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The Moment Everything Clicked
As I walked outside the terminal, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was finally done with the arduous process of attaining luggage and speaking with customs, although relief is perhaps to optimistic a word to describe what I was feeling. The sigh was more like a breather between one problem and another, done so that I could perhaps pretend to be hopeful and happy.
Quite unfortunately, however, the sigh did not grant me any release from my thoughts and instead keyed me in to my “first” observation of this new/old land I had just flown into. This place smelled terrible. There were too many unwashed bodies, crammed into a ridiculously small enclosure, and, the greatest insult in my mind, surrounded by a fence, as if this were a penitentiary, not an airport. I say bodies because, for some strange reason, there were not only humans here, but also an assortment of cows, pigs, and chickens; this being India, cows were obviously in the greatest numbers.
While for some, this may have been the strangest sight of all, but I am now ashamed to admit that I was shocked for an entirely different reason. For me, the people themselves were strange. They all looked like me. I was no country girl; I was accustomed to the vast diversity of New York City, but somehow these people, the people themselves, not the numbers, were surprising. The strange thing though was that each and every single one of them was somehow recognizable. People with my flat nose, my father’s practically non-existent eyebrows, and my mother’s flawlessly thin lips were everywhere. I had heard of the Polish nose, or the Jewish eyes, but it had never occurred to me that there was such a thing for Indian people.
As I stood there, waiting to see somebody I more than faintly recognized, I wondered why this was so shocking. After all, don’t people always like finding out that they are surrounded by people with a similar interest, hobby, or job? But, somehow, I found being surrounded by people like me to be not only peculiar, but also unnerving.
My cell phone, or mobile as it is called here, rang, interrupting my reverie of thoughts. It was my uncle, informing me that he was stuck in traffic and would pick me up soon. He also told me to go inside, saying that I was not cut out for staying outside.
I replaced the phone with scowl, thinking about what he meant. Simply because I had grown up in the Unites States did not automatically make me weak, or unable to cope with being alone and unsupervised in a possibly foreign country. I mean, sure I was perhaps softer than a born-and-bred Indian person, maybe slightly more spoiled, and perhaps easier to take advantage of, but really, I was still Indian. I could cope, I could deal, and I could sure as hell be alone for a few minutes.
Well, now. That was an interesting turn of thoughts. I was just railing on these people and suddenly; I got rather defensive about my behavior. Maybe I need to do some deep thinking, by the airport terminal maybe, but definitely not inside.
My life in the United States was nice. I lived in a quiet sub-development of a middle class suburb that had pretty trees, big houses and friendly people. I knew all of my neighbors and they all knew me, and I always had to chat with them if they were walking outside or wave to them if they were driving. All in all, it was a pretty nice place.
Except that, it was a bit surreal. Almost like a bubble, away from the world. They, or we, I suppose I too was a part of this, all were too interested in social rules than in anything else. For example, whenever I saw someone I always had to sit and chat with them, and always about specific subject matter deemed by some unknown, faceless person as being “safe.”
Don’t get me wrong, or think me ungrateful or anything, I loved my life in the United States, and even in the little suburb, but for the first time I realized how shallow and narrow that place was. I mean, I used to think that it was the greatest place to live, but now, I had to admit, it seemed to be much smaller in scope than I had ever imagined.
So then, supposing that where I lived was represented by black, and were I was visiting was represented by white, would that make me gray? I was the middle ground? I didn’t belong in either place, but instead had a foot in both places?
Obviously, I was taking this a tad bit too seriously. All right, sure, what I’ve been stating does make sense, but clearly, I must have been over exaggerating a little. I mean, if I haven’t been, then I must be living a cliché. To be totally honest, I refuse to let that happen.
So now that I have seen my uncle’s car, and have subsequently begun my journey from outside the airport terminal to his car, I have decided to ask for some jalaybi, the greatest Indian sweet of all time, and some whipped cream, the perfect American topping for it. “So there,” I sneered to my unknown adversary, “I can be both Indian and American. Just watch me!”