Leaving my Village

 Adaptation, Transition  Comments Off on Leaving my Village
Oct 282009

JaipurLooking back on my life in the village until I was 7, I feel that it was over-all positive. It was the third home I had by the age of 7, that I was aware of. My parents had already moved a few times in India after moving from Pakistan, their ancestral home. The frequent moves would continue for a significant part of my life.

One late evening, my mother had us prepare for a trip. My sisters and brother, along with my mother and a family friend, sneaked out in the middle of the night for what was to be the next chapter in my life. I recall the trip vividly. I remember the sound of the train as night turned to dusk, the dull echo as it crossed a gorge. I remember looking out and being afraid of the height and the expanse of space in front of me. I had not been on a train prior to this experience that I could recall. I vaguely recalled hearing about the distant city of Jaipur and how I wanted to travel there.

On what turned out to be my last night in the village in October of 1974, I reached home to find my mother hurrying me inside. I saw about 10 bags packed and I was urged to hurry up and eat as we were about to leave to see “papa” – who lived across the oceans in a land they called America. We were sneaking away in the middle of the night and were eventually on a plane bound for the US to join my father in Winchester, MA.

My father had gone to Northeastern University in MA, US when I was about 5 to get a Master’s in Engineering. Eventually, he was able to save enough money after a few years to bring his wife and 4 kids to the US. He wanted to secure a stable future for his family of 4 – 3 girls and 1 boy.

I remember the train ride away from our village and towards Delhi. The hollow sound of going over a river sounded a little scary and I looked over in the window to see the height I was at. We were leaving our home and way of life for good. I had not had the chance to say goodbye to Pinky or any of my other friends. It seemed for the rest of my life since then, I have been on the “run.”

My first plane ride at the age of 7 on Air India was an experience I could not compare to anything else. I had been excited about the prospect of just riding a train to Jaipur! This experience, flying in the sky in a bus, I could not compare with anything in my life till then. My vivid memory is that of tasting vanilla ice cream for the first time aboard the flight. My family handed it to me one by one. I’ll never forget that first taste; it was unlike anything I had ever had. It was a taste I could not place, but it started to become appealing. To this day, I love good quality, plain vanilla ice cream.

There were also tastes in the village that I have not quite experienced since such as spiced sugar can juice. The big black manual juicing machine that is outdoors naturally attracted flies. You could normally count on some being in the juice. There was also a delicious slushy that had all sorts of syrups and noodle-like additions. When I see the slushies here, I wince at the comparison I have in my head.


Immigrating is Stressful

 Adaptation, Cultural Confusion  Comments Off on Immigrating is Stressful
Oct 242009

Village sceneEveryone knows that moving in general is stressful. What doesn’t get much attention is how stressful it can be to move from one country to another, particularly for children. It is as if their entire world has changed. Everything they learned about and grew accustomed to is no longer. All the rules have changed and it seems just about everything needs to be re-learned. Immigrating affects not only how they view the world around them, but themselves as well.

According to research, children feel the stress more. Parents are more concerned about economic factors. Adapting to a new culture requires societal support that is often non-existent. Sometimes families may already have other families in their new country and are able to get assistance in transitioning. For those that don’t, they are left to find a way to adapt on their own. Of course, there is a correlation between the amount of support, stress, and adaptation. The less support there is, stress is higher, and adaptation is reduced.

There is often a tendency for the parents to want to hold on to their heritage and past as much as possible. This of course must be balanced with integrating to the new culture and perhaps taking on some new customs and rituals. Sometimes, parents aren’t able to balance these different needs and aren’t able to help their children develop a clear sense of what their new life is about and how to transition.

Oct 202009

A Revisit of my Village Home in 12/07

A Revisit of my Village Home in 12/07

I was raised primarily by my mother until the age of 7, though I don’t recall many memories with her. Besides the memory of her washing me after falling in a gutter when the moon was “chasing” me, I recall her accompanying me for night-time bathroom breaks. Once I screamed in the middle of the night, thinking I saw someone standing at the door. It was a coat hanging over the door. She came running in, turning on the light to reveal what it was.

My father had lived in the US as far back as I can recall and visited us occasionally. My only memory of his residing in India occurred when I was about two during dinner. “Papa” said I needed to finish all my food or else it would be tied to my eyes. It doesn’t make much sense, but it must have in the colloquial dialect at the time.

He was someone I waved to whenever a plane went by and someone I considered to be my savior when it seemed my mother disciplined me unfairly. I knew that once I moved to be with him in the US, all would be well. I enjoyed listening to the audio tapes he sent in which he always seemed to sound as if he was sipping tea. I especially enjoyed showing off my “loot” from the US to neighbors after his visits. My sisters and I had accumulated lots of dolls that were locked in an upstairs room that seemed to have been built just to house them. We got to play with them by appointment.

Our home in India had been a bungalow with a courtyard. There had been approximately 8 rooms, including 2 kitchens, and a room on the roof that housed the dolls and other toys from my father during his visits to the US. There was a water pump in the middle of the courtyard. I would bathe there, naked.

I loved playing “princess” in my American clothes. I fought with friends about the US being farther than their family’s origin in the Middle East.
It seemed that I was always busy playing. I had numerous friends and always looked out for the neglected ones as well as that seemed to be considered outcasts. One memory includes dropping newly-acquired shoes from our second story home to one living below us so the girl below could have shoes. My best friend, Pinky, was considered to be a rich Dr.’s daughter.

It was common for the family, along with the other villagers, to sleep on the roof—under the stars, feeling the balmy summer. It was so dry that after a rainfall, our clothes would be dry in what seemed to be 5-10 minutes. I loved the rain. When it rained, I would run around the village, sometimes naked, and stand under anywhere the water seemed to be pouring at the time.

I also loved the Spring festival of Holi, when everyone could run around “attacking” people with color. Most wore old white clothes and would get attacked with even more color if one tried to hide too much. I remember hiding in the street with my colored water gun, waiting for my next “victim.”

While I was playing marbles and engaging in colored water fights at about the age of five, I was informally “engaged.” I was promised to the youngest son of a family friend. At the time, the idea of marriage was like playing house. I assumed it was a normal part of life to know who I would be with in the future. I was told to hide and be demure whenever this young man, twice my age at 10, came by. I remember peeping through a doorway to look at him.

Being engaged young was related to the common old-fashioned tradition in Rajasthan of child marriages. My mother had married my father in their small village in Pakistan at the age of 14 and had her first child at 16. She considered it her duty to make certain her daughters were married off “well” and specifically to people from our specific heritage. This included speaking our dialect and being Brahmin.

Time has passed slowly in India. It has occurred between naps, sips of tea and conversation with neighbors. Of course, the proliferation of TV and spread of Westernization as a result has changed that. Consequently, there are probably increasing lifestyle comparisons made and individuals increasingly questioning what they want out of life and what they can have.

My Village House 12/07

My Village House 12/07


It Takes a Village

 Simplicity  Comments Off on It Takes a Village
Oct 152009

Village LifeI recall fond memories of my time in India as a young child. I thought I had everything. At the age of seven, my whole life seemed ahead of me. I loved my life and felt on top of the world. I had a group of friends I enjoyed and it seemed life brought so many fascinating moments and adventures daily. I have images of simple pleasures such as playing in the local village sports during the day and staying up late with friends telling stories around a fire before wandering home. I could come and go as I pleased, often coming home around midnight to sleep under the stars in the courtyard or on the roof.

No one locked their doors in this Rajasthani village and everyone was part of an extended family in a sense. I felt safe and everyone either felt like a family member or I was actually related to them. It seemed to be the actual life behind the term “it takes a village.”

I remember a beautiful image of the homes from our rooftop on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights in the Fall. All the houses were covered by deepaks, little clay “lamps” filled with clarified butter and cotton made into a wick placed in the middle. It was just the dark night sky and the twinkling lights on rooftops under the stars on a very quiet night. There was a feeling of total serenity.


Serene Village Life

 Simplicity  Comments Off on Serene Village Life
Oct 142009

Mustard FieldsI was born on June 9, 1968 in the town of Durgapur, Bengal. My Asian Indian father went to a sage and asked what his fourth child and third daughter should be named. He told my father I should be named “Komal,” which in Hindi is an adjective to describe something soft. It also means “tender-hearted.” When I was two, we moved to a village that is a few hours from the city of Jaipur, the largest city and capital of the state of Rajasthan.

Memories of my time in the village include having numerous puppies squirming together to seek the warmth of my lap. Another memory is that of strolling in the streets after playing with my gang of friends, watching the moon above me as I wandered home. It seemed to be following me – like it existed for my pleasure. I welcomed a warm meal before sleeping on a cot under the stars, either in the courtyard, or on the roof.

On one particular day, I was so busy looking at the moon and noticing it moving with me, that I fell in a sewer ditch near my home. I recall my mother bathing me in the courtyard afterwards. I have an image of playing one of the village sports and feeling like the queen of marbles in the village. I remember how they felt in my hands. I was a tomboy and felt I could surpass any boy in the village sports and marbles. There was no TV, and the radio was fascinating, where I could hear “Twinkle, twinkle, little star…”


My Journey

 Authenticity  Comments Off on My Journey
Oct 132009

Santa Cruz, CAI have been compelled to write about an aspect of my life that has been mostly hidden and certainly not given the attention that it deserves. It is an aspect that has not gotten attention in the lives of many others, I assume.

This part of my life I am referring to has to do with my cultural background and the impacts on my life, some of which have been positive and some so difficult that I believe I have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I feel that by writing about my experience, one post at a time, there can be some healing and growth for me, along with the lives of some of my readers. The experience will at least be cathartic. I feel a need to speak my truth and potentially speak for people who feel unable to. Life is too short for secrets and shame. Join my journey to authenticity.

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