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SurferSpeak | Our cushioned life

Our surfer talks of how NRIs create their own India wherever they live.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 15:14 IST
D'laila Pereira
D'laila Pereira

Loads of people dream of crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific, making it to the US.

They bid adieu to their motherland and surely enough, every year thousands of people make it here.

In our initial days, we are confronted with the pangs of having left our country. On several occasions, we lament the distance from our loved ones.

We miss the sweat and smell of our streets, the flavours of sumptuous homely food, and the sense of belonging and freedom, that can be found only at home.

As our parents and loved ones back home console us that "we will get over these things" or "you will get used to it", we slowly realise that these feelings will linger within us, with us for a long time.

Our desperate search to connect with the folks at home translates into finding cheaper phone card services for long distance calls to India and bulky packets of sweets, masalas and other miscellaneous items sent back and forth with visiting friends and relatives.

We create our own world around us - a space to define our identity and to encapsulate our life from the "past".

We blend in this community to stick to our roots - just as a koala clings to its own sweet spot on the tree - tight and secure.

Our life follows a distinct pattern over the weekends. We either gather at someone's house for a barbeque/social or watch a Hindi movie or watch a cricket game on a 17-inch laptop screen at some friend's place, or enjoy a quick trip to the mountains.

In the Wal-Mart store, we look through various 'Made in China' items, comparing dollar $$ prices to their equivalents in India.

We even celebrate Diwali with gusto, missing the thrill of lighting fire crackers in open air, citing stories of those childhood moments to our kids who do not even know what Diwali is celebrated for.

We remain shuttled between our chosen land, caught in the sufferings of immigration woes and the comforts of a modern life, and our endless trips to India, year after year.

We try to relive the separated time away from our desh in that vacation of 15-20 days.

We acknowledge how much India has changed - the doodhwala has a cell phone now, the sandwichwala from the college hangout has a Maruti car, main road across the house has too much traffic, this and that is expensive ("shampoos and soaps five years back were in tens of rupees, now they sell in few hundred bucks"), the lifestyle is different.

Our minds cling to the India that we left and refuse to move away from the picture that remained frozen in our minds around the first time we left.

The small things that were taken for guaranteed before seem very precious now - (playing galli cricket in tiny strip of land somewhere, the hustle and bustle of the trains, packing a plate of samosas from Tripathi samosewala on the way back home, turning away from the pestering street kid trying to sell knick-knacks, selling olds books and newspapers to the ruddiwala in the market to make a fortune, hopping in a rickshaw at any time of the day).

We pack our time meeting dozens of relatives - some aunties trying to match us with their daughters and uncles requesting if we could help get their son to America.

Their questions amuse us (Beta, is it too cold there? How much do you spend on your monthly expenses? Life there must be really comfortable, na! Do you get Indian food there? Are there Indian vegetables there?) .

We catch up with our long time buddies and wonder how all of us have changed and matured. We tell them stories about how we have adjusted within an alien society and expect them to understand the traits of an unfamiliar foreign culture.

Our children are constantly reminded of the past that is an integral part of our lives. At our homes, we strive to recreate an atmosphere filled with the traditional customs and values that shaped our lives.

Mr Iyer finds a lady who runs a Bharatnatyam school for his girl. Mrs Chatterjee enrols her son in Bengali-language reading/writing class run by a bored housewife.

Ms Joshi longs for charity events and Indian socials to change into her elaborate saris and exquisite ornaments.

Like us, our children are also caught in a space, lying between the ethnic traditional world defined by their parents and the one that they are surrounded by - their American friends, new ways of life, music, dance, food and culture.

Over the years, the goody-goody comforts of the chosen land seep into our lives and dominate over the ones that formerly ruled the show.

How could we trade our comfortable car journeys with the crowded messy daily train routine in our country, or the silence of the 10th street where our house resides amidst rows of similar white-coloured houses with the noise and filth that has made its way everywhere in our home town?

No, how much ever we envy our cousins at home who have the possible luxury of a driver, a cook, a bai (maid servant); we still tolerate the loneliness and the extreme independence that comes with it.

We come here on employment visas and work for some multi national companies. But a lurking fear of losing the job and getting thrown out resides in our minds in the pre-green card days.

When a thing or two about the immigration process is changed, we scamper to find that one lawyer, to post hundreds of questions to forums, to seek solace in someone's advice.

We strive to do any possible righteous step to stay in the queue for the coveted card that will be ticket to our "freedom" here.

Agreed, we do all this jhunjhat to fulfil our dreams, or the dreams of our loved ones - of leading a better quality life, of seeking challenges, of realising our inner potential.

A few of us go back, pulled by the attraction of loved ones, or by the obligatory duties bounding us.

But for most of us who choose to stay here, as life goes in a fuller circle, we lose something in the process.

As years go by, we cannot fully accept our new home yet cannot return to our old one too. We remain torn apart in a space that resides in our minds - full of dreams and memories.

We create our own India wherever we live. We lead a cushioned life.

D'laila Pereira is a software engineer in Microsoft Corp., currently based in Seattle. She spent her formative years in Mumbai andcan be contacted

All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfer and do not necessarily represent those of

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 15:14 IST