Coming to America from Canada and India

I was always passionate about writing at very early age and it was a lifelong dream of mine to be a writer. I always had lots of imagination about our subconscious and fascinating mind and the mystery of life. Though when in college in West Bengal I used to write about non-fiction but it did not bring me any satisfaction because with that medium I could only educate people. Then I started to think how I can give a voice to a character with whom the reader can fantasize about the personality, put themselves into that spot and where I can express my lifetime experience, the beauty of life, the pain and conflict of living and glory of hope and that made me realized that I need to learn more about writing in a constructive way. I took honors courses in literature, read enormous amount of books and start to enjoy writing fiction for diverse audiences though it was a late start.

I was born in India and raised in there with all Indian values and culture of my country. After completion of my education with B.A. degree which was painful to obtain due to my caste or social group I overwhelmingly migrated to UK to join my husband who left India ten months ago to pursue a better life for us. America did not enter into the world stage in that time. UK was the hot spot.

My father bought me all the necessary clothing to combat England’s cold winter which was months away as we never had any snowy winter in West Bengal. Including my mother suffering from departure pain, we were all preparing for the upcoming separation in our mind without knowing what to expect and how to deal with it.

Finally the day arrived to say good bye to everybody with lots of tears and hopes. I could not recall how I went to the airport; everything happened so fast; only thing I could remember was my parent’s gloomy eyes and their blessings.

When I was in the plane, in one hand I was tremendously fearful about the new culture and depressed for my parents, my friends and my country and at the same time it was joyful for me as I thought about joining my husband and prospect for a better life and higher education after a long time. For a while though, I thought, it must be a dream.

After arriving in London’s Heathrow airport I was hovering through the maze in confusion and in fear. I heard someone was calling my name sounded like a musical interlude in my frightened mind. I looked over the crowded faces and spotted my husband with a smiling face shaking his hands way up in the air with a greeting gesture. My mind was little at ease seeing him even though I did not sleep for whole night or ate anything unfamiliar. Everything was new to me. I felt like a stranger in this unfamiliar land; everywhere I looked brought me an anxious feeling in my stomach. Now this moment I was thinking when I could go back to my home and to my parents. I did not speak the language and did not understand what the people were saying. Looking at my miserable face my husband assured me with a compromising voice that it would not be long that I would feel more comfortable. After feeling little bit assured, I looked through the scenery of endless beautiful stores with dazzling signs and dazzling lights blinding my eye sights.

Soon we arrived at the apartment. I would not say it is an apartment as it only had one small room divided into four sections – a cooking counter, a bed for sleeping, a table for studying and a drop down lid of a pantry shelf for eating. We also had to share the bathroom with four other tenants. I did not know what to think about it. I was coming from a wealthy family; it was a tremendous shock for me. My husband gave me a small kiss and said, “Don’t worry. I will be right back with the milk.” After he left I started to cry in silence. I could hear my mother’s calming voice, feel her enchanting sweet touch and smell her “joy” perfume in my imagination and see my father’s anguish eyes. All migrant family had to go through tough and hard life – the new culture, the new people with their strange customs and dresses, the new language, all had to be learned as it was tremendously hard and I was not exception in my journey. I still remember the lunch and dinner until this day- the boil rice, potatoes, eggs and can fish curry – that’s the only thing we could afford at that time.

But strangely enough few months later I started to like my new found freedom; here there was no nice house; no sofa driven car or no maid waiting on me. It was very hard to imagine that without all of these I would be still overjoyed with my free lifestyle and freedom that I did not have in India being a woman.

I always had mixed feelings about England. One day we visited Bucking Buckingham Palace and I wondered about the Monarchy and the present day Elected Prime Minister at work hand in hand; nowhere in the world it existed in that context- Queen and the Prime Minister together! Everybody’s favorite place, the Hyde Park in London located in the shadow of Marble Arch where every Sunday anybody can voice an opinion about religion, politics, morality or current events which could be debated loudly as it could be controversial; the grass root at work. Some time they would enter into heated discussion. This was a great pass time for many Londoners and for me as I was mingling with them and with British customs and culture I was feeling somehow little worry free.

The way of life was calm and quite in London when I went there. I was very happy and cherished the quiet, friendly Family pub where mom, dad, their older children and friends would chat for hours and who could resist the flavorful Fish & chips and the Hyde Park where the religion and Politics of bashing of the Government, French people, and immigrant would go on in full force? Though Conflict between Old traditional culture and newfound modernism always exist and from time to time conflict would capture my attention and would make an imprint of unfairness but soon they would disappear. My knowledge of conflict did not take a solid ground that time; it came to focus in my mind when I encountered my white South African art teacher in England whose own conflict, judgment and fairness to the black African would emerge in his paintings. He left South Africa and came to England and became an art teacher. I used to think like him that one-day S. Africa will get its fair share, gain its status through sacrifices of Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu and have to go for a greater Journey to solve its inheritance of problems and abuses. Eventually that dream somewhat came true.

Finally, I found a job in Inland Revenue in London where I felt comfortable because there were many different ethnicities from the range of Irish to Indian people. Also I had lots of British friends as well and they were extremely nice to me. But it did not last very long. One day I woke up in the morning and prepared myself to go to work as usual, and that particular morning I remembered vividly and very well, as I listened to the voice of Enoch Powell, MP, uprising with the racism, asking all Indian to go back to their country as the country were over flooded with Kenya’s Indian population. The color bar, the racism was cracking the wall. I used to feel humiliated, with stripped down dignity and without knowing what our fault was. The flower power and the hippie movement were over in England that time and England found itself drowning into the selfishness of dark alley. Teddy boys with golden long hair were beating the Indian people and no comprehensive attempts were made to arrest them by the local police. Though we always have a complex relationship with England but after 200 years of colonial dictatorship still the residue of subordination lingered on. It disturbed me and broke my mental peace.

I always loved America- the land of hope, freedom, and fortune. I’m still taken by it. I had a secondhand TV set where I would see Dean Martin show every night in London. Every day I used to think when we would go to America; my dream land. Seeing all the racism appearing in that time one day I suggested to my husband, “we should migrate to America”, my husband had no objection. I still remember the first day when we arrived in America. We were overwhelmed with happiness, that feeling, that joy, that dream which I would not be able to describe in words. Looking at the statue of Liberty I saw the writing on her torch that brought me hopes that one day with hard work and higher education my husband and I would achieve our American dream. I am very happy that America is my homeland now.

I have taken the vow –but sometime I have to resolve a conflict within me. It was very hard for me to abandon my own heritage and at the same time I thrive for Freedom, higher education, better judgment, wealth in economic term –all the immigrant’s dream in America. Though it is said we are a melting pot in America but we still manage to keep our own identity as Asian American, African American, Latin American, European American, etc., “The perfect solution.” I do not understand why my immigrant friends always look at what they have lost but do not give any emphasis on what they have gained, as it is said ‘to get a little, to give up a little.”

In America my friendship with Helen was a blessing. Though we had differences in our experience, attitude and culture as it was expected between east and west but we always managed to have the wealth of friendship and understanding. I was always impressed with the fact that regardless of the prosperous life style in here how she managed to have special feelings for Indian people and its culture. Her children had to deal with the cultural shock as they visited India many times and as well like my children as they were born in America and as I came from eastern world, from time to time the two cultures do collide but there were always compromise and understanding and may be even respect and tolerance that I received from my children. My kids liked MTV, fast foods and jeans as Helen’s children had to listen to our sitar, poor children! Occasionally, I invite many of my American friends for dinner party and talk about the conflict between America & the Arab world, “Why is this conflict, why the world has a different view about America, why this jihad has taken place and why we are so fearful of Muslim?”

One particular day when I invited Helen who came decorating herself with Indian ruby necklace, sari and Indian beaded sandal – very pretty and I was dressed in a long skirt and heel shoes – I realized that there was really no conflict in this world if only we could take the solution from each other by accepting and tolerating each other’s cultures; there is much to gain and I am sure if I ask Helen – she will also say it is lot of fun and a joy to learn more about other cultures, cuisines, religions and customs – otherwise we all will be bored. She and her husband liked our chicken tanduri, vegetable curries, dal and rosogullla and vice versa. I always said by taking little bit from others, we will enrich ourselves without sacrificing our own identity. She and her husband agreed fully.

After a long hardship and struggle I finally finished my programming degree and devoted part time at work and part time at writing. My tremendous happiness came to me with the birth of my two children and later their achievements. After taking care of everybody and every aspect of my family now I can devote some time for writing that I cherish with all my heart desiring one day I will be a recognized author.

I did not write the book thinking it would get me somewhere but it would be a very compelling story to write. Sometimes though it just takes one book to make an impression in the mind of readers but only if the author has a distinct voice, perspective and a compelling style it will definitely acquire a place in literary market. That’s what I am betting on. I wrote the story with the desire that reader would read my book and that will be my biggest achievement.

Probably my Indian heritage brings a different perspective of life. Faith influences my structure of my family life and my community. When I was in India, the temples, the worshipers, the bells and night and day prayers are always around me. It has an influence on me. Though in religion sense I would describe myself more spiritual then religious because I do not go to the temple regularly or recite the rituals instead I have a sense of higher spirituality; something higher than me that govern the world. My faith brings me the light in my heart and I know everybody can relate to that.

The aspiration and imagination behind my book came unexpectedly when I was visiting Hilo, Hawaii. We took a trip through the volcanic park covered with vast volcanic ashes as far as can be seen –the volcanic mountains where hot red lava flowing to the nearby vast ocean and the clear endless blue sky inspired a romantic and spiritual thoughts in my mind. When I came back to the hotel and started to incorporate my overwhelming experiences in writing I immediately realized that I am dealing with a very heavy subject as it was more symbolic than actual subject. It is not just a straightforward religious book but I have to blend the culture with the spiritualism, with ethical value and with love. It is a balancing and incorporating the spirituality with every day’s emotional aspects like real love, physical romance, corporate corruption, and ethical conviction, etc. As the spirituality connects everybody together there is no division, no superficiality.

My Indian background started to look for an outlet where I found that Hawaii and Mainland America’s whole atmosphere are very romantic and spiritual and it became a center piece of my Hero and Heroine’s character.

My characters in the book are associated with modern and old phenomena. When Jonathan recognizes the great potential he has, he protested against corruption, money made in unethical way. He realizes that only love can make him happy. He left everything for his love. His friendship with OC brings out the intense brotherhood feeling and that made reader joyful and sad at the same time. I am quoting from Kirkus Discoveries about my book: “It’s love at first sight in paradise. But will it last in the real world? From the moment he spots her after his arrival in Hawaii, Jonathan Foster knows Oliana Pau will become the love of his life. Reluctant at first, Oliana soon returns Jonathan’s affection. After a whirlwind romance, the couple got married and move to Houston to live in the Foster family mansion, much to the initial shock and dismay of Jonathan’s parents. The author renders the characters and settings in vivid, lush detail. It possesses the foundation of an engrossing romantic epic: two lovers torn between their passion for each other and their devotion to their separate worlds.” Happiness came ultimately when they reunited.

India you see now is not the same India back then when I was in my childhood – no glamour, no razzle-dazzle, no economic prosperity for middle class– the age of innocence –that’s the India I could relate to. There were no worries in my stereo-type life when I was younger and I did not have to think of my future either since my father would take care of all those things for me including my marriage. If I stayed over in India my father would have bought me the house and employ a maid so that I did not have to attend the house-hold chores. Only place I was in charge was my education – that’s even up-to a certain point. But I was probably little bit ahead of my time as I dreamt about completing my B.A degree before my marriage. The major shock I got when I realize that whole Society’s burden was on my shoulder. I was only 18 years of age – I did not want to get married at that age. But when I saw my father was facing continuous criticisms from my relatives and neighbors –“why she has to go college – what she is going to do with her college degree, she will have to take care of the children any way and stay at home to bring them up – she is not going to work – is she?” – I had no choice but to agree to get married at that time. That was heart breaking for me. When you were woman in that era you have very limited power or no power at all– most of the doors were shut. But I could not take the defeat without a fight – I had to fight hard to finish my education. It is now nearly impossible to imagine all those facts as the situation has dramatically changed at least for the girls who live in the city. Many things were prohibited for woman – specifically if you belong in a social class or group bound by caste system. And I could not think for any reason even today why people identify themselves with that whoever belongs to whichever group. For Brahmins “Priest” and Business sector so called “Banik” the rules and regulation are still in place, but for the other group that is diminishing. In America there are more opportunities for the lower class people. I have seen many people with their lower class status made a huge difference in their life like for example a maid or house keeper’s son may be a doctor, scientist, lawyer – their fate is not bound by their status unlike India.

As I was a girl I was not allowed to ride a bicycle, play cricket or fly a kite, anything related to so-called boys sports as well. I hated all of those restrictions. I am so happy now that I am now in America where women can do whatever they want to do. Can you imagine that you had no saying in anything? I felt so helpless that time. My father had a little bit understanding but it was very difficult to override the Social rules and people’s opinion. I always wished that everybody should pursue their dream they have or had. Now all those practices have been changed in the major cities but not in the country sides. Recently I have donated money to build a school for poor kids, medicine facility who can’t afford it and a cultural stage in India. I am adding some pictures and link as I was very surprise to see it is posted in Google Play. The name is Kishore Pragatee Shangha.

So seeing no alternative I had to agree to get married with the condition that negotiation had to be made with the groom’s parent that they had to give me permission or allow me to study and finish my education. You can understand that the path was not very smooth for me as I had to defy all the rules set out for a very young married woman in India. To stay out of continuous disapproval I decided to stay in my parent’s house and occasionally visited my in-laws house. Against all the adverse situations finally I completed my education with lots of joy and tears. I overcame all the obstacles and earned my honors degree in literature.

It was beginning of my journey to life – not ending. My husband just left for England admission to a college or any college for further education because of limited number of colleges. Being disgusted with life in India at that moment (no future, no higher education) he looked for better life. He had to leave with five pounds granted by Indian Government to England to pursue a better life for us. I joined him after ten months and faced the life full of disappoints, doubts, and hardship. My fear was that nobody would understand me as I was a foreigner. Later of course I adjusted to the life style of England what it had to offer. It was particularly hard for me because I was coming from a wealthy family but I did survive with can foods and eggs and studio apartment. It was extremely hard and I wish nobody had to go through this. I didn’t like the food as you can imagine. Indian Government rewarded him with few pounds to go to a foreign land where he has to start a new life, possibly a better one. Discrimination, language barrier, British accents all had to be overcome – question of survival and get by. He did not surrender. Eight months later I joined him. I was as innocent as I could be. Never in my life, had I thought that I had to earn a living as everything was provided by my father. I did not grow up in my mind. While in London, I started to understand many things which were not pleasant at all. Everywhere there were hardships; no good clothing, no good food, no good apartment, and as a matter of fact it was downright horrible. I did not know how to cope with it. May be, I thought for a while to go back to my home where I could live a comfortable life. But the thought did not last very long. I was determined not to give up so easily. Later I obtained a Tax officer job after learning to speak in English and was very happy. But unfortunately it did not last very long. After two and a half years later I faced with Racism when Enoch Powell, an M.P asked us to leave and go back to India. Only Kenyan Indian were welcome who brought lots of money. I was shocked. I started to jot down all the thoughts in my mind thinking how I am going to proceed with that. I have to conquer to speak the language which was a major challenge. Community college was easily available and within few months I learnt the language with all odds. Jhumpa Lahiri’s mother was my good friend and we used to attend the courses together. Later I did land a job but I did not stop there. My destination was America.

I like all immigrants took all the frustration, all the tears, all the hardship and most of all leaving our parents, our friends, relatives, and our beloved country. So I knew my ultimate prize would be if I could go to America, the land of opportunity and freedom.

In England my usual day began with 6 o’clock wake up, go to work. After finishing work, on the way home, I went to the reference library to collect the addresses of American university and Canadian university and got the grocery as we could not afford to have a refrigerator. After finishing dinner I went straight to the type writer to apply for the scholarship for Tapan as there were no computers available. The hard work paid off. Tapan got the admission in NS in Canada with a scholarship. Only the sad part was that I had to leave my well-paying permanent government job and all my British and Indian friends. Tapan finished his Ph.D. within three years in Dalhousie University – I thought it was quiet an achievements and I was somewhat happy for him.

In Canada our life was very peaceful and quiet. There were no Bengali people in that Island. Even though life was little monotonous, no hustle or jazzy like London but we were very happy. My husband loved Canada and he wanted to stay in Canada for a long time since it was soothing for him, and hardly any commotions and crimes. Canadian people were very open-minded so we were easily accepted. Only one down fall was it was very cold and snowy which was unacceptable to me, more over another thing I missed was busy life style since Canada was never in the world stage like America.

I traveled three countries, England, Canada and America in pursuit of happiness and the American dream. The path was full of obstacles, frustrations, disappointments, doubts and pains but nothing deterred me to come to America. Seeing the statue of Liberty and the inspirational symbol on her torch gave me hope that I would through hard work and perseverance, one day I will achieve the American dream.

Beginning a new life in a new land was not easy. Just like many immigrants I faced the multitude of problems as I had to retain my own ethnic identity while still adapting to new culture. I always have religious tolerance which was taught earlier by my parents. My father always gave an emphasis on higher education which was not achievable in India that time but in America it was easy. I took admission to get a computer degree and earned my degree eventually. An ordinary innocent girl’s dream became little successful in America. My second dilemma I faced when I had to raise two children in a different culture, but I always knew that to get a little you need to give a little and it’s well worth that investment for the life I found in America. I love both countries.