There is an old Indian (not Native American) saying about a washer-man’s donkey. Neither here nor there. To quote, “Dhobi ka kutta, naa ghar kaa, naa ghat ka”. A similar plight befalls me, and may be other Indians who come to the USA, or any other country for that matter to pursue an education and then, probably, a career.
Maybe you aren’t one of those who suffer from this state of indecisiveness and confusion about your identity. And to you Sir/Ma’am, I tip my proverbial hat.
However, I still face these dilemmas and occasional moments of anxiety, more Idle Mind, Devil’s workshop and what not, regarding my identity. Who am I? What on earth am I doing here? Is it all worth it? Is this what they call a mid-life crisis? Am I already in my mid-life? Will I die soon? AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!
The story began around 6 years ago, when thoughts about studying in the USA were triggered by a bunch of wanna-be engineers and encouraged by a couple of seniors, who called it the best thing since sliced bread. I like Sliced Bread, the lethargic <insert dignified word for asshole> that I am. Ideas about “The American Life” portrayed by actors in the legendary series “American Pie” did make the choice relatively easier. One thing led to another, and I was a GRE and TOEFL exam in, with reasonable scores and a substantial amount of moolah invested. Little did I know that was a drop in the ocean. Ha ha sucker.
To make a long story short, I chose my destination and Missouri it was. Visa acquired, flight tickets booked. One way ticket to paradise. Couple of cronies alongside. 16 hours of non-stop flying. A few tears shed. A few blessings granted. Jet-lagged, exhausted, sane-ish but still alive. Let’s get this show on the road. Arrived at St. Louis. When white people come to India, they are greeted with flower garlands, Vermillion powder and general merriment. It was only fair that I should expect the same. No? Ha ha ha.. Sucker…. A few Indian people from the University’s Indian Association picked us up, and I am truly grateful. There is no better sight to weary eyes than to see somebody similar in a foreign land.
Then begins the rat race called Grad School. The first few days are spent in trying to convince a professor that you are good enough to work for him (read open to Slavery). It’s not just you though, who is open to slavery. Slaves are aplenty. Ask any Indian Grad student who drools at the prospect of being “funded”. Fiendish tricks and behind-the-back business taught me a valuable lesson. There are no friends till you/they get funded. Jealousy is but an emotion. Then there is the career fair, where free stuff aside, students are pitted against each other for that one elusive internship. I can only imagine the evil corporations rubbing their hands in glee. A couple of Indian festivals celebrated, Diwali, Holi. A few photos with new found pals, lots of traveling with those pals. Yeah. Being an Indian away from India with other such like-minded people isn’t half-bad now is it? Ha ha ha sucker.
Graduated with the whole “Shabang “, another few photos with the pals, all dressed in graduation attire. Congratulations all around. This is what it was all about. I am making something of myself. Get employed, by hook or by crook, pray to all those Gods you never knew existed. The one thing you never want to happen to you is, Going back to India and work there. OH MY GODS!!! That’s the ultimate blasphemy. That situation must not befall upon my worst enemy. In case, you missed the tone of my text, it was sarcastic. Then, you are in a new place, new city, new people, new environment. You are a part of the corporate world. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?
And then. It happened. The first trip back to the Motherland. Swadesh type emotions running through your mind. “Yeh jo desh hai tera” is on replay. I still expected flower garlands, and Vermillion marks on my forehead. Ha ha ha.. Sucker.. Parents, and maybe a few close friends at the airport picking you up.
Question 1: You came alone? We thought you would have a white girl and a kid in the cradle. Response: Indian advertisements have taught you well. I am now, officially, a stereotype.
Question 2: You are so chubby. And have also “put on” (read you grew fat). Response: Ummm Ummmm… Shit happens?
Question 3 (Friends only): So, how many chicks did you nail? Did you lose your virginity? What was your first time like? Response: Yes, Work is fine but a little hectic. Thanks for asking.
When you get home and start unpacking. “What did you get for me?” is the question of the day. Then you begin to surface in the streets, meeting people you hadn’t seen in a while and then it begins.
“Oh my god. I can see you live in America. The burgers and pizza are starting to tell.”
“You finished degree, and are working now. Are you going to get married?”
“Tell me the truth. You are dating some white chick, right?”
“How much money do you make? What does that mean in Rupees?”
My question is How is this any of your business. Apparently, privacy and space are unknown terms. One remark from me questioning their questions, leads to taunts about how I have been Americanized. My mistake, asking when the KFC opened in Bandra. The responses being we have the same chains of restaurants as you guys do. We are on par if not better than you guys.
The line between an Indian in India and an Indian abroad had well and truly been wiped out. I had been disowned by my own country, my own people. And I sure as heck can’t be considered an American, the fact that I am brown with an accent does me no favors. So fitting in is always going to be a challenge.
So eventually, who am I? JUST ANOTHER FOB!! (Fresh Off Boat)