Sitting this Sunday afternoon, sweating underneath blankets sitting in an easy-chair, overlooking a beautifully manicured lawn north of Philadelphia, my fever has been raging in and out since I arrived back in the States a little over three days ago, during which time I took the red eye from San Francisco to Chicago Thursday night, and Friday morning Chicago to Philadelphia to arrive for my cousin’s wedding that I ultimately missed cos I was just too sick. My perfect record had come to a screeching halt.
However, I did make the reception.
This morning, I drove my parents to the place where it all began. As fate would have it, our hotel for the weekend was a mere five miles from Morrisville, PA. Forty years ago, that little town became our first home after moving to the United States. It was especially special for me since I had only recently been in India, racing a tuk tuk with my two good buddies driving from one town to another, one of which was the city my parents had met 54 years ago. Between visiting where they first met in India and where we first settled in the US in a ten-day span, I was feeling particularly nostalgic on this Sunday morning.
All these memories came flooding back to me… The apartment where I learned how to speak English… The school across the street where my younger brother Les went to kindergarten; it seemed so much further back then… The Catholic school – Holy Trinity – I attended kindergarten thru second grade (where memories of Mrs. Leavitt and Sister Sharon and Miss Conway entered my thoughts)… The girl Joy I had a secret crush on, who lived on the way to Holy Trinity, when one day she didn’t make it to school so I gave her friend Christine a drawing of a dinosaur I drew because I didn’t know how to say or write “I miss you. I hope you feel better.” in English… The school playground that seemed so much bigger back then where my brother and I got picked on… The day I first put on glasses (horn-rimmed, of course) not realizing until then the world could be so clear — so clear in fact that I almost fell not able to navigate thru it and my newfound perception of depth and colour…
Then I thought about my parents and how courageous they must have been to leave everything and everyone they knew and loved behind in India for a new life. I thought about all the hardships they went through and all the sacrifices they made so that their kids could have a better life. My brothers, my sister and I were the recipient of their awesomeness… of their choices. And I felt this overwhelming surge of emotion – of love and thankfulness towards my folks.
This idea that someone could move to this land of opportunity and create a new life for themselves and their family, to literally change their future for the better, fills me with such hope. That someone could, through their hard earned sweat, could be somebody and could elevate their lives lies central to what I’ve always believed the American Dream to be. That we live in a country where we all have equal opportunities in the pursuit of happiness (though not necessarily equal outcomes) fuels my drive for my own happiness as well as those around me. This is the land of hope. This is the land of dreams. This is the land where we are the creators of our destinies, rather than the victims to our circumstances. I’ve always felt blessed to have been raised in the USA, which in no way has ever undermined my love for India. I love both. In many ways, I find myself loving both countries for their differences as much as any of their similarities.
I watched my mother take a picture from the street, my dad take pictures from inside the car. And I wondered what they were thinking. I had a good idea of what those thoughts may have been.
It wasn’t long before we drove away, deep in our own thoughts.
Goodbye India. Hello USA.
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