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I arrived alone to a new world to meet my husband of eight weeks, who left within a week of our wedding as his three-week vacation was over. This was twenty-six years ago, in October 1992. Rupa describes the trial and tribulations, exclusively for Different Truths.
Twenty-six years ago, in October 1992, I arrived alone to a new world to meet my husband of eight weeks, who left within a week of our wedding as his three-week vacation was over. There was no risking the job, he was on work visa.
My first international flight cost astronomical Rs 19 thousand was from my dad’s funds (that I repaid soon after). It was fascinating that the date I left on was the date I arrived on thanks to time difference (IST/EST)
My dear friend, Rani, took me to a store that sold almost new international travel large bags that cost me Rs. 600 per piece. I packed kitchen utensils; clothes; some spices; gifts, and snacks for my new life.
Mother of a girl from new family gave me a package for her daughter in US (not to be refused) had to be accommodated at the cost of mine. The consignment included Ponds face powder, video cassettes (remember?) and knick knacks replacing a new brides’ essentials for new establishment.
(“Why saying no is needed not nice?” Write up for another day! Incidentally the mother would accept no package when she travelled.)
I wore my Taaiji (paternal uncle’s wife) gifted wide silver anklets, had henna on hands up to wrists and was in Jeans/ sweater for the air-travel as flights get cool. AI flight was fairly vacant, giving me a four-seat row to lie down and sleep too. I lost one anklet likely in the seats when I was lying down, it kills me to this day because the person who gifted it had spent Rs. 500/- (when Rs. 100/- 101/- 116/- was good enough gift back in the day) and is someone who meant a lot to me. My cabin bag was a shoulder bag of 13kg, which should have been 8kg limit. No wheels to pull it and shoulder strap meant-strap dug into shoulder in use especially at Heathrow, London and the bus ride flight to terminal, the long walk through immigration; and customs all the way to meet my new husband left muscles achy.
I was happy to finally join the special one waiting for me, yet lingered a sadness to leave my loving parents, warmth of secure family, job, and home.
I walked up to the young, smiling, black immigration officer who looked at my hennaed hands and asked me what it was – I explained that I was meeting my husband after two months of wedding so this is a new-bride thing – he laughed and said – “You guys are crazy” – which is American friendly comment. In my Indian polite, naïveté I felt like a village bumpkin, making me feel low and diffident in a new country. This was my 1st interaction with an American in new land. At customs they looked at my stuff and let me go my way peacefully.
Nervousness, anxiety and weight of the big red shoulder bag with a Prestige steel pressure cooker (complete with separators, stand and snacks) made me hot. I spotted my navy blue suited husband in a tie with a single red rose in hand talking to a lady by him. I assumed she was with him for me hence he was talking and smiling only to learn she was waiting for someone else.
It felt good to be received by husband – well dressed, standing with a single red rose, a lovely welcome smile and a card to say welcome. He helped me with my bags, and navigated through the crowds to his parked blue Jeep Cherokee which gave us great times and memories, was loved by us till a stone hit and totaled it during a ski trip with my friend of three decades that I lost to cancer.
Husband held my hand while driving with his solo free hand – and drove well too. His beautiful bass voice, laughter, warmth, smile felt good, though I was exhausted. One hour drive from JFK to other side of George Washington Bridge and 1st exit brought us to a wooded green complex with apartments and there we were at our marital studio apartment in corner with windows in 2 directions giving it ample light and illusion of more space than there really was.
Clean, airy, well-lit space with charming futon turned into sofa looked inviting and warm. There was view from the window of oak tree, a fat healthy squirrel was scurrying looked pretty-specially coming from India I was used to skinny squirrels with three lines on the back-unlike plain fatter squirrels.
Moving into a small space shared with another being was new but took me no time to settle in, starting with moving my clothes into drawer offered when he shifted his clothes to make me space which he lamented because I did shrink his space with my belongings.
We ate mathri with homemade mango pickle from a dear friend Piyush’s mother for breakfast. I forget meals that followed but I recall napping in afternoon due to jet lag and woke up to his closing door to go out, leaving a note behind-that read-just stepped out for 15 minutes but was not back for three hours. It saddened me but I was neither a doubter nor questioner.
I was amazed to find night malls and office buildings brightly lit! In India, I recalled that we cared electricity being wasted and the huge bills to pay. Things have changed in India over years and consumerism mimics western world choices.
We went to Central Park to see the Marathoners and crisp October cool breeze made me shiver in open Park teeming with Marathoners in silver wraps given to warm up! I was yet not used to the fall coolness coming from warmer zone.
My encounter with a homeless at a junction who spoke clear English left me puzzled- how a beggar (homeless) spoke in language of the “educated”! In India beggars typically did not speak English, only to be told – I was in English speaking world.
In days to follow I would love taking long walks around the complex at first and then slowly venturing out farther for hours where I learnt about local vegetation , flowers, plants in a local nursery. I walked on to the whizzing traffic on Route 4 – where if I was killed, I would be solely responsible. I was lucky I was not run down by a motorist –I may have caused an auto-accident and lives in my ignorance.
Buying Coriander bunch or Curry leaves packet with a few reams for a $1 shocked me because I would convert into rupees, having seen haggling with the vegetable vendor for free chilies, coriander after buying whole lot of vegetable and fruits. Vendors there knew this tradition and had built-in prices for such shoppers. In retrospect it feels sad that we haggled at all with these small timers. Now, I find it uncomfortable to haggle, not tip, talk loud to anyone serving and even watching it happen pains me.
In 26 years, we are joined by our twins and we moved to a larger space in a new town, we as a couple are older and working through our evolution. No one can take away the memories of the first drive in Blue Jeep Cherokee from JFK to NJ with my two-month husband’s warm hand stroking the palm of my hand releasing warmth of all kinds that’s indelible.
Photos from the author and the Internet
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