I was always passionate about writing at very early age and it was a lifelong dream of mine to be a successful 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.
Growing Up In India
I was born in India and raised in there with all Indian values and culture of my country. 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. B.A. degree was painful to obtain due to my caste or social group. 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 a 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 everybody. I have also seen in America 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 had to obey many restrictions. 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.
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 the 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. Imagine how joyful that was when constant fighting stopped with my mother-in-laws regarding my degree. Here it will be unimaginable that obtaining education is so painful.
Coming To England
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. My mother who was suffering from departure pain did not want me to leave her. We were very close. My mom, my dad, all my friends & relatives, and all close neighbors hugged me and shed tears. They all planned to come to the airport. I did not want to leave India that time at all. I was also very frighten in my mind. You can imagine how agomizingl that was for me. The unknown country I was going to by a long journey which was not my home, It was even painful when I thought I had to stay there permanently and I would not be able to come back home. But I have no choice but to prepare for the upcoming separation in my mind without knowing what to expect and how to deal with it. I cried every day for my parents, my friends and relatives and they felt equally the same way.
Finally the day arrived to say good bye to everybody with lots of tears. 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 little bit joyful as I thought about joining my husband. 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 and it sounded like a musical interlude in my frightened mind. I looked over the crowded faces and spotted my husband with a smiling face who was shaking his hands way up in the air with a greeting gesture. My mind was little at ease seeing him. I did not sleep 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 that was 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 on my cheek and said, “Don’t worry. I will be right back with the milk and make some tea for you.” 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. We had no money.
But strangely enough one year 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 in local college. 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.
My husband had basic education and he was a technician. 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. I had to learn the English language as well. There were lots of Italian immigrants who were in my class. So I did not feel what I am the only one. I had lots of British friends later on 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. 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 in their mind. It disturbed me and broke my mental peace.
In England my life was extremely hard as my day used to start around at 5:30. I used to use tube to reach my work place after changing two trains, We had no refrigerator so everyday I had to do grocery shopping. After cooking and doing dishes I used to sit down for typing to send many application letters to American and Canadian universities as I thought without Ph.D degree my husband would be nobody in his field. So every day after work I would go to Swiss cottage library to get the addresses. Finally my husband got a small scholarship from an university in Canada to complete his Ph.D.. Sadly I had to leave my job and came to Canada with him.
America, my final Journey
It was the happiest time for me as my older son was born’ Later my husband obtained his Ph,D. The place we used to live was completely a blue color neighbourhood. My neighbors were lots of fun. You could read it in next page. My live was filled with joy as I was a young mom. Occassionally I missed my job though.
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. As I was staying few years now in England my belongings for India was diminishing. This time I did not cry instead I was hoping for better life and higher education in America. My husband did not want to come to America as he liked Canada’s pristine life style contrary to me.
I still remember the first day when we arrived in America. I was 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 hopes that one day and I thought with hard work I would achieve my American dream. My younger son was born in America, I am very happy that America is my homeland now. I love India and America.