Living in Amreeka

Friends, Indians, Country(wo)men,
Lend me your ‘eyes’…………….?

To all my friends who’ve been curious about how I am doing in a ‘phoren’ country, this is sort of a mass mail in the form of a blog. So far I’ve tried to answer your myriad questions with a one liner on facebook. I know that doesn’t quite do justice to allay your curiosity. So I decided to write an account of my almost-one-and-a-half-month stay here. Lest I be accused of not giving due credit, this idea wasn’t totally mine and came from a classmate who was curious about how I perceive America and Americans.
Well, the bigger picture first. If I had to come up with one word that defined US of A for me, I would say “supersize”. I was strongly tempted to choose DIY but in the end, supersize won by a close margin.
Think supersize and think food portions (I ordered a regular subway and got a 12” one or two of the ‘regular’ ones we get in India), geographical area, people, supermarkets, squirrels (ones back home look like baby versions), yada yada yada, you get the picture? In India where FMCG companies try to reach the rural and poorer population by making smaller, cheaper packs (those two rupees shampoo sachets, tide detergent sachets anyone?), here you get big and BIGGER “economy” packs urging you to save money.
Food is cheap here. Seriously! And also very fatty. Which explains why poor Americans are “supersize” themselves (they can’t afford to go to the gym like the richer Americans. This piece of gyan comes from my classmates). To avoid being a specimen of the ‘freshman fifteen’ syndrome (look up Wikipedia for this) I’ve avoided the heat-and-eat stuff like the plague. For the most part I’m cooking. Never mind that most times it ends up looking like what they’d give to prisoners. I’m surviving people! I may not be a cordon bleu chef but I’m getting there….
I like the thought of doing things by myself, but not when it means doing EVERYTHING by myself! Americans are big on Do-it-Yourself (DIY). Picture this: I come back from the store in the evening and I’m all excited at having a semblance of a home with the new furniture I bought. I’d love to sink into that chair I got, except that it needs to be assembled! Same goes for the table, the stool and the bed which are all packed into neat little boxes. Not to worry I think. A few twists with the screwdriver, a little hammering and I should be in slumber land by 9 PM. Ahhhh…for that simple joy! Instead, I found myself staring at the manuals, hammering away at the nails on the bed frame at 10 in the night, waiting to hear police sirens any moment (my neighbours could have complained against me for making that noise). In the end however, I was feeling incredibly good about myself for getting everything fixed (and not getting arrested), but I also had an incredibly sore arm.
Amidst all this orderliness, I sometimes feel chained however. The feeling is hard to define honestly, except that my being rebels against too many regulations. It’s ironic really. It’s not like I mind the rules; rules that govern every aspect of your life. On the contrary I appreciate them and I wish we’d have such strict regulations in India as well. However, I sometimes feel like my freedom is being curtailed! Funny I know, and maybe even hypocritical!
At this point I feel a little like the character of Kamal Hasan in Pushpak (a satirical movie of the 1980s). I miss the familiar sounds of barking at night, the cawing of crows, the smell of spices and of rain, the sight of Indian villages and the large number of people at any given point in time, at any given place! Their absence reminds me that I’m in a foreign land.
Foreign reminds me that I’m the firengee here. It’s quite amusing when the students here refer to us as the “internationals”, ‘us’ as in the foreign students. You’re suddenly not just an Indian anymore. You’re also a foreigner!
I realize that I’m slowly settling in. I don’t find it as awkward for unknown people to greet me on the road. In fact, I sometimes venture to greet them first myself! I don’t find it funny when people pronounce Iraq and Iran as eye-rack and eye-ran respectively. And most importantly, I realize that I’ve stopped indulging in mental gymnastics for converting dollar amounts to rupees everytime I buy something.
As of now, life is good! 🙂