Indian American

Am I on Crazy Pills? Wait – Don’t Answer. Just Read.

Proof that Bill O’Reilly Will Always be an Asshat

Ok, y’all. (Yes, I know I am an Indian girl from New Jersey, but I have lived in Virginia long enough to say y’all).

I have not said much about the election this year. I have gotten annoyed at Facebook friends that have also been acting like asshats trying to shove their political beliefs down my throat and talking ignorant shit about BOTH candidates.  I know, I know, let’s move FORWARD.

Ok, I will. I promise. Just give me a second to say something first.

Bill O’Reilly has said something to upset me.

What? Bill O’Reilly? Stop the effing presses. Are you kidding me? When has he ever said anything offensive before? I will give you this, next to Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, he looks like Gandhi, but still.

Bill. Said. Something. Questionable.

Now the only reason I am not saying that it’s “questionable” versus outright racist, ignorant, blatantly hostile, borderline hate-mongering is because of this. THIS.

People. Well, some people think I am overreacting.

What? Me, overreact? I am like the Dalai Lama. What the HELL are they talking about? I epitomize what the person who invented the saying “cool as a cucumber” was thinking, when they were eating that cucumber.

If you are not going to watch the video, here is the quote that he made when asked why Romney did not win the election.

“The white establishment is now the minority,” he added. “The voters, many of them, feel this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things — and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

Exhale.

I am not questioning any comments around demographics here. In fact, I will confirm the following:

Photo by Shutterstock

So, you might ask me, “Well, Kiran, why are you all bent out of shape? Didn’t he just state a fact?”

To which my reply would be, “ARGGGHHHHH. People!!”

No, seriously, my response is, “Look at the other words that fill in the holes. Look at the overall message of that statement. Look at the associations he is creating.”

Some argued with me that O’Reilly is by no means a racist (yeah, huh) and that I am taking his words out of context. But the thing is, context is what I have here.

People feel entitled to things.” Didn’t he just mention Blacks? And Hispanics? And Women? And of course all the other minorities that are part of the rainbow?

If his comment was specifically about people who are receiving entitlements and where their vote went, I could say that the context of saying, “People feel entitled to things.” might even make sense, though I would still be pissed. Entitlement programs are not always there because people feel “entitled” but they are there because people have no options.

Let’s also be clear that part of his message is that it is not the “white establishment” that wants entitlements. It is “the others.” Those crazy minorities who are taking over this country.

In another clip he also talked about “traditional white America.” You know what? I don’t even goddamn know what that means. This country is a country built on immigration, right from when the first ships came over and this land was taken from the Native Americans who lived here. Since then, populations have immigrated to the U.S. en mass. If you are saying that the majority of this country is no longer comprised of only those with a European heritage, I could even fathom that.

There are a few factors here. What we have, is that the scales of immigration have tipped. At some point, the immigrants coming in stopped being less European and became more heavily dominated by other countries. And there are “white” people in every country, so I hate, Hate, HATE this term. It’s extremely ambiguous.

Also, you know what else? A lot of “white America”? Well, they stopped being only a few shades of white. Racial endogamy, while still the norm, is no longer considered the “only” way. Inter-racial marriage has increased significantly in the past few decades. Hey, I am an Indian girl who married a guy who is Italian and Puerto Rican, so I am an example. My kids are still brown, but that’s not the point. My nephew (brown) just married a beautiful Italian girl (white). According to the way race is accounted for in this country, that child will not be considered “white.”

Or should I say, they will not be part of “traditional white America.”

You know, my dad and several uncles came here in the late 60’s. We are assorted shades of brown. My parents worked their ASSES off every freaking day that they were in this country. You know what this is? THAT, is “traditional America.”

Boo-ya.

I was born in this country. “White people” have come here after I was born but would be embraced into the “traditional America” before I ever will no matter how red, white and blue my blood is. The majority of the Black population that made up the electorate population are not recent immigrants. Most of them came over here a long, long time ago (and we’re not even going there).

But you know what? They are “Traditional America” now.

Another point I want to make is that while we are now seeing a turn in the population, the electorate population is still comprised of primarily of whites, though we saw minorities hold enormous influence over the outcome of the election. Those kids that the census results were talking about (see link) – well they aren’t going to the polls yet, O’Reilly.

The polls are still being driven by a majority white population.

Inhale. Exhale.

Ok. I am done. I went on a tangent. I know, I know. Too much caffeine!

I promise that I will NOT GET MAD if you disagree with me. If you tell me I am crazy, I will accept it. You will not be the first. I will listen, take it in and absorb.

I took O’Reilly’s comment one way. Others are taking it another. Where do you stand on this and why? What is this so called “stuff” that I want?

Let’s stay away from hateful or hurtful comments – let’s keep this a productive conversation.

Also – if you like this post, and want to read another, similar but more associated to the facts of the entitlement programs, please read this post by Andrew Heaton.  “An Election Win Courtesy of Welfare Queens and Takers.” (The title is ironic, yes). 

You will see my good friend John Ahn, Andrew and myself already mired in the against a real, hmm. Firecracker. 

Please come over to Andrew’s blog and help put your opinion in the comments. 

Andrew is one of my new blog besties. He just doesn’t know this yet.

Night ALL!

Kiran

Where I Come From

A few days after our son, Nico, was born, we had to rush him to the hospital with a fever. The long and the short of it is that we had to be admitted to the children’s ward for a few days because the spinal tap showed he was positive for Spinal Meningitis.

He was five pounds. And they were giving him a spinal tap.

Once I moved past the shock and horror and the tremors had abated long enough for me to calm down and think as clearly as I could over the course of the next five days, I did what I normally do in situations where I lose control and have to watch something hard transpire.

I shut down.

I sat there like a mute, holding my baby boy, alternating between tortured heaving sobs and the still, quiet kind of tears. The strong and steady ones that leave a path of wetness against the dry, unmoisturized skin of your face to fall on the blanket below you.

Drip. Drip. Falling on the blanket and leaving behind a wet patch on the receiving blanket that Nico was wrapped in.

I remember the cute little doctor walking into the room, the physician who would be working with us over the next few days to determine if his meningitis was viral (bad, but manageable) or bacterial (So bad. So very, very bad for a baby who weighed so little and was four weeks early). Dr. Shah was her name.

She took inventory of the room and observed my husband, John, the most Indian looking half-Italian and half-Puerto Rican descended man most people have met outside of Eric Estrada. She next saw my older sister, Kusum, who looked like she was trying to be the calm in this storm, but she wasn’t fooling anybody with the look on her face.

She then turned her attention towards me. I looked exhausted. Since being given the news, I felt like I had been punched in the gut and sat hunched over, holding my child to my chest, just praying they would not take him away from me. It felt impossible that I had managed to keep him safe for 8 long months in my belly, to only make him sick days after giving him life in this world.

What kind of mother was I?

“Hello,” the young female Doctor marched in. She extended her hand to my husband and then to my sister, “I’m Dr. Shah.”

She then turned to me and bent down with her hands on her knees and said really slowly, “Do you speak English?”

Well, I guess it was nice of her to check, but to this day, I am still not quite sure what made her ask me if I could speak my native language.

I nodded my head. I wasn’t sure whether to say, “Si,” “Oui” or “WTF?”

“Good, good,” she nodded her head. “And where are you from?”

I know she what she wanted. You see, Indians will often ask each other, “Where are you from?” to really mean, “What part of that honking big country is your family from?” This helps us size each other up and immediately gives us license to make vague generalizations about each other like, “Oh, her family must be cheap” or “Oh, those people are usually rich, but major wankers.”

“New Jersey,” I said. “Exit 10.”

Take that, Dr. Shah. From her last name, I already was able to guess that she was maybe a vegetarian, she spoke the Indian language, Gujarati, and that she used a lot of coconut in her recipes, because that’s how her people roll. (And by the way, they make rockin’ food).

But really, she was just as American as me. Which of course is very confusing, because most people ask me just that when they meet me, “Where are you from?” And of course they don’t care to know the answer of New Jersey.

But I can’t really hold that against them.

Nico and I were transported on one of those little hospital beds from the Emergency Room to the Children’s Ward. If you want to hear more about what happened there, I wrote a post about it a few years ago, still fresh from the trauma and still overwhelmed by how close we were to life taking a very different turn for us.

But I think about that question, “Where are you from?” quite often. I also wondered why I bristled so deeply when the young Doctor assumed, either through a combination of my disheveled appearance and my Indian heritage that I wouldn’t speak English.

Maybe because that day, I didn’t want things separating me from anyone. I just wanted to be a mother, with no other labels or perceptions tied to me. Just a mother who was feeling lost and wanted a doctor to understand where I was coming from.

I was coming from a place called “Motherhood.” It’s a sometimes sketchy part of town and you don’t want to always go there at night. You could have your diaper bag stolen right from your shoulder if you carry the right kinds of snacks in it. It’s a place where no matter what language you speak, a mother’s fear or grief is evident and is respected.

Motherhood is a place where it is okay to throw on your most unattractive pregnancy shorts as your breasts leak with the milk your son is too weak to drink. A place where you have to rush from your home just an hour earlier, leaving behind your two year old daughter in the hands of your parents and niece.

Motherhood is rich in natural resources, including guilt. It’s a place where guilt is more abundant than even water. It’s a place that most mothers know well because we manage to banish ourselves there for all sorts of inadequacies that taunt us most days. We build massive dependencies on the abundant guilt resources which are hard to break and actually threaten our very infrastructure at times. We try to build dams around guilt so it won’t flood the rest of us, but they rarely work.

Maybe the reason I wasn’t as ok with that question I get asked so frequently, is because that day, I JUST wanted to be a mother. Lord knows most days I define myself as a mother, a professional, a daughter, a writer, a singer, a wife, a friend. An Indian.

An American.

But that day, I was just a mother caring for my sick son. And it didn’t matter where I was from. It just mattered where I was.

XOXO,

Kiran

Sister

Kanchan Didi, Munni Didi and me.

I often have spoken about the influence my parents have had on my life.

What I tend not to share, as much, is my relationship with my siblings.

I am the youngest of five children in my family. In order, my siblings are named Kanchan (Sister), Himanshu (brother), Kusum (sister), Sudhanshu (brother – and yes my brothers names rhyme).

And then there is me.

Kiran.

I sometimes think I avoid writing about my siblings because on so many levels, the sibling relationship is often complex and full of ever changing dynamics. If you have a sibling, you know the powerful connections that bind you through a shared history.

A history that encompasses so, so much.

Each others dreams.

Seeing each other at our worst.

Seeing each other at our best.

We have been part of some of the biggest joys of each other’s lives.

We have shared some of our most painful memories together.

We have also been the ones to sometimes inflict the most pain on each other.

And we never stop loving each other.

*********************************************

When I was growing up, many of my memories are really about my sister Kusum (whom I call Munni Didi) and Sudhanshu (Sudhu Bhaiya). They were older than me – Munni Didi by 12 years and Sudhu Bhaiya by 10 years. In Indian culture, you attach the designation of “Didi” (older sister) and “Bhaiya” (older brother) to show respect for your elder siblings.

My other two siblings were not with me till much later in life. We were together for my first year of life – of which I have no memory. My Kanchan Didi had been married through an arranged marriage at a very young age and stayed in India with her husband from when I was 1 years old until I turned 16. Himanshu (or PhoolBhaiya) was also sent to India to do his studies there from when I was 1 till I was 15.

In many ways, we were a family divided. Not by love – but by circumstance.

And you know, like everything else, it’s all very complicated.

So while my parents were lovely parents to me, I was raised a great deal by both my Munni Didi and my Sudhu Bhaiya. They played with me, spoiled me rotten and made me feel very loved.

But it was also different. While Sudhu Bhaiya was there for me a lot, he had found a love in cross-country running and spent hours on this new passion of his, making new friends and having as normal of a life as he could have had given the rules and regulations placed on us by strict Indian parents.

Munni Didi didn’t really have that. She had friends and she was beautiful. But she didn’t have the chance to do things that most teenagers her own age did. Her life, in many ways, was based around her being almost a surrogate mother to me, while my mom worked at our family business and my dad in NYC as an Engineer.

There wasn’t really an option of after school activities or anything like that for her. After my afternoon kindergarten would disband, she would be there, waiting to get me, having walked the mile from our home – no matter what the weather.

She had my back. I had her’s.

We were a great team. We had a pretty good system going down by the time I was 6. She would let me watch one episode of “Scooby Doo” and then we could watch “Guiding Light.” It seemed like a fair trade, especially because I was starting to crush more on Philip Spaulding than Fred anyway.

We shared a room. I didn’t know how to sleep on my own. We had always been in the same room. I had a small twin bed and she had a larger full bed on the other side of the room. It really didn’t matter – I would always end up curled next to her – asking her to read me another story or sing to me – maybe the new song by the “Styx” or something.

She really couldn’t do any wrong.

I remember one day, she didn’t give me something I wanted. I cried and cried and pouted and shouted. Finally, I had enough.

“I’m running away!”

“Oh no!” she said. “I am going to miss you so much!”

Pause.

“Do you want me to help you pack?”

I was devastated. Did she really want me gone?

I sat there quietly as she painstakingly packed my suitcase for me. She made sure to include sweaters and lots of clean underwear, because those were important, she said. She also told me to make sure I changed my underwear every day. She snuck in a bag of Ruffles – “just in case.”

I watched numbly and nodded my head in assent.

As she helped me bring my suitcase downstairs, I started to cry. I was trying to keep a brave face, but I hadn’t expected her full cooperation in my running away “scam”

“Do you want me to make you a tuna sandwich for the road?” she asked.

“No,” I said, though I was thinking that maybe it could buy me some time and she would realize what a mistake she was making.

I think she let me go halfway down the block, past the Yablonickys’ house, when I finally turned around, snot and tears all over my face and I ran back and thew myself in her arms.

I couldn’t imagine ever being without her.

***********************************************************

That same year, at the end of my kindergarten year and my sister’s senior year of Madison Central High School, her arranged marriage was settled.

She was 18 years old.

My parents, my sister and I went to India and traveled through to the northern recesses of Bihar to the village my paternal grandparents lived in – Simrahi. My Sudhu Bhaiya could not go, because he had to stay home and take care of our family business – an Indian grocery store.

My sister’s wedding took place over the course of several days. I sat there and enjoyed the time with my cousins. I laughed during the festivities. I sang songs and sat as close as I could to Munni Didi, nestling myself into her side. My other two siblings were there – Phoolbhaiya and Kanchan Didi – so this was a joyous time for me – getting those rare opportunities that I had to see them. My new Jeejajee (brother-in-law) seemed really nice and I was so excited to show him what life was like back home in America.

And then, the wedding was over.

Done.

I was so excited about going back home. I missed pizza. I missed doughnuts. I missed my friends and cousins back home. I missed Sudhu Bhaiya.

I didn’t realize until then that my sister would not be coming back with me.

I still remember standing on the platform of the Simrahi train station, begging her to stay with me. She sat in the railcar with her new family. The open windows of the train were minimally protected by bars across the windows, which reminded me of a prison cell. I held on to the bars as my father tried to pull me away while my sister struggled with her own tears.

“Didi!!!! Don’t leave me!!! Don’t leave me!!!” I could not hardly get the words out. The tears and the force of the pain I was feeling wracked my small body, making my words sound useless.

My six year old heart burst as I sat there, helpless. I still was holding on to the bars as the train started to pull away from the platform, but I eventually had to let go.

I tried to run with the train as long as I could before one of my cousins stopped me.

And all I remember is curling up on the ground and crying like my six year old self had never cried before.

************************************************

Darkness. Nothingness.

************************************************

The next few weeks were a blur as we returned home. I was listless and unable to grasp this life without my sister. I tried, but I felt like a vital life force was missing from our home and nothing was the same.

*************************************************

My sister and brother-in-law came back from India about a year later. I got my groove back and managed to somehow survive as they started to build their own life in the United States.

There is a lot that happened on their journey. My sister, who only had a high school degree, first could only find a job at Wendy’s. Ultimately, she found herself a great job at a bank, where she worked her butt off to get promoted multiple times.

She had two beautiful babies. One of those “babies” – is getting married this year at the age of 26.

She decided to go back to school and get her Bachelors Degree.

Then she decided to go back for her Masters, at Columbia.

She is currently the Assistant Superintendant for a prestigious school district in New York State.

And she is not far from completing her PhD.

“Dr. Didi,” I joke. So proud that she is as successful as she is.

SO, SO proud.

****************************************************

My life with my siblings spans two continents. I think as I write some of my posts to introduce you to them, it will be clearer why my heritage plays such a big part of me.

It is present in virtually every memory, or tied to it in some way.

I am glad you got to meet one of my amazing siblings. I know this was a long post, but sometimes, there are some things that you just can’t shorten.

Namaste,
Kiran

The Heart of the Matter

My parents, brothers, sisters, with me and John at our wedding.

“And I thought of all the bad luck
And the troubles we’ve been through
And how I lost me and you lost you.”

– Don Henley, “The Heart of the Matter”

I always knew that things were not what they seemed in my house, even early as a child.

Ever since I can remember, I remember tension. I remember wanting my family to be anywhere else but at home together because when we were at home, that’s when bad things happened. The fighting, the yelling, the screaming and the endless tears made my heart beat so fast in my tiny chest that I thought I would burst.

I recall being 4 years old and begging for my parents to invite family or friends over, thinking that perhaps they could diffuse that tension. Sometimes it would work and the levity that family and friends would bring to the house would allow everyone to breathe.

When my aunties and uncles would leave the house, I would hold on to their legs kicking and screaming, knowing what would come. Sometimes my tears were so convincing that they would decide to stay an extra day, just to appease me. They were most likely flattered at the inordinate amount of love I felt towards them.

Which I did.

But I also couldn’t stand to see them leave. I would wrap myself in the warmth of my auntie’s saris and breathe a sigh of relief for the reprieve that might come.

For at least a day.

Sometimes even company couldn’t stop the fighting. While I was embarrassed to see this at times, I was always more sad that another weekend was gone, ruined. Though in my mind, it was my mother who seemed more angry, I recall wishing that the weekend would end so my father would go back to work and my mother could not spend so much time yelling.

My heart hurt. But so did my ears.

There is a funny story that my family will retell. I was 4 1/2 years old and my parents bought me a swing set. It was one of those big clunky metal ones that gets all rusty – but when I got it, I was in Heaven. My father told me that he and my brother, Sudhu Bhaiya would assemble the swing set that Monday.

As the story goes, unbeknownst to my parents and family, I decided to announce a party. For a Monday night. I went and found my parents maroon phone book and called a few of my favorite aunts and uncles for a “Swing Party.”

PLEASE NOTE: I said SWING party, not SWINGER party. I was only 4 for crying out loud. So anyway one who was going there, kindly please remove head from gutter now. Thanks.

My parents came from work the next day wondering why there were so many cars in front of the house. There was no food, no drinks prepared. Just me running around like a moron screaming, “It’s my swing set party! Yay!”

My elder sister, Munni and my brother, Sudhu just kind of rolled with it. As most Indian people can roll when needed, the aunties took inventory of the situation and started helping my mother prepare dinner while the uncles got the swing set up, happy to help as they drank some cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon on that humid Jersey summer night.

The story was later told with humor. And it is funny – achingly so. I invited those family friends to the house because I was scared.

I am glad they came.

(Why nobody questioned a dinner party invitation on a Monday night from a 4 1/2 year old is beyond me, but I am guessing they thought it was cute. And like I said, most Indian people will just roll with it).

And it WAS an awesome day. People should have “swing set” parties, NOT “swinger” parties, more often.

*******************************************

“I’m learning to live without you now,
But I miss you baby.
And the more I know, the less I understand.
All the things I thought I knew, I have to learn again.”

I am the youngest of five children. My eldest sister is 15 years older than me and my youngest sibling (excluding me) is ten years older than me. There was a large age difference between us, and while I was very close to them, I was sort of living on my own island.

Ma and my Mallick Auntie and Thakur Auntie (on the couch). On the floor, Munni (head turned), Cousin Archana, Baby Mintoo, Kanchan Didi (holding me), Cousin Gooriya in the red, Cousin Satyam, Cousin Shivam, On the right are my two brothers, Munna and Sudhu

You might say it was like I was an only child at times. As a matter of fact, I am fairly certain that many people who knew our family actually would say this.

Not understanding the wounds they would open. How much we all hated the implication.

When I was 1 year old, my mother, father, eldest sister and eldest brother took a trip to India.

Two of us did not return on the Air India Flight back to the United States.

The year was 1977. My sister, Kanchan Didi would not set foot back on American soil until 1992. My brother, Himanshu, came back a little earlier.

1990. 13 whole years.

My sister was married to a man she had not met. She stayed in India with her new family in a northern village close to where much of my family lives. She did not have running water or electricity.

She didn’t have a lot of things, even though she gained some. I love my brother in law, there is no question about that. However, when I chose to get married almost 28 years later, in America, to an American and by my own volition, the situations seemed to beg for comparison. Which many did, although twenty eight years had passed in which my parents, circumstances, and assimilation into the culture had also changed a great deal.

But there is only so much that can be justified.

She was 16 years old.

My brother, Munna, was left in India. He did not know this was going to happen before the trip. It was once they reached India that he was given they news, not having adequately saying goodbye to his younger sister, Munni. He would not see her for another 4 years. He would not see his younger brother and best friend, Sudhu for another 12.

He had started acting up at school, as many teenagers do. He smoked (ooooh!), talked back (what?! to the gallows!) and even had a girlfriend, meaning my dad caught him kiss a girl.

He did not like it.

My father made the decision by sending Munna Bhaiya to India he would receive the right kind of discipline and education.

The rationale behind it is still a bit fuzzy, but it is what happened.

He was 14 years old. I met him for the first time when I was 5.

God, this is hard to write.

So things were kind of a blur, but going back, I always knew that it was strange that I had two brothers and sisters who were continents away from us. I guess some would call me a genius. Or just very, VERY slow.

Genius or severely blind to the truth, the intuition was apparently right.
*****************************************

One day, my mother and my sister, Moon, got into a fight. I was probably 7 years old. My mom left angry and my sister was crying. Which meant that I was crying because we had a fairly symbiotic relationship. (Also, when she cries, she does this really cute thing where her nose crinkles up a lot. The more it crinkles, the sadder she is). I, on the other hand, just ended up with a lot of boogers on my face.

She was really, REALLY sad that day.

It was 1983. I was 7 years old. Munni Didi was 19 and had been married in India the previous year at the age of 18. I went to comfort my sister and patted her on the shoulder and tried to hug her. She shrugged off my hand, which was unlike her.

Don’t worry, Didi,” I said. (Didi means older sister in Hindi) trying to speak in a soft cooing voice the way she so often did when she would comfort me. “Don’t be sad. It’s just a fight. Ma still loves you.”

She was crying so hard that her shoulders were shaking. I almost didn’t understand her when she replied.

“No she doesn’t,” she said.

“Of course she does,” I said, trying again to consolingly rub her back this time. Though I could feel her stiffness, she didn’t shrug off my arm this time. “She has to. She’s your mother.”

“No, she’s NOT.”

And though the world started to make a little more sense to me, that’s when my walls started to crumble. They never quite rebuilt on the same foundation. Not that there was much of one to begin with.

All I knew was that I wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t JUST in my head.

If you’ll bear with me it’s getting late. If you have stayed this long, thank you. It’s just too long of a story for just one post or even for just a few.

This is my family’s life.

I am not looking to place blame or even understand. There are no villains. In many ways, the circumstances everyone was plunged into were far from traditional and there were no self-help books to walk you through the situation we were in. But writing this is not about looking for fault – it is about creating some kind of closure – for me, and maybe some of my family.

There comes a point where real like doesn’t play out like the movies. It took me a while to understand that there was no good guy. No bad guy.

And all that really matters is where you go from here.

“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the thoughts seem to scatter
So I’m thinking about, forgiveness.
Forgiveness.
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”


Continue on this journey with me. I could use some friends getting through this bumpy ride.

Kiran

Dip Your Toes in the Water


I remember going to the ocean as a kid and feeling like I was home. At that moment, it didn’t matter that I was an Indian kid growing up in America who never felt quite like I fit in. It didn’t matter that I was an American who would never quite fit in on the many trips I took to India – back to the country my parents had come from.

At the beach, the ocean seemed so much larger than anything running through my little head. Because even as a kid, my mind could not just sit the hell down. And I don’t mean that in a – oh I was always just thinking about so many great ideas, in my pursuit for intellectual nirvana.

I mean it in the way that I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Looking back I recognize it for what would be a lifelong journey with insecurity that many people struggle with.

I tell myself that others feel this so I don’t feel quite so alone. (Or so crazy).

Things I think a lot of kids like me might have thought – Why don’t I look like my friends? Why does my family seem so different from everyone else’s? Why are my parents fighting, AGAIN?

You know, the normal shit most kids think about. Apparently, I was starting my lifelong questo to always ask “why?” for things I would never be able to answer, or were, in fact, quite obvious.

When I was at the beach, all of that went away. I smelled the salt water from miles away as we drove in caravans to the crowded shores of New Jersey. I didn’t know yet that the rest of the country didn’t always hold New Jersey in the highest esteem and had not yet been exposed to a lifetime of “Oh yeah? What exit?” type questions.

Yeah, so cute. And very original.

(Though I have to admit, at least you can get a geographical sense of where one lived in the often misunderstood Garden State. Let’s remember that it IS called that, either because there ARE in fact, many gardens there. Or maybe just because we all have complexes about our garden free exits).

The anticipation would course right through me as I would wait. It was a whole lot of waiting, I can remember. Waiting for my parents to meet up with our uncles and aunties in our separate cars so we could caravan to the beach. Waiting for us to haul our station wagons through the Jersey traffic to the ocean. Waiting for the drawbridge that just HAD to pick that moment to be up.

Oh god someone has to pee.

Waiting to find a bathroom. Waiting for us to find a spot where we could lay out the colorful sheets and for the aunties to start arranging the coolers full of roti and sabji. God forbid we ate any of the food from the boardwalk or bologna sandwiches like the family next to us.

In retrospect, all ok – but I don’t know. At the time, I just felt so darn strange.

And then finally, FINALLY!!, the waiting was over. I was free. The ocean was right there.

As the crispness of the wind coming off the ocean and the massaging feel of the sand soothed every inch of my being, I felt whole. The “crazy” was still there, but slightly muted in the unmitigated joy I felt, knowing that I would be running into that water in just a few minutes.

And I would remember running up to the water’s edge, surrounded by my siblings and cousins, ready to run right in.

But I would stop.

Because the ocean, no matter how much it called to me like it was exactly where I needed to be – was cold. Sometimes colder than I could handle. And I wasn’t always ready to be caught in the undertow. The few times that I had gotten caught in a wave still scared me, scared me the way I would never eat my mom’s fish curry for fear of that time I got a bone stuck in my throat.

For you see, when you are 5, these things kind of stick with you.

But no matter what – no matter how much I still could hear the thoughts in my head asking why does nobody look like me, why can’t I be like everyone else, why do I feel like my family is so broken, why am I surrounded by so much shouting all the time, why, Why, WHY?! - kind of way – I was finally home.

And as I would walk towards the small waves breaking on shore and put my little toes in while the water rushing back to the ocean pulled the ground away from under my feet, I came to realize that for me, life would always be a little of wanting to run towards what I know I couldn’t control. That I would want to be in situations where the ground was never quite stable under my feet and where it was okay if things got messy.

The loud crash of the ocean was louder than the clashing voices raised in anger at home, the tears and the heartache I seemed to know too well at the age of 5.

This was the time, MY time, where I was just a normal kid, eating a roti with bhaigan bharta at the beach.

And eventually, once my toes were in the water, I would rejoice in something bigger than me, bigger than I could comprehend and surrender to what I knew I would always have to surrender to.

Home.

Kiran

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MEET KIRAN

I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....

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