Eight years have passed since I moved to the United States of America. I was a neophyte, a novice here. The pie chart of my life had three parts. I was a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a wife. Two of which were put on hold when I flew out of India. So, I was just a new wife when I was introduced to American lifestyle. A new resident of this country; about which I knew nothing. A lot of things seemed to be an illusion.
It was quiet an experience when my zip code changed from 226002 to 94086. The process of adjusting to this new environment involved lots of downs and downs. And in this process of learning and also unlearning, I met many people who made my life easier. For example, the airport security guard who guided me towards a “restroom” when I desperately asked her for the directions to the “toilet”. My fatigue from 30 hrs of flying and the pressure that was building within me prevented me from blurting out, “I am not looking for a place to sleep but a place to relieve.” With slight frustration and a short thanks I went in the pointed direction. Soon, I realized that kind lady had sent me to the right place and just in time.
The rolling conveyor belt, at the FoodMaxx was carrying the two Coke bottles. Tomatoes, cauliflower and the potatoes followed the sodas. More and more stuff kept piling up, while I admired the moving conveyor belt with my eyes wide open. Only a couple of days back, I saw those huge conveyor belts in the baggage area at the airport. And now the same principle was being used for bringing in little stuff too. I was valuing the efficiency of the whole system here when I noticed that Ashu was looking intently at me. I blushed but steadily held to the ground and stood there. Finally, he said, “Winky, pick up the items and put them in the bags.” Then I realized that I was blushing at the wrong time and definitely at the wrong place. Those were not the amorous looks of a husband for his new wife, but they were just signalling, “Move lady, there is no Ramu here to carry your load for you. This is America, you need to learn to do your own work.” I quickly followed the directions and started bagging the groceries.
Next event came when we were washing our car by ourselves. My responsibility was to hold the key ring, containing both car and our small one bedroom apartment keys. Ashu was diligently rubbing the soap on his ox, oh sorry on his car. He was working as sincerely as the milkmen in India used to massage their oxen to give their coat a sheen while bathing them in a muddy pond. I felt a strong urge to be a part of it. I am not sure if it was out of concern for him or that I was envious of his affection towards his Honda Accord. I just could not stand there and be a mere onlooker. I securely put the keys in the car and locked the door behind me. With the bang the door closed. Yes, with the keys inside. What followed next you may very well anticipate that. A young couple stranded outside their home with no help or acquaintance around.
The incident that informed me about my residential status in this country involved the beauty of the my life’s first Passport. It was such a prized possession for me and therefore I cannot bear it looking ugly because of some little piece of paper jutting out. So, I neatly removed the staples to take out that paper and restored my passport’s good looks. That 3 x 4 size paper was not impressive enough to capture my attention even for five minutes. I took it out and forgot about it.
At that time I had no idea that ‘that’ paper was as important as the passport. It was the document that proved that I am a legal resident of USA. It was an I-94. I was reminded of it when I went to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to get my temporary driving license. The moment the clerk and Ashu looked at me and enquired about the I-94, I realized that I had lost many things including my mind, my voice and of course that I-94. That was the longest time ever in my life that I remained so quiet. I had nothing to say. I didn’t have the strength to accept that I threw it away because it was sacrificing the looks of my passport.
We came back home, quietly. Ashu started doing something on the Internet while I looked for it, quietly. Then, I checked in my bags quietly. Right after that I quietly searched the closets. Finally, I got my voice back. “Eureka……..” it was quietly lying in my big suitcase. The piece of luggage that carried my past life to US was holding my future as well. It was ugly but not that ugly that I would have instantly thrown it in the garbage. For me the quote “looks can be deceiving” came to life.
It’s never easy to start a life at a new place irrespective of one’s origin. People face more difficulties than I did. I feel that it’s fun to reacquaint with those episodes once they have culminated and have a hearty laugh. Now, I am debating, if I should share more stories of the time when I started driving while DMV is still in picture or leave it for another time. I think second option is better so bye for now and I will be back soon with more stuff later. Ciao!