The Indian-American mom with a Pizza predicament

PizzaandBeer

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On any given Friday night you will see me putting my van into gear, family in tow, first stopping at the video store, then at the pizza place and finally making a “drive through” stop at the package (please read liquor) store. After getting home, we gather on our living room couch.. The Mom is off duty now and everyone is on their own, including the two year old. 

So, tonight while the family watched Astro boy, I drifted off into a semi sleep mode, pondering over how to accomplish that single task that has stayed on my to-do list for almost 6 years now. It is different, has no time-line, no dependencies, no deadline for when it should be completed. BUT, it has still remained there and did I mention that this one task has it’s own list.

A Task in Predicament
A Task in the Predicament

Well, let me begin at the very beginning. After all, the following sequence of events cannot lead to anything else but one thing only: Taking an oath of American Citizenship in a swearing in ceremony, renunciation of the Indian Citizenship, surrendering the Indian passport, and applying for an Indian Visa to visit one’s OWN country.. Or is it really? 135 people from 53 countries took the oath along with me, and to my amazement there were a lot of tears, whistles, shrieks, claps in the room that day. So much for the cherished American dream, right?!

WeThePeople
WeThePeople – 16th in line

In not so many words, here I lay out my life in what has been an assimilation of my family and I into the American way, while at the same exact time, trying hard to cook, eat, pray, ‘spend’ money, wash instead of wipe, watch movies and even party like an Indian..

The Mimicry - India
A mimicry of the Indian life! Clockwise: A friend’s baby shower; Idol Worship; Indian outfit
The Life - USA
The American day-to-day life! Clockwise: PeeWee Soccer; Vonage Ad in our mailbox; Snack Pack; School; USA Flag

Sure, times have changed, I no longer have to spell out my name, R as in Roger, A as in Apple, C as in Cat, H as in Harry, A as in Apple, N as in Nancy and A as in Apple. And if you call me an Indian, I won’t be in the least bit offended. In fact, I would like to be called a cool Indian.. Here is a scenario that might qualify that statement.. Taking pictures of snack packs at department stores to figure out how the cheese and the cracker trays are done, and then proudly serve them to Indian / American guests.. Of course, in the beginning it was a tough one.. Cracker?!?! Isn’t that called a biscuit, damn, the English(man)!!

So, why this longing for India you ask.. Well, simply put, I don’t know either.. And honestly I have even contemplated moving to Singapore that has a 50% foreign work force, just to be close to India.. That way, the country would be easy for the family to assimilate (one more assimilation needed here, but how many can one survive anyway, and we are not talking Army families here people) because they sound immigrant friendly on paper.. I mean, this is the part where I start sounding desperate, with all that research..!!

Family Collage I
Family Collage I

The collages tell me that life is probably the same anywhere, if the family is around with you anyway.. Then, why this yearning for the family that I left behind 8000 miles away??? My dilemma is often comforted by the kind words of the husband, who is equally torn between the love for his mother country and this land that has given him The Dream.. He tells me of how a girl gets married into a boy’s family, but will never forget or let go her mother and her relationship with that side of the family.. It is some comfort and puts me at ease when I think of it that way, but it still hurts because I feel, I am neither fish nor fowl in a lot of situations that life throws at me.. Is my apprehension valid, or am I just losing sight and thought of making the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS?!

Family Collage II
Family Collage II

If you know my affinity to happy endings, it is important to know my current state of mind. 

An animal safari that we visited a couple of weeks ago, promised to showcase a wide variety of animals from “all over” the world. And guess who made it half way across the world to greet me?! An Indian Buffalo! Strangely, that moment, I felt a little better without my usual traces of homesickness.

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TheGreatIndianBuffalo
Picking up a familiar ‘scent’ – The Indian Buffalo

Gosh, what a nut.

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60 Comments

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  1. Hi Rachana,

    Interesting to read your thoughts.
    Well, it is hard to tell something about this, because I know you and your situation too little, but one lesson I have learnt from life:
    One should not analyze oneself too much.
    The more you think about an issue the more complicated things can get.

    As you probably know I am a German and live in Germany, but honestly: I don’t categorize myself as German, but as a kind of “world citizen”. I feel as close to a French man as to a German or American, I make no difference.
    I know, there really are cultural differences, but think about it – is every German, American, India, etc. the same? Every individual is different, but these differences between all people unite us somehow.
    “Vive la difference”, as the French say.
    What I want to say: Maybe you should just embrace your current situation instead of questioning it.

    However:
    If you feel uncomfortable, you should definitely change something.
    As I have already said: I know very little of you, I can only make assumptions and share some of my spontaneous thoughts.

    • Thanks Timo for taking the time to read, appreciate that! You are right, if I cannot change the situation (atleast immediately) I might as well embrace it! “Embrace, embrace” is what I keep telling to myself, and the technology and Internet has really shrunk the world, hasn’t it?! And I would also like to mention that I do not feel alienated or different at all, because I am surrounded by a great set of caring and loving friends and neighbors!
      Thanks friend!
      Rachana

  2. Beloved Rachana! So often I have wondered how it would feel to be faced with a decision about citizenship. Is it as though one has to hand over one’s DNA? How does one say, “I’m choose this lifestyle over the one that has my soul.” When a homeland has offered war, strife and fear as a lifestyle, I’m sure it’s much easier to relinquish its hold. However, if it is otherwise, I have imagined it would feel like an act of enormous disloyalty.

    Years ago, a couple from Ireland thought they would like to move back. They were wise enough to do a “trial run”. They went back for three months with the proviso that, while there, they would live as though the decision was made that they were coming back for life. They came back to Canada. She explained that all she loved was still there. However, the 3 months gave them the opportunity to “see” the innuendos, the suffocation of silent mores and unwritten “shoulds”, the disruption of freedoms now loved, etc. She said they realized that while in Canada, they were being influenced by the memory of the highlights of a life that they loved, but that life was altered, gone, or not so attractive any more. The reasons they left initially, they discovered, were not as deep or meaningful as their reasons for no longer wanting to return. That realization had a huge impact and was profound, she said.

    I love you deeply for your willingness to share such a deep, personal and private matter that has long been a question in my heart: How would I decide if I had to choose?

    • The people who whistled and cheered and clapped, I found out were political refugees who were being granted asylum in the US in the form of Citizenship. Amy, I can’t even imagine being in their shoes.. You are right about being able to choose when the choice is obvious in those circumstances.. !!
      Thank you for telling the Ireland couples’ story.. ! Yes, we also wonder if “we are being influenced by the memory of the highlights of a life that we loved, but that life is now altered and gone!” Thank you for reading and taking the time to comfort me. It means so much!
      Rachana.

  3. Great post.

    I was born in America, and besides the yearning to travel to Europe where my family originates from, I can’t say that I know what you are going through, but I know this…America is quite the nice mix of cultures and lifestyles. The acceptance of individuals and their cultures (and the general mixing of cultures) is becoming far-more normal, especially with my generation. I may be speaking for myself, but the friends I have come from all aspects of life, and that’s one great thing about college. You get to form friendships with new people, and they let you take part in their culture. I know people who came from Korea, India, Japan, Germany, Ireland and so on, all from my experiences on campus.

    I’m kind of rambling so I will get back to my original point. Even though you are far from home, you sure aren’t far from your culture. You surely can meet others who share your culture, and can help with your home-sickness. Experiencing other cultures isn’t too shabby either :).

    So anyways, keep your head up. I do hear India is a lovely country, and when I get to the point where I can go travel and afford it, I’m sure India will be on my list of places to experience, and if you find yourself missing your homeland, just keep in mind, it’s not going anywhere :).

    Have a good weekend Rachana,

    Mr. Mojo Risin

    • Mojo,
      Thank you for reading, and yes, I agree with you on that, the cultural mix that America offers is something that you will not get anywhere, whether it is Europe or Asia or any other continent. That is what is so great about it!!
      And when you put it in your own perspective as a student, it definitely provides me with a great picture!
      Oh, BTW, start saving just enough money to board on a plane, because lodging in India will be on me and my folks.. ;)
      Thanks for making my day!

  4. It has got to be difficult to have grown up in one culture and pledge to another. Life before and life after. Right down to how this world smells and tastes and sounds. You are living what America is about and I envy you knowing your roots from your homeland. I only have a family tree that tells me generations ago my heritage was German and English…… That’s all I know. It is good that you write. Pass it on to your children and your grandchildren and share the richness of your heritage. Such a gift. I think, in time, you will find a way to be comfortable with being an Indian-American.

    • Gosh Leslie, everytime I cross paths with you, I am just stumped at your humility!! Thank you for saying what you said, it simply means a lot! At dinner I had an interesting conversation with a very good friend and her husband (family friends).. He told me, while in India, he had an identity handed over by his parents, and that hung over his head because growing up and his youth was never about him. Today, after 10 years, he is a self made man, home, family, everything that he accumulated on his own from scratch. He is grateful to the country for its oppurtunities and does not feel like something is holding him back. For him, it is this life and a future that remains.. It made me think, he is so true in so many ways!
      And just like you say, because I am living what America stands for, I feel I should already be comfortable about being an Indian American.. And maybe I will get there.. Thanks to all of you and your love!
      Thanks!!
      Rachana

      • I have been homesick within my own country. I’m midwest all the way but lived in the southwest for a short period of time. I have never forgotten how much I felt like “coming home” when I returned to the midwest. I understand, on a very small scale, what you are trying to relate. HUGS, Rachana.

  5. It’s funny that you post this now … this weekend I am learning for my Canadian citizenship test … scheduled for Tuesday next week ;-) … (digression: learning about the history is great, but remembering the names of politicians is not fun ;-)

    I don’t have to give up my Macedonian citizenship and I made a firm (at least I think so for now) decision I won’t look back into the past when leaving, so I clearly can’t directly relate to your feelings about this! But, I hope this thought will be worthwhile nonetheless:

    What would you like your kids to say about you when they are your age? That their mom was caught up in the past or always looking into the future? And, mind you, the future might turn out to be India, but the choice of route to get there is still important!

    Ok, now I should get back to learning the political system of Canada ;-)

    • Kima, ha ha, see you were talking about telepathy between the two of us in your earlier post!! And it has gotten to an alarming state right now, because we are almost thinking alike everytime :D
      Macedonia?! Wow, I did not know that! Trust me it sounds so much more exotic than India.. ;)
      Ok, on a serious note, I honestly like your question, I now feel guilty on some level, maybe I am just being melodramatic (can imagine the better half nodding to that). Talk about blogs acting as wake up calls!
      Thanks, you always have some precious insight for me to remember.
      Grateful for your association.
      Rachana.
      P.S: Who was the first monarch of Canada? :)

      • Macedonia more exotic than India? I guess it depends on your reference point ;-) … which goes to say that we usually value the things we don’t have over those we do! To that point, I took a day trip northward from Vancouver to visit the beauties of Whistler today with my family … gorgeous doesn’t cut it for the area ;-) … on top of that, reflecting on the last Winter Olympics in my current state of mind as I am studying for the citizenship test and taking a picture under the Olympic circles was a great way to get extra motivation to work harder to remember as many dates and names as possible ;-) … I like to think of myself as fairly rational, but symbolics can still fool me from time to time I guess ;-)

        Btw, your question was way too easy: Queen Victoria ;-) The scary questions are those with numbers as answers … not that I fear numbers, I love to do math … but I hate to remember them if not absolutely necessary :-(

        • Glad you could sneak in a day trip before winter hits.. :) And you will do fine with your test, trust me, good luck!
          Don’t want to distract you when you are working towards it, but did you see today’s the Freshly pressed post at: “http://notesfromted.com/2010/10/11/making-sense-of-the-shallows/”? Maybe something that you will enjoy reading?
          :)

          • Oh Rachana, what have you done to me … you know kids are my passion … I couldn’t help it and had to not only read the post but comment too ;-) … I hope the author will approve it ;-)

    • Please excuse my dipping in, Rachana, but I want to say to Kima that I hope the studies go well and, as a natural Canadian, I’m not sure I could pass the test! Nevertheless, I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to my Country and I hope it provides you with a life of dignity and respect that all of us strive for. – Amy

      • Thanks Amy!

        Like Timo, I like to consider myself a “world citizen”, which guides many of my choices! I am happy to say that my choice to come to Canada, besides opening a host of opportunities for the future of my family, feels like a great move towards my cosmopolitan dream ;-) And I think my feeling is born out of the people as I have met some amazing people who helped me feel not only accepted but also open up and be eager for new experiences and challenges!

        /Kima

      • Hehehe … well, instead of relying on freshly pressed, I hope to reach out to people the hard way and get them to take a look at something that profoundly disturbed me today! I put my thoughts at http://mybin.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/while-us-waits-for-superman-kids-in-the-world-are-drafted-as-failures/ Please take a look in particular at the video of the girl from Ladakh, India on her thoughts about learning English as a way to go into the world!

        I would like to help the crew making the film I review in my post to spread their message, so please invite your friends to watch the trailer and think of the questions in it!

        • Thanks Kima for the awesome review of the movie and the title of your blog topic is a great attention catcher!! Liked how you weaved your personal stories around the message of the movie, I hope your post gets a lot of footage!!
          :)

  6. Kima, ha ha, see you were talking about telepathy between the two of us in your earlier post!! And it has gotten to an alarming state right now, because we are almost thinking alike everytime :D
    Macedonia?! Wow, I did not know that! Trust me it sounds so much more exotic than India.. ;)
    Ok, on a serious note, I honestly like your question, I now feel guilty on some level, maybe I am just being melodramatic (can imagine the better half nodding to that). Talk about blogs acting as wake up calls!
    Thanks, you always have some precious insight for me to remember.
    Grateful for your association.
    Rachana.
    P.S: Who was the first monarch of Canada? :)

  7. i cant relate to u for i never moved out of india but its amazing to know what things run into ur mind and heart and the inner conflict was very heart warming thing to read…… cheers!!!

    • Thanks for your visit Wiserskydiver, and for your comments. Yes, this post is personal and took a lot of thought to put it out there for others to read, I am glad you interpreted the conflict, honestly, after all these comments today, there is a new kind of peace.. :)
      Thanks!
      Rachana.

  8. My response to Stephen Kellogg’s haiku:
    So where do I “land”:
    And you call yourself a friend.. ??! Ha ha.. I am laughing and crying unconsolably and that’s because of you..
    The two words thank you will not be able to tell you how grateful I am, no one’s attempt to fill that void has quite matched what you did, thanks Stephen.

  9. theextinctexistentialist October 11, 2010 — 7:43 pm

    This is an outstanding post. You wear your heart on your sleeve and write in a very personal style. I find that to be very compelling. I hope you can find the balance you are looking for between roots and dreams. I don’t have anyone in my blogroll yet. Looks like you’re going to be the first. :-)

    Also, what a beautiful family! And thanks for reading my blog!

    • Existentialist, first reaction, OMG and then of course thrill! Thanks for visiting, its an honor, you are one of the few who writes very well, great choice of words and you are doing a wonderful job of preserving English literature, without colloquialising it in the name of modernization..!! And I tell my older boy that if he wants to be an astronaut, he has to start by atleast stopping to look at the sky once in a while :D And just now I read an article on Freshly Pressed, “http://notesfromted.com/2010/10/11/making-sense-of-the-shallows/” and he refers to a book Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky. The reviews of the book online are exactly what we talked about in your last post this morning!! What a coincidence :)
      Thanks for subscribing, again it is a great feeling that you leave me with.
      Rachana.

  10. This is a beautiful post. I have nothing to add. Related: Have you read the books by Jhumpa Lahiri? I adore her, and many of her stories speak of the transition from India to America. – Wendy

    • Wendy, so I was trying to write to you and thank you for “Stumbling upon” my blog about Ema (and her struggle with breast cancer).. I was wondering if you were really that bad girl that you portray yourself to be on your blog ;) I appreciate your honesty and think you represent a 21st century woman’s struggles with identity and love.
      Jhumpa Lahiri is a wonderful writer and yes, her books depict a good portion of Indian American life in the US! The interpreter was quirky and intelligently written, while Unaccustomed earth sounded like a rewrite of an old story, so a little bit of a dissapointment there, but I am eagerly waiting to hear if she has any plans for a new book!
      Lots of love and thank you for the support, means a lot especially since you are a guilty pleasure.. :D

      • Thank you for your kind response. I have my issues, and God only knows how I come across, but I’m truly a kind person. During my failed horror show of a honeymoon, the Unaccustomed Earth was my saving grace (it was the only book a brought w/me while my now x husband was on a 7 day binder). Therefore, the author will always have a special place in my heart. If you happen to hear of any of her new releases please let me know. I’m not always on top of books the way I should be (probably since I started the blog obsession) Much Love, Wendy

  11. Hi Rachana,
    Great post… I think the longing for one’s “home country” is so natural, you shouldn’t feel bad at all!

  12. Rachana, I think it’s okay to just sit with these conflicting and sad feelings. They are natural. These things are complex. I’m sure you are also able to see what’s good in this life here. And, perhaps, this is a wonderful gift for your children. I am a first generation child of immigrants from Lebanon and Turkey. I often bless them for coming here. I’m not sure that my son and I would have had as good and safe a life had we been born there. Having said that, I know that my grandmother, at least one of my aunts (who ran away back to Lebanon), and my father (who escaped Turkey with capital punishment hanging over him) never lost their yearning …

    Love –

    • Oh, wow Jamie, thank you for telling me your story.. We are all so different, but we can still comfort one another?! That is what is so amazing to me! It is so sad to read that your family felt homesick even when they escaped horrible circumstances, and even sadder that you realised their feelings growing up.. And this reminds me what Kima had said in his comments, you know, that if I wanted my kids to know about my emotional struggles.. I often think of that day when I chanced upon your blog and then found so many unique friends in you and so many of our friends!! Thanks!

  13. Embrace- Embrace.. Yes.. I do the same always!!
    I have hurriedly gone through the pics.. I loved the buffalo ones- LOLsss
    I had wanted to do a Buffalo with those Cranes- but couldn’t.. Looking at the pics, I smiled. You are so beautiful. That blue suit dame is you- right??
    A lovely dame with a lovely smile and a very beautiful Heart
    http://oliviasbiopiclog.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/love-you-loads/

    Love you Loads
    xoxox

  14. I really love reading this post. Some long time ago in mid 80’s, i left my family ( and country ) to study in the US. Until today, i cannot explain in details how i felt at that time, the first time i boarded the plane, tears in my mother’s eyes, etc. When i read your story, i felt something. I had a very good time in the US, met a lot of new friends and still in contact until today.

    Have a good day !

    • Fonz, thanks for reading and you explained in just enough detail to leave a lump in my throat. Thank you! Through your writings in the past year, I figured your story out :) I enjoy your posts about whether it is about your neice or your kids’ art :D

  15. Thanks for sharing your story Rachana. I have often wondered what it must be like for familes in your situation.

    • Slamdunk, thanks for you visit! I kinda surprised myself here when I shared more than what I share on FB with my friends.. :)) And you make a great crime fighter / cop / investigative reporter material!! Since Nancy Grace and her show is showing cheesy graphics and getting in-your-face garish these days, I am shifting gears and rooting for you! Your place is just focused and straight to the point! :)
      Thanks!!

  16. Hi Hon, dropping in a hello… will follow your blog regularly.. it is so good to see your words… almost feels like I am listening to you talk. Promise to write more?

  17. What a beautiful sharing of your heart, Rachana. Many of our fellow South Africans have emigrated over the years, and speak of similar experiences. I can’t for a moment imagine it being easy. Love those pics of your Indian buffalo :-)

    • Naomi, Thanks for reading and writing your thoughts! It is comforting to hear that there are a lot of people like me out there who want to put their foot in two boats.. ! Thanks, I am glad you like the buffalo pictures ;), but I hope your breathtaking Kalahari desert pictures turn out to gather more visits.. !! You guys are awesome, and you, along with your husband make an awesome team!! :)

  18. Rachana, this is my first visit to your blog and I believe that what you are going through is quite normal. I have many co-workers who seems to feel the same way about India.

    • Tammy, I have slowly come to realise that a lot of expats that I have come across recently have had similar feelings about their birth country.. ! I feel much more at ease after writing my feelings out and receiving so much of support! Thanks for your comments. It is amazing to know that you are a survivor, a few of my friends and I support a friend of ours who is suffering with Breast cancer currently. She is due to undergo surgery this week and if you can visit and let her know that everything will be ok, I would be ever so grateful! Her site is at: http://personalexploration.blogspot.com/. I also read that you are a promoter of Community Supported Agriculture.. Next time I visit the Farmers’ market, you know who will be on my mind :)
      Rachana.

  19. so honest,
    follow your heart.
    I lived in two countries, I am settled in America now.
    good luck!
    u deserve the best.

  20. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/get-well-wishes-4-riika-and-leo/

    please help pay a visit to riika and leo today to wish them well..
    Thanks a ton.
    u rock!
    Happy Monday!
    hope to See you at potluck today.

  21. Hi Rachana
    I saw your link from a certain Irish feminist website. I was highly amused that the poster there presumed to tell you living in India was terrible and then disagree with you when you said it wasn’t all that bad. How mighty white of her to dictate to you your own living experience :)

    I hope all works out in your decision. I know that Amy McLeod’s comments about the couple who moved back to Ireland are all true – because that is *my* lived experience and it can be a bit claustrophobic at times, though fun in other ways.

    Who you are is something nobody can take away from you :)

    • Thanks Susan for stopping by and taking the time to read.. It means a lot, especially because I do not want to talk about the author’s piece and the comments following mine because they will simply hurt me further :) But, I am glad you understand my argument and choose to side with me. And your visit and your words have only had the most positive affect on me and for that I am grateful!!
      I have gone through your website and I think we share a lot of similar ideas, hope to stay in touch!
      Thanks!
      Rachana.

  22. Hi again Rachana

    As an Irishwoman and writer I’m sorry you had that experience – and certainly understand that you want to move on to pleasanter topics! I’m happy to see you have visited my website – thanks for your comments and hope you enjoy reading the blog.

    And best of luck again with the citizenship decision. I cannot help think of a quote from Yeats:

    “I am thinking of a child’s vow sworn in vain
    Never to leave that valley his fathers called their home.”

  23. Wow, what an insightful post! I love the pictures :3

  24. I was naturally drawn to this post by the word Pizza, but found so much more here. I’ve been communicating with Priya, whose blog at http://partialview.wordpress.com/ has become one of my favorites. She has taught me a little of India, its complicated past and uncertain future. And having made the relatively easy move from the US to Canada, I understand your ambivalence about citizenship. I also appreciate your desire to enjoy “the best of both worlds,” while fearing that you could end up feeling as though you belong to neither. Please keep writing about that, if you can — there must be so many people who are torn in similar ways.

    • This post is as personal as any blog can get! And so I am so grateful that you shared with me what your own immigrant experience was! When I wrote this, I had an overwhelming response of support, something that I will never forget in my life!! I try to cope with my homesickness by thinking of myself as a World citizen as one of my blogger friend Timo suggested :)
      I came to your site from Priya’s! So now you know! :)
      Hope we exchange more stories about betting :D

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