May 23, 2004

First few months in United States...

Compared to all those I know, I am fairly young. Sometimes that makes me think that I do not know much about life and have a lot to learn. No matter how old I get or how much I experience the world there will always be space to absorb more. Usually at my age people do not get to experience different colors of the world. I am sure if I had still been in India, the nation where I was born and lived for fourteen beautiful years, I would have been nothing like what I am today. After moving to the United States I have not only changed in appearance but also have become more mature.

Originally I am from New Delhi, India. New Delhi was the only city in India where I had ever lived. St. Xavier’s was the only school that I ever attended and Kanika Saboo had been my best friend since the first day of school. There are so many events and usual days that I still remember from my past that still make me smile.

Kanika and I used to play together all the time. She taught me how to tie shoelaces and how to play badminton. I always corrected her if she mispronounced a word. The one thing that we were the best at was bicycling. Whenever I was at her house and we had lunch or dinner together, both of us ate from the same plate. Kanika was my very first friend who understood me well and whom I understood the same way.

Later came Srishti, whom I called Chhichhi. She was a sweet and innocent girl. After talking to her for I while people got the impression she did not know much about the world, which made her even cuter. We used to dance and sing together, specially on Shahrukh Khan songs. I teased her all the time, often making her cry. Although, both of us had fun, I could never take her tears. So, I always ended up saying sorry, cracking a few jokes and finally making her smile. After accomplishing my task of making Srishti happy, I went back to teasing her. Oh! I miss those great days.

The only best guy friend I have so far is Aditya Singh. We first met in sixth grade. At the beginning we did not know each other at all, but soon we ended up playing, fighting and splashing water at each other. While in India, almost everybody in our class had an impression that Aditya was a type of person who did not care about others. His actions said that. He did not always get A’s on tests, but as time passed he became more inclined towards his goal of becoming a cardiac surgeon. Now, he is doing great in studies and also has won a number of hearts.

I was living a beautiful life in India. There was nothing else that I needed to make my life better. Although, America is said to be the land of opportunity, the news of moving her flipped my world upside down. I suppose I should have been really excited but both, my brother and I, did not want to leave India. I did not protest about it and simply came here. America, which turned out to be the land of misery, changed me. I never knew change could be so hard to get used to. I knew the language, so that was not the problem at all. It is just that I was not ready and that people were not as friendly as I thought they would be.

I still remember the first day of school. It was August 13, 2001, I was wearing khaki’s with girlish designs on the side of the pants and a green top with my black and white sports shoes. My hair were really, really short and I was wearing the same earrings that I am wearing today. A school bus came in and the students sitting at the back saw me and started laughing. I looked at the scene and could not make out what was happening. Then I walked towards my class, which was trailer 31, Ms. Durden’s English-I class. As I entered the room I saw students sitting, standing and talking. I shifted my eyes to the board, looked for my name and went at the back to sit on my assigned seat. I sat there, with my right hand on the table and the left hand on top of it. My eyes went from one person to another, observing what was happening. The bell rang and everybody took their seats. The announcements came on and everybody, including me, stood up to say the pledge of allegiance. I did not know the words, so I just listened to what everybody else said with my right hand on the left side of my chest.

Days went by and I started getting used to the accent, understanding what the words coming out of someone’s mouth meant. I did not know a single person, so my only goal was to make friends. Although I tried my best, everybody looked occupied. It seemed as if there was no more space for another person. I looked for some Indians to become friends with, thinking that they would love to have a friend who is new. So, I always smiled whenever I saw an Indian face, never getting a smile in return. In the past I never found a reason to cry, but now I often found tears coming out of my eyes, the reason being loneliness. During lunch, I sat at a table all alone, eating whatever I had in my lunch bag. A number of times, while eating, I faded out in my dreams often making my eyes watery and lips smile. To wipe away my tears, I looked down and pretended that something went into my eye.

One day I met Iqra Khan during lunch. As always I was sitting on an empty table. She came and sat in front of me, introduced herself and asked me the usual questions – what is your name, where are you from, where do you live, etc. etc. Well, the day I talked to her, I felt at least there is someone in this world who cares. She invited me to sit with her friends and herself during lunch. At last I had someone with whom I could sit and talk. We did not talk much in the beginning, but as time has gone by we have become good friends. I hate her at times, but that is what friends often do. Iqra was the very first person, in the United States, who made me feel that I did exist and that people did notice me.

Now, after more than two years of living in the United States I can say that life is not always what we think it is. I have stopped taking life for granted. No one knows what is going to happen the next second, so how can I think that I will be fine where ever I go. One thing that I do is – always smile. Trying to make the stranger, the new comer, or a shy person more comfortable. I have learned that life is all about giving, who cares if I get anything in return or not. If I do get something then it would be great, but if not then that is not a problem either, because I would not be taking anything with me when I die. I came with absolutely nothing in my hands and will definitely go empty handed. All that I can give and get from the people is a little happiness and a few smiles.