Thursday, June 5, 2008

Soi-disant -- A part of me has died; who is to blame?

I love my family: This includes folks on both on my husband's side and my side. I love staying in touch with them, visiting them, or just merely talking about them. Like most other people, I am mostly nuts about my family but there are times, I think they are nuts.:-) In a nutshell, like every other family, we are a sweet, crazy bunch. In fact, in one of my super-compassionate cum vulnerable moments (perhaps while watching a movie based on the Italian mafia), I said to my husband, “I am very Italian; I adore my family and I love to cook.” It's a running joke between him and me as he said that like Italians, Indians too love their family and food. Oops! My bad; I was searching for that common genealogy between one of my all time favorite historical characters, Julius Caesar and myself.

Behind that humorous facade, let me reveal the true “me”. This “me” represents an overwhelming number of Asian Indian immigrants residing in the US and a reflection into our emotions and why we are the way we are. It’s not a defense strategy but a candid tour through our hearts and souls.

That one common comment: Several of my friends have mentioned that at least one person from their family has said this line to them: “You have changed after moving to the US.” The allegation is directed towards the over-developed realistic side that deals with every situation in the same way: “It is what it is” OR “You got to do what you got to do.” It pinches the first time someone says it but is it really a stretch from the truth?

It's not like family and friends don't mean anything to us anymore; if anything, you just value and treasure them all the more. As a wise person once said, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Unfortunately, this country coerces you to become prosaic. That is quite an anti-thesis to the Indian culture.

The day I realized that a part of me was dead: A few years ago, one of my very dear friends in India was cribbing to me (over the phone) about her maid not showing up for two days at a stretch. My response was: “So? Life is unmanageable because for 2 days out of 365, you have to get off your butt and do something around the house? C’mon it is what it is.”

Had it been the times when I still lived in the physical lap of luxury in India (read as – the fairytale land where someone irons your clothes, cleans your house, and cooks for you), my attitude probably would have been benevolent towards my friend; however, today I have minimal patience for bickering and whining. It is what it is. I said to my friend, “Either you can mope about this help not showing up, wallow in self-pity and ruin everyone’s happiness at home or get real and prioritize what you’d like to do in the help’s absence and make a day out of it.”

Note to self: I felt the transition in myself where the word “sympathy” became synonymous ONLY with disastrous situations; help not showing up, didn’t qualify in that category. To me, my friend’s complaints sounded gratuitous and trivial in the grand scheme of life.

Self revelation: A lot of my friends and I are cognizant of this change in our personalities. It’s not premeditated but America does that to you. The country’s glorified persona has a dubious shade that no one ever speaks of. The over-glamorized lifestyles played in Hollywood movies don’t help either. America is called the “Land of Opportunities” or “Land of the Free” but no one tells you that it takes time, diligence, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, and a part of your shriveled heart to survive. Sadly, the hardships and challenges that you face as a new immigrant in America, kills that part of your heart that let's you empathize. Whether it’s the test of getting used to a new country, culture, currency, uncertain existence, lifestyle, or the agony of finding & keeping a job, legal status or what have you, at the age of thirty, you think like a sixty year old. There are times you await coup de grace.

Inexorable Truth: I know people who have been unable to attend a sibling’s wedding or a family member’s funeral in India because of circumstances. Can you imagine the hurt this powerlessness causes? Sure, it’s easy for people to say, “If they wanted to, they would have come.” Believe me, if one could, one would. Sure Bollywood movies and soaps on Indian TV portray NRIs (esp the ones living in the US) as cold-hearted, selfish, obnoxious fascists who can’t think beyond themselves. Au contraire. Very early on in life, you stop sharing what you are going through with people back home. The whole attitude is “What’s the point? Everyone is so far away. Why cause them agony?”

Family Malady: America does morph you into an over mature, pragmatic, lucid human as you lose the ability to think with your heart. An affliction in the past few days and my friend’s concern for me made me realize that I haven’t shed a tear yet; on the inside, I am choked up about this death in the family, but somewhere I know, I don’t have the right to let my heart rule over my head as there are people emotionally dependent on me. I do not have the liberty to grieve for this inexorable loss. I have mastered the art of thinking and feeling pragmatically with my head because “it is what it is” and c'est la vie.

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.05.2008

“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them” – Oscar Wilde


Anonymous said...

so true. i also feel the same way. als no time is a big issue.

priya said...

Bitter like all truth but very nice.

Vizzy said...

NIce write up

Spontaneity and Afterthought said...

wonderful Post!
Self revelation part is so true I am just beginning to accept that truth in my life.
This is also teaching me a few things abt friendship and survival.

Inexorable truth: hits the bulls eye. Often I see that the ones who are closest are the ones who make situations most difficult for us to bear. And the whole "attitude" thing is there only to protect ourselves and retain some sanity.

A said...

Wow! it's like my life's story....sorry about the loss. sometimes with all chores to run, where is the time to grieve? cooking, cleaning all needto be done.

Sahar said...

A very well chosen topic...could divulge a lot about our lives in the proverbial land! Throw in kids to the ever increasing has no room to squalor over little trivialities!

Anonymous said...

hi, new to the site, thanks.