US: A breath of fresh air


I moved to the USA from India after getting married in 2009. I thought life in a new place will be tough without family and friends.

But I was not scared. I was super excited to be with my husband, totally in love with him. My parents were crying at the airport but I was not moved much. I waved them back to them with a big smile.

I thought most of America will look like Times Square and like fall colours all through the year. And that our place will be like Priyanka Chopra’s apartment in Dostana movie. Not that great, but something like that, with a downtown view and super spacious. I never even cared to ask that before. In reality it was a regular one bed room in the suburbs of North Carolina. I was a bit disappointed but then I got to know about cities, suburbs etc.

People here were totally different from what I expected. They were welcoming and friendly. You can make friends with people fast. And they were less judgmental. I mean they were polite and I could make a conversation without thinking much about the after effects. I could talk about my true self, past relationships, parents or in-laws or just state how I felt. In India, I was a bit conscious about what I talked. Open conversations or my honest opinions about controversial topics like pre-marital sex made people think I am a person with lower morals. But in general I found it safer to keep my mouth shut in India.

People here are also less intrusive and don’t ask too many personal questions. I noticed this only after my first trip to India. In India every third person I met asked me why I was not having kids. I patiently answered that I was not ready. Not ready even after 4 years was the next question. Seriously? I still patiently answered and also politely explained how it is not okay to ask such personal questions. From your salary to sex life, people throw questions at you. And ignore mode to smile mode is not acceptable. You must answer the whole question paper or else you are being a rude NRI!

Also most of the people I met were good at sports or were technologically knowledgeable and definitely good at one thing they did. Being an average student at college made me feel I wasn’t good enough for anything, because people always compared me and constantly judged me. They judged me for not buying expensive clothes even though I could afford, or judged me for wasting my parents’ money in expensive schools, because I ended up in an average engineering college with average marks and an average paid job post-college. But here, I never felt that. All of that didn’t matter and I was accepted as I was.

At times depending on my spouse made me depressed though initially I was okay with taking a break from work and staying at home. But eventually I felt conscious to spend someone else’s hard-earned money without justifying on what, how and why I was going to spend that money. But in reality, I didn’t have to justify anything to my husband, but still, I knew it was not my hard earned money. I always felt it was easy for me here, because of my spouse who takes care of me, and supports me financially and emotionally.

I did have some aspirations like getting into an IT job and travelling. But I have realized now that I don’t particularly fancy an IT job and am still in the process of figuring out what I really want to do for a living. Coming to the travelling part; we travel and I enjoy it thoroughly.

Another thing that I really liked here is how both the genders are considered equal. The first day we landed here, some friends invited us for dinner. And I was happy to see the husband making dosas for us while the wife was chatting with us. We served ourselves. And after the meal, they both together did the dishes. None of this happens in India, at least not at my home or at my relatives’ houses. Men cooking especially in front of new people, is just a taboo.

Women here are also not limited to certain kind of jobs or activities. I haven’t really been into the corporate world here, so I cannot talk about things there. But I still see that most of the men respect their women. Born in a middle class, agricultural family and having been raised in a city left me confused. I always wondered why women (mom and grandmother) had to do all the household chores and eat meals last, after the entire family ate. I did not find that kind of culture here.

My husband cooked all the meals for the first few weeks of my being here, while I helped him with cutting and other small things. Later on I asked him to let me take over the kitchen for 2 reasons: 1. food was not tasty even though it was edible and 2. I enjoyed trying new recipes from online sources. Food was tasty which got me compliments and motivated me to cook.

Other things that I liked here, which most of the crowd from India might find annoying, are doing our house-work by ourselves. Let it be laundry, cleaning the bathrooms or cooking. This made me realize how hard it must be for my mom or maids to do the chores which I never noticed or appreciated before.

People respect others, irrespective of their jobs and status. Example, I have seen people wearing suits with German-made cars wishing and smiling back at people who collect carts in the parking lots of grocery stores. “Wow, I have never seen that in the place I came from, dignity of labor! Maids were never treated like they have feelings. Drain cleaners, trash-pickers and people of lower castes are never treated like normal people. I don’t even want to start the topic of caste!

But I am really happy here, in America. Well, every place has its problems, but somehow this feels like home.

This article was written by a deeply mysterious desi who prefers to stay in the shadows.