Stand Up And Be Counted

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I lie in a carb induced stupor, an aftereffect of the Onam Sadya at my brother’s home. The ambient light makes it impossible for me to pin down a time. All I know is that I have been napping a tad too long. My children have been watching TV a tad too long. I struggle to wake, to find a way to drag myself out of this heaviness that is keeping me down. In one superhuman push, I am up and dragging myself to the bathroom where the water from the tap, cold and sharp, cuts through layers of fog and delivers me to the land of the living.

I watch my children dunk Marie biscuits into the abominable concoction they insist on calling coffee or kaapi like I do.

“Will you stand up if someone powerful is bullying someone weak in your class?” I ask, the question mostly rhetorical. Pattu mumbles something about being shy. Ammu furrows her brows and stays silent for a long while. Her answer when it comes surprises me.

“What if I get hurt?”

I tell her I would stand up too knowing I might get hurt. The conversation ends abruptly when our cups are drained of coffee and air around the kitchen a little too stuffy. Run off and play I tell them, following my rather liberal permission with a series of things not to do when on the road. They nod, barely hearing me. I follow them out reassured when they do not pull out their bikes but haul the case of driveway chalk instead.

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I retire to my study, the thoughts from my sleep induced fog haunting me.

Since yesterday, I have been thinking of those who volunteered information to the government pinning their hopes on the integrity of the men and women who run this country to protect them. I am talking of the DREAMers, the children seeking protection under DACA. They may no longer be children but these are people who reached this country not out of their free will but because their parents brought them here. This is a particularly sensitive thing for me ever since I adopted my children. I have spent sleepless nights wondering how the lives of my daughters were dictated not by what they wanted but by adults who trust and believe they are doing the right thing by their children.

The responsibility of the parents who brought their family in knowing they could be deported, knowing they will always live in the shadows is heavy. To think this is better than the life they left behind is haunting. As for the children, this is the only home they know. They have built lives here, gotten an education, work jobs, serve the country. Only those who do all or most of this are eligible for DACA.

We stand at this point in history when the lives of so many innocents hang in the balance. We have a body of privileged people headed by someone so driven by hate, deciding their fate.

I go back to my initial years in the country on a legal, valid visa. I remember the trepidation each time I left this country and re-entered. The stiffness in my body, the adrenaline rush, the laser focus on what the officer behind the immigration counter was saying to me. The worry about not being able to understand the accent. The customs paper often marked with a cross indicating a secondary inspection was needed. Watching other Asian faces like mine, tired after a long haul flight, gaunt and hinging on each word spoken by the customs officer. I remember the relief each time I walked out of the airport. I remember the days in between the visa and permanent residency. The paper thin advance parole that looked nothing like the thick paper visa in my passport. The jittery nerves wondering if I would be let into the country that now housed most of my family.

I have no clue what DREAMers and those living undocumented lives go through. I can approximate a guess. I wonder if people in cozy living rooms watching TV are thinking of these children. I wonder how many will stand up and let their voice be heard. I wonder if we will have enough of us take a stand and be counted.

I wonder how much more this nation can take. It’s people standing mute, watching a hate filled, spite driven person drive everything off the edge. A minority dictating while people dither on whether they should stand up. Perhaps they are shy. Perhaps they are worried that they will be hurt. Perhaps they are not paying attention at all. Perhaps they can’t relate to the hopes, the dreams of the millions that wash up on these shores each day.

All I can say is, I will stand up. I will be counted. I hope you will too.

4 comments

  1. Reading this made words of a great uncle who is no more ring in my ears. He was one who left the shores of India in those times when it was taboo for a Brahmin to fly. His destination was Pittsburg. After a long time he came back. His son the same just that he went to Delaware, had his family there, travelled the world and is now in India. When asked why they did come back here? Backward country at that ( this was way back when we were in college). Great uncle responded that even if he were on the streets here, he belonged and everywhere else he was still an alien, second hand citizen. I argued saying that was not true and how he would have rights as a citizen there etc etc. All he did was smile at my naïveté- him & his son who is in his early sixties now.
    I know a long response without really a point I guess. Just something that has been hitting me with reading on what’s happening all around.

    • True Apar. Just the knowledge that we belong is sometimes overwhelming. I felt it last time when everyone around from auto drivers to shopkeepers remembered appa.

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