Monday, July 04, 2016

On the Fourth of July

My parents, in 1957
(A re-post, slightly modified)

Right from when I was a kid—a long time ago in India—I was familiar with the importance of the Fourth of July in the United States because of a family connection: My parents lost their freedom (ha ha) when they got married on the very day that Americans celebrate their independence day.

So, yes, anniversary greetings to my parents.

I left the old country behind years ago.  After gaining American citizenship, the Fourth of July is, of course, way too special for me.

Perhaps it is a typical immigrant emotion after all when I think that my adopted country is special because I consciously weighed the alternatives and worked to come to America. The American citizenship was not a result of an accident of being born here.  It was not an ovarian lottery that I won.

Immigrating to America or any other country is so easy now unlike a few generations ago when most of the world’s population stayed at, or close to, the places where they were born and raised.  We humans are now seemingly on the move all the time. We move from one region to another within a country, and migrate across international borders, to strange places where they might speak strange languages and eat strange foods.  The surroundings.are alien to us. As a student remarked last term, it is amazing that humans give up everything known and familiar and go somewhere far away.  Yet, we move.  Because, moving is better than staying put.

In our family, many, many decades ago, my grandfather too had an opportunity to move away, when he was offered a job in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) because of his valued metallurgy qualifications from a reputed Indian university.

If grandfather had sailed on that ship, my family’s history would have taken a different turn.  I might not even be blogging this for you to read.

However, he was compelled to reject that offer and stay back in India.

My grandmother and great-aunt always got excited to narrate this story.  Grandfather had no choice but to reject the offer.  Not because the job did not pay enough--the offer was apparently a phenomenal one. But, his mother, who was deeply rooted in the traditions, threatened to commit suicide if he went too far away from her!

The distance was not all that much either.  Grandfather's hometown, Sengottai, and Ceylon’s capital city, Colombo, are not even 250 miles apart. But, it was 250 miles in the days before telephone and planes and emails!  Grandfather's mother had justifiable reasons to worry.  He then ended up taking a job that was relatively close by.  A job for which he was tremendously overqualified.  A dutiful family man he was.

In contrast to that, a few decades later, I traveled half-way around the world, in order to be here in the US.  20,000 kilometers!

America has been home since the day I landed in Los Angeles, and more northward migration since then.  To quote from the musical, West Side Story, “I like to be in America, okay by me in America.”


At Skinner Butte

4 comments:

Anne in Salem said...

This American is glad you made the journey. Happy 4th.

Sriram Khé said...

;)

Ramesh said...

This Indian is also glad that you made the journey and have arrived at where you want to be.

Yes, people are on the move a lot more now than before. Wanderlust has always been a strong human trait. Perhaps the instinct for survival kindles the yearning for greener pastures.

Even in ancient history humankind has had amazing migrations. Only the time scales today are massively compressed.

I though you didn't care for "independence days" and such shows of nationalism.

Sriram Khé said...

You are correct--I am not much for "patriotic" displays ... the photo with the flag is less about the flag itself and more about the awesome spring day it was, with the blue sky and white clouds.