Illustrations by Dipanjan Bose
Tales of a Returned Indian
When we had moved to the US from India in 2004 we had decided on a stint of 3 years in a foreign country and no more. After all, our motherland would be waiting for our return with bated breath, how would the country even function without us…
Once in the US, much like in most Jhumpa Lahiri stories, my husband plunged into his work leaving me to figure out the foreign land and how much we would like each other. Well, we had our tussles but America finally gave in and I made a place there. All this took a little more than a year. I finally found a job and discovered a life I could actually fall in love with. However, I remember us being really stubborn about our resolve of returning to our country ‘no matter what’. Most of our fellow Indian Americans could just not understand our reasoning then, but we knew – and life moved on.
When in 2008 we still could not find a way to move back to India we felt somewhat trapped in something borrowed that we had begun to love. We wanted out but my husband’s job kept him there longer. It’s a long story how this went on till 2011 but he eventually had to put up quite a struggle to come back. Looking back now – I can’t help feeling a little pang right now but don’t want to admit it just as yet.
Stocking Up On Onions, with Love from USA
Without saying it outright, could I just pen down a few things that would have changed in my life if I were still living in the US now?
First of all, my annual trips to India would have definitely become bi-annual. When in India, I would have made it a habit to buy an extra piece of luggage just to carry back my shopping – clothes and shoes mostly. But also this would mean that all my friends in the US would have benefited by my generosity in choosing their gifts.
I would have sent enough money to my family to stock up on all the onions they want, I would have at least tried to save a relative from filing bankruptcy, I would have sponsored a few chemo sessions for my dearest friend who was just diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, I would have invested in another property (I am told that the Indian real estate sector is seeing quite the upward graph lately) and finally I would have just been able to feel the satisfaction I am craving to feel all my life. My newly minted enterprise Social Potpourri, of course, would have been on the lips of everyone who wanted to look cool as I have learned that to make money one has to already have hoards of it.
Phew! But I am in India. I don’t know if all the above would have turned out exactly the way I have written it out but one cannot help but wonder if life would have been different like that.
India – America: Which is the Foreign Land?
All I do know is that I would like to at least visit the US again. If not for anything else than to show my daughter where we lived, where she was born, her playground and all things that I thought were etched in my memory, now slowly fading. There may not be anyone left in those streets who know me but I still want to keep that door open, just in case. Just like before I don’t want to mark an area there to call mine – but I don’t like the idea of a gate chained to keep us out.
Each day of my life in India has enough depth to drown half of Connecticut in it. The complexities here almost chisel one to become a deeper, if not a much wiser person. The term “life’s lessons” almost has an ethereal ring to it. The gravity of existence here is real and much beyond just a job and evening drinks together. (Although those are huge factors of life too.)
It gives me the feeling of being ancient, of knowing, of enriching my life with as much laughter as tears, of looking forward while witnessing the end of the world, of melody and shrieks all put together in a day. Yes, the “Rupee Falling” rings loud against a slogan of yesteryears – “India Shining”. I wonder, is it possible that both are happening simultaneously? I don’t know but I am here to find out why we took our decisions when we did. If there is a reason for everything, I am counting on the real solid ones to keep me going.
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