From Orange, White and Green to Red, White and Blue

From Orange, White and Green to Red, White and Blue
Written on the eve of becoming a US citizen

Today, September 20 2012, is the last day of my Indian citizenship.
Tomorrow I’ll be taking the oath of loyalty and citizenship for the
United States of America.

I have always believed that India is my janma bhoomi (birth land) and
US my karma bhoomi (land of work). I adopted the US more than 11 years
back, but today I’m reflecting on what it means now that this country
is adopting me. I came here as a clueless 21 year old who was told to
go to the US for higher education and a better standard of living. I
think we upper middle class Indian 21 year olds are really less mature than
Americans of the same age. I lived with my parents, ate my Mom’s home
made meals, had home service for cleaning, laundry and what not. I
would barely lift a finger except for some bare minimum amount of
studying to go to college and get a Bachelors degree. Life was all
about enjoying with friends and almost zero responsibilities. Until
one day I graduated and came to the US with my entire life packed in
2 suitcases. Quite a drastic reality check happened at this point.
There was no one to help here, just some equally clueless friends at
the University. I went from being a pampered daughter to a 4am front
desk shift worker at the library in a matter of one week. Yes, that
was my first job ever. My first pay check totaled a whole $74 after 2
weeks, but the dollars left me as quickly as they found me. There were books,
groceries and rent waiting to be paid. Luckily for me I had the
support of my family and a scholarship which helped pay for school.
Now, 11 years later, I make several digits more than that and don’t
think twice before spending $74. And for that, I am thankful to this
country. It’s isn’t just economical growth that I’ve found here, I
have learned a lot of lessons, formed life long memories and grown
into a versatile woman in her thirties.

What I like the most about this country is its forgiveness for
failure. Everyone gets a second, third, fourth, nth chance here.
Failures are not judged and carved on your forehead. They are
gracefully embraced, learned from and put behind. At any point, I can
decide to change paths, change careers, change my lifestyle and no one
will stop me. Maybe no one cares. Or maybe every one is supportive.
It’s a matter of perspective. And that’s the beauty of the US. If I am
optimistic this place will come together to help reach my goals. If I
am cynical and want to find fault in everything, there are enough
movies I can critique while being a couch potato. Everything is
supported and anything goes.

Does this mean I’m happier being a US citizen? I don’t think that
question has a clear Yes or No answer. My favorite music is still from
bollywood, but a saxophone’s jazz tunes can get me moving too. I still
dig out the best Chaat in any town but boy! do I relish that tiramisu.
I will still watch cricket all night long over super bowl, but I will
also gaze up dreamily as fireworks light up the 4th of July sky. Maybe
then I am a citizen of both the countries. Unfortunately, that luxury
does not exist officially. Just the way we never stop loving our true
first love, I can never stop thinking of myself as an Indian. I am
thankful to India for planting the seeds and am thankful to the US for
raising me up to make me who I am. The two countries are my two
parents. One who nurtured and sheltered, and the other who gave me
wings to fly and explore. One who gave me the freedom to grow beyond
what I had imagined and one who found me a settling point.

India gave me the roots, the senses, the education and the blood that
flows in my veins. US gave me the personality, the ethics, the work
and the dream that sparkles in my eyes. My husband, my daughter, my
friends, my home, my US. My parents, my town, my people, my home, my
India. When I go to India next, I will cross international boundaries
as a Person of Indian Origin, but I will be going home to sleep
in my comforting bed. And when I come back to the US as a citizen, I
will still be going home to sleep in my comforting bed. Whether
I look at the moon from here or there, here’s hoping that the comfort
of home never fades in either place.

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