Thursday, July 5, 2007

Immigrants revel in U.S. liberty, opportunity

A piece by me ("Rochester eased longing for India" ) was carried by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in its July 4 edition :

Unabridged version of the article is as follows :

We arrived in US on Oct 1, 1999. Me,my wife - Anupa, daughter- Divya (then 7), son - Ishir (then not yet 2) and lots of bags. The trip from India had been a long one (over 24 hours) and a painful ordeal for my son who cried all the way in, I suspect from an ear infection. The last leg from Detroit to Rochester was a painful one for my daughter too as we were booked on a small plane which did not have a toilet.

All troubles however seemed to disappear as we reached our town home (after I had figured out all the knobs and levers in my rental car and drove on the "right" side of the road after having driven the "wrong" side all my life till then) and flopped on to the carpeted floor to catch some much needed sleep. Found out that light switches get switched on when you move them up rather than down. A trip to the neighborhood Tops to stock up on milk and groceries was the next big step. A glimpse of the Indian Tricolor flag in the international food aisle was very reassuring.

I had relocated to the US as the Asian representative for a Global Financial Applications implementation project my Rochester based employer had embarked upon. The decision to move to the US had been a heart wrenching one as we were leaving friends,family and careers behind. Anupa also had her job as a Doctor. And she knew that she had a bigger ordeal ahead of her - qualifying for and repeating her Medical Residency all over again, in case we decided to stay on.

The kids took to Rochester and the US like ducklings to water. Divya loved her school and was quick to make friends. Her education in India had given her a good foundation to build upon and she did not miss a beat. Rochester was at its best at that time of the year - Fall foliage in bloom and we took many a long drive to soak it all in. That we were not prepared for the Rochester winter is an understatement. The cold and the snow was all new to us and even more so was the near absence of the sun. I remember pouring hot water to melt the ice on my porch step only to see it freeze all over once gain (that was before somebody told me about using salt).

We knocked on doors in our neighborhood, introduced ourselves and made friends. Some of those friendships still last even as we moved out of the neighborhood. We were quick to find the India Community Center ; Hindu Temple and Jain Society of Rochester - all of which helped to retain some linkage with the culture and traditions we had left behind. Wonderful community resources like Strong Museum, Highland Park, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester Zoo etc all made the process of settling in much easier. And the people of Rochester topped it all - the warm friendly faces were more than anyone could have asked for. We never felt like strangers.

Had some fun with the initial nitty gritties of getting life organized here - cannot have a credit card since I do not have a credit history and the only way of getting a credit history is by having a credit card. Catch-22. Got past that and within a few months was getting deluged with offers from credit card companies each more eager than the other to sign me up. Welcome to America.

Much water has flown down the Genesee river since then.I am a Permanent Resident ("Green card holder") of the US now with a few more years of waiting before we become eligible to apply for citizenship.Moved into our own house. Anupa completes her Residency this year. Divya is a sophomore in High School and was even elected President of her Freshmen Class. Summer finds us busy with Ishir's Soccer practices and matches. Divya & Ishir never cease to surprise their grandparents with their American accents and ways.

We are proud to be a part of the American Dream. On Fourth of July I think of Fireworks, Festivities, Family, Food, Fun and much more but most importantly FREEDOM. As we immerse ourselves in the celebration of this joyous day I do not want to forget its underlying significance and what it means not only to all of us living in the United States but to countless others all over the globe. The cherished ideals of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness on which the Founding Fathers laid the keel of this great nation have served as shining beacons all over the globe.

Wish everyone a great Independence Day !! Happy FREEDOM !!


Speedmaster said...

Great post Deepak! We're lucky to have you here.

Parijat said...

Very thoughtful blog...would like to read something about integration into the american community and/or challenges that lie within.

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