street names with the new constructions and new streets cropping up everywhere.
But the best part about coming home has been celebrating Diwali in India; spending time with family, gorging on good food and meeting people I hadn’t seen in years. Though there was a brief moment of panic when I couldn’t remember one of my relatives’ name, thankfully though my mom was next to me and addressed her by name so I could save my face!! Other best part was wearing all the fancy Indian jewelry and sarees which I hadn’t worn in a while and what better occasion to wear it than Diwali.
Though I am trying not to feel nostalgic, it is difficult to avoid the memories when you come home after a gap of 4 years and have been away for 8 years. I am going to avoid my blog posts from becoming maudlin so will be doing a series of posts on my India trip, from my initial impressions, to changes, to travel and food posts. This will also help me get over my nostalgia because sometimes memories serve no purpose other than to bring you down and ruin your present.
I grew up in a female dominated household with a whole bunch of sisters. With one older sister and older female cousins, it wasn’t surprising that when I was in high school; I used to pine for an older brother. My fascination with an older brother was so that someone would give me fast rides on bikes and introduce me to his friends. Though in retrospect, it seems as if I was fascinated with the idea of a brother because I was surrounded by estrogen all the time and wanted a change-I went to a girl’s school, hence only had girl friends, and was surrounded by sisters and aunts all the time!
But as I grew older I realized having an older sister was so amazing. As I grew up my sister changed from my older sister to my idol, and from my idol to my best friend and confidante. As I grew older our difference of 6 years started shrinking and today she is my partner in crime and my shield against my parent’s wrath (which I used to and still do incur on regular basis as I am the rebellious one in the family!) She taught me to be sincere about my studies, responsible in conduct and she taught me how to be a good daughter (though I am not sure how successful she has been in trying to make me a good daughter!) J When I threw tantrums around because I couldn’t understand Math she patiently sat down and taught me everything. She is the one who came running with my biology supplies because I was clever enough to forget my supplies at home on the day of biology lab exam!
Having an elder sister makes life beautiful and easy. She is the one who faces your parents, she’s the one who gets yelled at because she’s supposed to be elder and more understanding. Being the younger one, you get to learn from her mistakes, so that you don’t make the same in life. She is your surrogate mother, your friend, your idol all rolled into one! It doesn’t matter how many best friends you have, but no one gets you like your sister. She’s the one who knows you and your dark secrets and still loves you. And when she has a family of her own, you realize that she won’t be able to give you as much time and there will be times when you won’t be able to meet her for months, times when you won’t be able to talk to her for days…but just knowing that she’s there for you makes life easier.