In response to the article titled “Why an Indian girl chose to become an American woman“.
As I read this article, I had a few moments of resonance, gasping but ultimately a bout of sadness. Sadness for the girl, who felt that her country was so unfair to her that she had to find a way to stay in the U.S., even if it meant sidestepping her passions and her career interests.
Just like the protagonist, I also went to the U.S. for my undergrad. I also paid the five dollars for the luggage carts. I also felt lost in my classrooms initially. I also did well at math. I also drank irresponsibly. I also became addicted to the independent life. I also thought differently of my own country and the way it treats its women. I was also sickened and infuriated by the Nirbhaya case. From a living room in the U.S., I remember revolting, flaming up and tearing up by what had happened.
But I did not become an American woman.
When the slim chance of having to go back to India creaked its way into my life, I felt an angst because I didn’t want to go back. My reasons? Same as those of the Indian girl turned American woman in this article – Abhinanda.
The American air was actually airy. I could breathe, literally and metaphorically. I could be in most streets of New York at 3 a.m. pretty comfortably. I did not have to change and re-change my clothes because one gave a peek into my bra strap and the other’s raised length could have raised eyebrows on the streets. I did not have to convince my parents to let me stay out late, or to stop being too nosy because one, they did not live with me, and two, they think of America as the safest haven on earth (maybe not now, with the rise in gun violence).
Anyhow, my workplace (the most amazing place to work at) was not able to file for an H1B visa for me. And being a journalist (and not an IT worker), I, sadly, wasn’t able to get another company to do the same for me either. I did not want to pursue a master’s degree at the time, and did not know about the naturalization through Army program that you did. Hence, the reality of having to return to India started to stare me in the face. Soon, I ran out of time but not entirely out of ideas. I thought of the most desperate ways to stay back in New York, as you did, but for me, it didn’t happen.
Last year in August, I returned to India. It has been six months, and I am still in a reverse culture shock. I am shocked daily (less now than earlier). I am shocked at how everyone invades your space, from the maids to your parents to co-workers to random people in the mall. I am shocked at how polluted it is. I am shocked at the work culture: the lack of professionalism, work/life balance and ethics. I am shocked at how sometimes people say insensitive things, which would be a big deal in America, such as casually calling someone ‘fat,’ or ‘gay’ or ‘dark’. I am shocked that someone can eat ‘chole bhature’ first thing in the morning. But most importantly, bouncing back to your main concern of not returning to India- the treatment of women- I am also shocked at that. Let me tell you why.
I am shocked that despite the fences that hinge women, and their treatment in our society, the women in India are so bold. I am shocked that women whether on the streets, on the metro, or out in the bars, own their bodies and don’t give a bloody s**t about what they wear. I am shocked that women in this country are working so hard to speak up and speak out. I am shocked that women in India are becoming fearless. Fearless because they have seen what fears are they expected to wear on their sleeves. And they are so readily shedding off those sleeves. I am shocked that women in India work so hard at their jobs, at their homes, at places they volunteer. I am shocked that women in my country are fighting their parents, their husbands or their husbands’ parents for equal rights whether it be being allowed to choose what they wear, where they work, where they go, with whom they go and what time they return.
And other advantages of living in India? While I still live a metro ride away from my parents, I love being in their vicinity – it is the best support system I am blessed with. Also, I am still a journalist, doing what I wanted to do.
I am sorry, Abhinanda for the experiences you had while you were oscillating between India and America, when you had to be restricted to your parents’ apartment, but if you were to come to India and just get a whiff of the life here, you’d be shocked too, but pleasantly.
Please don’t mistake me to be saying that all of India’s problems have vanished into thin air because they never will. I’m not saying that women are entirely safe in this country – not even close. I am not saying there isn’t a constant threat of rape culture that looms in this same air. But look at this: 1 in 6 American women have survived an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
Of course, the human race is selfish and we bring back everything to ourselves and our daily lives: Can I wear whatever I want? Can I walk on the street alone at night? Can I go out wherever, with whomever I want? And maybe the answers to these questions in America are an instant ‘yes.’
But, the girls and women in India are doing an outrageously amazing job to make sure the answer in India as well turns to a ‘yes.’ And I wish you, too Abhinanda, could have been a part of this bold movement.