A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for April 20th, 2011

About lands that glitter

Posted by Pepper on April 20, 2011

As a child, I had a very different view of America. Different from what it really is, I mean. America was equal to this far away glittering land full of wonders. I don’t really blame myself. My dad’s brother, and two of my mom’s sisters lived in the US. As a result, I was given doses of everything American every summer when my cousins visited. The new clothes they’d bring me smelt of distinct foreign lands. The scent that emerged out of their suitcases was enigmatic and sweet. The chocolates they would get me were so much more delectable compared to what I usually ate. Earning in dollars, they had such a high capacity to spend money and go on unrestrained shopping sprees. They drank only bottled mineral water, because the water I grew up drinking was not clean enough for them. I would often try and imagine the elevated standards of hygiene in the country they came from. From their talks, I gathered America was all about smooth, expansive roads, zooming cars, huge houses with basements, etc. They spoke about the kind of technology I could only imagine, never witness. To add to that, they would bring me little goodies like fancy, scented erasers, fancy hair clips, fancy socks, fancy pencils and other fancy stuff that you could tell came from a far away fancy land. All these little bits were placed in the canvas of my mind to form an intriguing, magical picture that was America.

As I grew up, I read books that only fueled my imagination further. As a young teen, I read the whole serious of Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Party of Five, Goosebumps, etc. Has anybody else read them? All these are written by American authors and thus, set in an American backdrop. I would absorb all the little details that would give me a better insight to the country. The characters in those books would spend a while deciding what to wear to school everyday. Their outfits would be described in good detail. All I had was the same old uniform to wear on all days. They had personal lockers in school. I had to lug around a heavy school bag. They drove to school at 16. I had to chase BEST buses and trains. They had prom nights and Halloween celebrations. Their lives on the whole seemed so much more exciting and fun compared to mine.

And then we had shows like ‘Friends’ that were aired on TV. They went on to give us a big scoop of life in America. With this, the final image of the country was sealed in my mind. America was all about glitter and glamour.

But as I grew and stepped into my late teens, reality started sinking in. Sure the country was about glitter and glamour, but it was about a lot more than that. I don’t know what came over me, but at one point I was sure I did not want to live there. Especially after I stepped out of India for the first time. I realised that in India, we have glamourised the whole concept of ‘foreign lands’. I was most exposed to the US, but I suppose all that I mentioned is applicable to any foreign country.

Life is strange, and despite my reluctance and apprehensions, I ended up moving to the US. A lot of aspects fascinated me immensely. But a lot of aspects also made me value India so much more. After moving here, I had to make peace with the fact that my family was oceans and continents away. I had to accept the fact that we live in very different time zones and I can’t just randomly call home if I want to. I had to make do with seeing the photos sent to my inbox instead of being able to see them in person. I had to accept the craving for certain food that is available only in India as a way of life. I had to get used to emailing and chatting with my BFFs as opposed to talking to them on phone multiple times a day. I had to make peace with the amount of work load that is a part of your everyday life. At all times, there are either dishes piled up in the sink waiting to be washed, or veggies to be chopped, or dinner to be cooked, or trash to be discarded, or the bathtub to be cleaned or the floors to be vacuumed, or an overflowing laundry basket to be dealt with, or clothes to be folded, or something else. Phew. I envy the comfortable life style most of us can afford in India with maids, cooks, etc. It leaves you with time to do other things. Again, some of you who live here might be used to the work and won’t think much of it. But for me, it is a huge factor.

Despite everything, I love this country. But in my opinion, living here definitely has its own flip side. I wonder if people realise that?

I was chatting with my friend today. She, as per her family is of marriageable age and her parents are groom hunting. She has only one condition – the boy should be living in the US. I found that quite stupid and asked her why. She is said, ‘because I want to move there’. Why? I asked again. She said, ‘because its cool’. I found that so ridiculous, I didn’t know what to say.

But then I realised. She has romanticized the whole idea of living in America. Just like I had when I was a child. I grew out of that spell. But perhaps some people in our country don’t. It makes me wonder, is that why people are so desperate to move abroad? Another friend who works in IT was telling me how people in his office have been indulging in dirty politics just to grab that project that takes them ‘on site’ and gives them a chance to live in a foreign country. Why? After graduating from college, so many people are desperate to do an MS in the US, just to use that as a path to enter this country. I am curious to know their reasons. If they dislike certain aspects about India and want to move elsewhere, or want to move because they think it will give them an opportunity to explore new shores and make money, that is their choice. I chose to study in UK because I had personal reasons that I don’t want to reveal. If anybody has well thought of reasons to move base, I understand. But if they want to simply because they think it is ‘cool’, then they definitely need a reality check. I hope people weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding to move.

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