Islands

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It is just near sunset. The sky is a vibrant orange and purple. I bite into a slice of watermelon I have in my hand, staring out into the yard. The windows are open and there is a delicious chill in the air. It occurs to me that it is fall already. In some convoluted way it reminds me of mangoes and the end of summer in India.

I turn my attention back to the dishwasher while Saathi herds the girls upstairs and tucks them in. Changing seasons are a time for reflection. Certain moments from our recent India trip come to the fore. The familiarity that comes from having lived in one place for many years. The connection that comes from sharing history. The poignancy brought on by neighbors who were reminded of Appa by me.

Something from a recent conversation with a friend bubbles up to the top. Paraphrasing her “There is something about the way our neighbors chat and mingle with each other that makes me envious. I am not that comfortable and there is this reserve that holds me back…”

I look around, taking in the place that is now home, of which I have been a resident for over fifteen years and a proud citizen of over six years. I try and imagine my children growing up, sprouting wings and flying far away. What is it that they will take with them? Our connections here are meagre, our circle of friends close knit and small. Family is spread through the country. I imagine their peers moving away only to come back to the history that binds them here. The connections they have over generations to the place, to people, to memories.

As first generation immigrants, our children tread a path we have not been on. They live a life that is a mashup of their parent’s heritage and imbibed culture. My children in specific will not know tailgates, concerts or little league. They will bumble through their adolescence figuring out social mores by themselves. They will build their own cliques and hopefully be better adjusted as adults.

I try and paint a picture of the average American family and realize my images are cobbled together from stereotypes generated by movies and sitcoms. The word I am looking for here is intimidating. There is something intimidating about crossing invisible barriers. About bridging gaps and cultures. About raising children in a place where the ropes that keep us moored are fragile.

I set aside these disconcerting thoughts and turn my attention to social media. I hear a clamor of voices shouting to be heard. I hear the marginalized speak up and own their presence. I realize behind each handle is a person who does not meet the stereotype I have in my head. Amid the trolls and overwhelming noise is a steady drumbeat that is straining to be heard and acknowledged.

In the midst of politically correct media pieces, I hear voices that speak the truth. They speak of the privilege that causes people like Brock Turner to walk away. They speak of inconvenient truths and shine a spotlight on the sexism inherent in most public interactions. They call out on rampant coercion in the name of adoption. They call out whitewashing of movies based on books featuring non white protagonists. They call out the difference with which our media treats Gabby Williams and Ryan Lochte. They are politically incorrect, speaking with an irreverence that makes me glad.

I feel a sense of contentment wash over me. My children may at some point crave the mainstream experience. They will wonder about alternate lives and universes. They may perhaps embrace their differences with pride. They may at times shun their heritage.

They may be islands in the mainstream that is America, but they will build bridges and tunnels and be connected in a way I will never be. They will have their tribe behind them.

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