I often catch myself referring to India as home in spite of living in America for over fifteen years. In the fifteen years I have lived in America, I have visited India twice which in total amounts for probably a little over a month of the entire duration. As immigrants in a foreign country, beyond the legalities and the paperwork the hardest aspect is feeling at home in the place you immigrant to. Home is often a security blanket for most people on good days and especially bad days. It’s knowing you have family who will hold you and see you through the bad. I was fortunate to have immigrated to America with family. I have encountered several 20-21 year olds in college who immigrated alone and often miss the comforts of that security blanket. As immigrants, forging a sense of being home in a new country is often the hardest task. In spite of having family with me, India has continued to be my home. It is the inexplicable that makes India home for me. It is friends who don’t need words to sense how you feel, family and sense of belonging that makes India home for me.
As the holidays are upon us and we celebrate it with friends and family, I am especially thankful for the family and friends I made in America who make it almost home.
I have gray hair on my head. The wrinkles on my face show the years I have on me. I have been called several things in my life, wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher and bitch. I was in my early 50’s and had been in America for few years at this point. I was living in Oakland, California with my four daughters. I did not drive a car so the only way I could go anywhere was by taking the bus. I took the bus every time I had to go somewhere. I was getting off the bus with several other people when I saw a child coming close to our bus. I had four children of my own. I touched the child’s head to steer her in the other direction. I was a mother and I would hope someone would steer my child if they were coming close to the bus. The child’s mother did not see it that way. She charged at me and started yelling at me, “Bitch, stop touching my child”. I was shocked because back in Afghanistan and Pakistan every child was like your child and you tried to protect them or guide them. You felt a sense of responsibility for a child, period. I tried to explain to her that I was trying to steer her child away from the bus and did not intend any harm. The mother eventually calmed down and apologized to me. I was in a state of shock for few days after that episode. I never thought at 50+ that I would be called a bitch and would be seen as a threat to a child.
We met my freshmen year of college at San Jose state university in a computer engineering class in California. He sat in the front of the class while I sat at the back. I was one among the many Indians in the cliched computer engineering class while he was the only African American guy. We noticed each other but were too shy to talk to each other. After two years of hi’s and bye’s in the hallways, we met again in an electrical engineering class. I wanted to avoid him but my friend insisted we sit behind him. We ended up being in the same group project and exchanged emails. I wanted to ditch class one day and decided to give him my number in case of a class quiz. We did not email or call each other. Instead one day during class he offered to give me a ride in his car since we lived in adjacent cities. The thirty minute car ride was one of the most boring rides. I spoke the whole way while he barely said Yes and no. Upon reaching my house, I asked him if he wanted to come meet my parents. Most of my guy friends until him always said “I don’t do the parent thing”. I could hear that answer in my head but instead he surprised me with a yes. I knew then he was weird. I swore never to ride with him again. Instead, five years after that boring car ride we ended up marrying each other!
I am an Afghan immigrant in America. When I started high school in America I could barely speak English. There was an Mexican guy in my class who used to tease me a lot. He didn’t like me for some reason. I would complain to the teacher but she couldn’t stop him either. One time I remember I had my hair down and he put some stuff in my hair ( I can’t remember what it was but that stuff was all over my hair. My hair was long and reached my waist). None of the students that were sitting behind me, including the fellow Afghan guy who was sitting behind me, let me know about it. The class finished and my friend who was sitting in front me noticed it. In another instance, he was standing next to this fake blonde beautiful girl and when I passed them and he said “Hi ugly”. I replied back “Hi Puto”. One of the Mexican guys I know taught me Puto which means ugly. So I wanted to tell this jerk Mexican that he’s ugly. But it actually means “fucking”. When I said Hi Puto, he got shocked and turned red and the fake blonde girl was dying of laughter ( she was Mexican too). But that however didn’t stop him from teasing me. After two years in high school, I started wearing a hijab. One day I was talking to my teacher when someone pulled my scarf down from the back. I got so mad and turned around to see who pulled my scarf. The minute I turned around he turned around so I was facing his back. And I slapped him so HARD on his back that he almost fell on the ground. He was scared to even look at me from that day on.
I live in America but I am not an American citizen. I am an immigrant who has for the past few months heard talks from Trump about immigrants and women. I am both but I was hopeful that come November 8th 2016, I would never have to hear of it again beyond the many meme’s that are going to come out after Mr Trump’s defeat. I never for a second believed he could be the face of America. And then it happened. I watched his numbers rise steadily to the slow rise of Hillary Clinton. My worst nightmare was unfolding before my eyes and I couldn’t help but feel disgusted. Did I think Hillary was going to win? I hoped for it but I wasn’t sure because she was a woman. America has always talked about equality but as an electrical engineer in America, I have constantly been reminded that I am a woman in a man’s world. I have constantly been applauded for being smarter than most woman. Do I think it is a complement? Absolutely not! Watching Hillary fall to a man who has demeaned women with his words and actions, and treated them like a piece of meat assured me of how sexist a world we live in. It is not about Republican and Democrat. This election was more than that. It was about the many immigrants who have called America home for years, the women who thought they would finally see someone who looked like them and would represent them. Don’t we as women deserve a person who is us, who represents us? America has made a choice and whether we agree or disagree, it is reality.
I am a software engineer from India. One day I was working in Chennai and the next minute I was standing in front of the US Consulate in Chennai to get my visa for United States of America. I came here late 2000 and in 2001 when my family immigrated to America. We came here as a family a month before the September 11th attacks on New York. I remember that morning my friend called me and asked me to turn on the TV. Initially I thought it was a scene from a movie but when the reality of what was going on struck me, I knew the days ahead for us as immigrants in America were going to be hard. I am from South India (the non turban wearing crowd) and with a last name Mathew, I did not have to deal with any racism. One incident that always stands out happened when one my co workers brought her daughter to work. The little girl was 6-7 years old. She looked at me and said, mommy is he a terrorist. I have a sense of humor so it did not bother me. It was interesting to see how little children associated the bearded, tan look to terrorists.