Over the years, a number of new experiences have made me a better person. While it is impossible to prove any counterfactual of what might have been the case had I never left India, I have plenty of evidence that coming to America has been wonderfully enriching.
And by enriching I am not referring to the mere dollars. Nope. Not even a penny of it.
Take the event of today, for instance. It is the Chinese new year. The pappu face me had no idea about the Chinese new year.
When I was a mustachioed undergraduate student, Chinese new year did not feature in my cultural awareness in any manner. For that matter, neither did many others, like Hanukkah. After all, there was no real world context to create that awareness.
My world suddenly became HUGE the moment I came to America. All of a sudden, I was in a mixed company of people from backgrounds that were all new. My bearded face began to appreciate the adage that travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse. (Ahem, did you catch my arrogance there--I was pretending that I was wise to begin with!)
A Jewish male fellow student, who was from Canada, was the first one to tell me about the significance of Hanukkah. A female classmate, who was from Taiwan, invited me to the party that she was hosting to celebrate the Chinese new year. And more. I started getting wiser.
After graduate school, when I was working in California, our office secretary invited us to join them for the Chinese new year feast. Ginny and her husband, Citron, were Chinese-Americans, and only a few years younger than my parents. Of course, I could barely eat anything in the multi-course dinner at their gathering.
Anne, the wife of a Jewish friend back in California, was from Hong Kong. She taught me to say happy new year in Cantonese. And laughed every time I mispronounced it.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!