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Why an Indian girl chose to become an American woman

Discussion in 'Internal Affairs' started by sangos, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Abhinanda Bhattacharyya (Courtesy the author)
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    WRITTEN BY

    Abhinanda Bhattacharyya
    March 01, 2018Quartz India


    I was born in India. What can I say about India that hasn’t already been said about this big, beautiful country, where the culture and history run so deep that the people there have been killing each other for centuries and centuries? India is the most interesting, smelly, soulful melting pot of too many things and too many people I have ever seen. And the food is so good, the people so kind.

    But India failed women and India failed me.

    When I moved to the United States on a scholarship to go to Bard College in upstate New York in August 2009, I still had my high school hair (bangs) and my high school boyfriend. I did not know anything about AMERICA. When I arrived at JFK, I was alarmed and traumatized to learn that you had to “rent” the luggage carts for US$5. At the time, this converted to about 250 Indian rupees, and luggage carts were always free at Indian airports. How But India failed women and India failed me. was I going to earn 250 rupees back for my parents? My parents had saved up for years so that my brother and I could pursue this life, and I couldn’t even drag two suitcases around on my own. I felt guilty as well as poor.

    When I arrived at Bard later that same week, I found myself confused about whether I was under-dressed or over-dressed. Hipsters were trending that year, and I looked around the campus and thought to myself, “they must all be here on scholarship.”

    In my first class at Bard, First Year Seminar, or FYSEM, we talked about Hegel. I had not done any of the reading, because I had started to and then didn’t understand a word of what Hegel was trying to say. All I could think, as my peers used big words to discuss and refute Hegel’s ideas, was Hegel rhymes with Kegel. It was going to be a long four years.

    In the years following my not learning anything about Hegel in FYSEM, many things changed for me. I studied math and also became a convincing BS-er. Every semester I signed up for as many classes as I could fit in my schedule. I learned how to sit at a big round table and say things in a way that made it seem like I knew what I was talking about, and soon enough I was able to make a convincing argument about pretty much anything. I also learned how to drink irresponsibly and still live to experience the hangover the next day. In other words, I became college educated.

    What changed the most for me, though, was how I thought about my own country. I was about eight thousand miles away from my parents, from the house that they had moved to in Mumbai that had never felt like home. Every time I flew back in college—a total of three times—I started to feel more and more isolated from my country. I felt anxious when I flew in that direction, and relieved when I flew back. When I made it past the mean but mostly bored Customs and Border Protection employees at JFK, I breathed. I felt free.

    The last time I flew back to India, almost six years ago now, I was a senior in college, about to graduate. When I stepped out of Mumbai’s international airport, into the humid but cool “winter” air, my father did not recognize me. My mother would later joke but not joke that my father had pointed at every young woman walking out of the arrivals area, except me, and enthusiastically exclaimed, “there she is!”

    When I sat in my parents’ shiny new Honda that they were so proud of, they asked me about my flight, and then asked me if I was ready to get married. They were joking, but I told them no, I was not.

    Then what was my plan? they wanted to know. I was about to graduate from college, what was next? How was I going to survive? I’ll be fine, I said, you watch. I didn’t know that I was going to be fine, but found myself saying so in a small voice anyway. They relented, I relented.

    I looked out of the window, onto the familiar streets of the city I was born in, a city I once loved.

    I spent much of that winter break in my parents’ apartment, in the bedroom that was only mine when I was there. I volunteered with Teach for India during the day, but spent the evenings in my room. My parents didn’t allow me to leave the house alone after dark, because India was not safe for women, and I didn’t know my way around the city. Sexual assault and violence against women was a well-known fact in India, and it was about to become a world-famous fact too. I wondered what it would be like if I ended up having to move back.

    I felt oppressed. Not by my parents, but by the weight of being a female in a country that didn’t know what to do with its women. I wondered what it would be like if I ended up having to move back. But if I had to, I would be able to do it, I told myself. India wasn’t made for women, so what, I had to live, right?

    On Dec. 16, 2012, a girl who became known as Nirbhaya, meaning “fearless,” was gang-raped, tortured and beaten by six men on a bus in South Delhi. She was twenty-three years old, a physiotherapy intern, and was coming home from watching a movie with her friend on the night of her assault. I watched with the rest of the country, and soon enough the rest of the world, as the gruesome details of the incident unraveled. When Nirbhaya died a few days later in a hospital in Singapore, we were all stunned into silence, but only for a minute. Then there was anger, and grief, and protests. People took to the streets across the country and asked the bigger questions—how could we live in a place where the circumstances allowed something like this to happen? How could this happen? How could men do this to women?

    Then there were the anti-protesters, the ones who blame women, the ones who think nothing is wrong. That’s a lot of people in India, and the world, unfortunately. I guess this is what happens when a country is shaken like this, we become polarized. But, at least we see each other.

    My departure day for the United States was fast approaching. I counted down the days, because my anguish had turned into sickness and anger. I hated India. Nibhaya’s death represented something bigger, for me and the rest of the country. I grew up accepting that I would have to adjust my lifestyle around men, their advances, their violence. It happened every day in India. Women were brutally raped, assaulted and killed on a daily basis, sometimes in cities, many times in remote, isolated villages and towns. Those incidents, we would never find out about.

    The police and government participated and enabled. It was terrible, but no one wanted to become a statistic. So we went on.

    After Nirbhaya’s death, there was a public outcry for change. And there was, in fact, some change. The maximum punishment for rape became the death penalty, instead of life imprisonment. The leaders acknowledged that the government and the police had failed. Some of the things we already knew were spoken out loud. This was hardly compensation, but it was something, a dialogue, at least. Finally.

    But, the issue with systemic oppression and cultural bias is that change is not enough. You have to un-do the damage already done. You have to look inwards, and ask the harder questions. What were the messages Bollywood had been teaching us for decades? What had our history taught us about men, and women? What were our own biases?

    Driving to the airport in Mumbai in January of 2013, I decided not to come back. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. Immigration, especially for Indians in the US was an uphill journey. Every year thousands of Indians, and other immigrants returned to their home countries who did not want to return.

    But I was going to find a way. If not the United States, somewhere else. I could never again live in a country where, to some, to many, I was less than a human.

    My resolve to stay out of India ruined my psychological well-being for a few years, as these things go. I would not go back. But now, instead of being up against potentially violent Indian men, I was up against the United States Customs and Immigration Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

    After graduating from Bard later that year, I went on to work at a private boarding school in a small city in New England as a high school math teaching fellow. The program was a two-year fellowship, through which I earned a master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. My coworkers were smart and kind, my students bearable on most days, and the opportunity almost too good to be true. The school worked with me to extend my visa, and I was grateful, as this meant that I was not buying that one-way ticket to Mumbai. Yet.

    But I was unhappy. The truth was that I had accepted this job because it kept me out of India, not because I wanted to teach. When it came time to apply for jobs the fall of my second year, I applied for teaching jobs again, because this just made sense. On interviews, the people on the other end of the phone asked me why I wanted to teach. I told them about that time that student who hated math discovered that she loved math in my class, or how I enjoyed teaching my students about Graph Theory in a Geometry class, and how teaching math had taught me to look at math differently. I became pretty good at my “why I want to teach” speech.

    But I didn’t want to teach. I just wanted to stay the hell out of India.

    I eventually accepted a job teaching high school math at a private school in Minneapolis. When I flew into Minneapolis for the interview, it was early February. I had never been that cold in my life, but looking around the city, the lakes, the tall, bundled-up people, I thought, “sure. Why not?”

    The school in Minneapolis invested thousands of dollars into hiring lawyers who put my packet for the H-1B visa together. The H-1B is a work visa that American companies apply for every year to hire foreign talent. The applications go through a lottery, and every year 65,000 applications are accepted for review.

    In 2015, the year that my application was sent in, USCIS received 172,500 applications for the 65,000 slots. Mine, of course, didn’t make it through the lottery. I suppose sometimes the universe steps in.

    The day I received the news, I went to my long block class in the afternoon and taught something about vectors, maybe.

    I had applied to graduate programs in computer science on the side, being the type of person who covers her bases. I was not a good candidate, since I hadn’t studied computer science as an undergraduate. I had written a small program in Java for my senior math project at Bard, and knew a thing or two about web development. I wouldn’t have accepted me.

    The only school I was accepted to in the end was the University of Southern California. It was the only way I would be able to stay in America, so I moved to California.

    The master’s program at USC was my biggest failure to date. The program had been marketed toward people who didn’t have a background in computer science—me. When I arrived on campus, I found myself surrounded by mostly Indian and Chinese people who had studied computer science or worked in technology for years. I knew why they were there; it was the same reason I was there. I passed my classes, but barely, even though I studied every day, all day. This had never happened to me before. A couple months into working for my boss John at my campus job, I quit, holding back tears of shame. I would have to drop out and go back to India. I had failed in my own mission. That fall, the only thing I looked forward to was the moment I could fall asleep every night.

    In the meantime, the US Army had opened up a program enabling non-US citizens and non-permanent residents to naturalize through the Army.

    I joined the United States Army at 23, feeling that I was out of options. It was the toughest decision of my life, but I made it overnight, me on this side of the world, my family on the other side, all of us apprehensive, but somehow sure. I enlisted in the Army Reserves in November 2015. I dropped out of USC in December.

    A few months later, having completed basic training, I swore in as an American citizen in the uniform of my newly adopted country’s army, in front of a couple thousand soldiers and civilians. I wondered what lay ahead of me. New struggles, probably. Better struggles, in my mind. Struggles I could handle. I’m an American now. But America has problems too.

    I’m an American now. But America has problems too. I worry for people of color, for women, for people in the LGBTQ community, for people who find themselves in the line of fire of a psychopath’s gun on a Sunday night at a concert, or at a church, or at a club, or on the street. I worry for people who have been systemically oppressed, people who are up against forces greater than them. I know what this is like.

    But, if I need to leave my house at 3 in the morning to drive to drill 100 miles away, I do. When I am out late at night, I don’t worry too much about coming home alone. I forget to text my mother sometimes that I am okay, but when I forget, she forgives me, because I live here, and not there.

    I have not returned to India since the winter of Nirbhaya’s death. I will go back someday soon, so I can see my parents and my four-foot-11-inch-tall grandmother. But I will be coming back, to where I can breathe. Even if it’s just LA’s dry, dusty, smoggy air.

    https://qz.com/1218598/why-an-indian-girl-chose-to-become-an-american-woman/
     
  2. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Well first off I wish this 'murican woman' all the best living in the sole superpower of rapes and assaults on women. The US holds the inglorious world title...surprise besting india.( oh they give the BS that not all cases are reported here...consider that our population is 6 times more). Guess what LA is one of the worst offenders....and the US army sexual offences; lets not even go there!!! Btw this 'quartz' site is a serial basher of our country. I suspect its owned by one of those 'NRIs' with a chip on the shoulder na ghat ka na ghar....
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
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  3. Angel Eyes

    Angel Eyes 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    Well the people like her who lacks common sense are not worth wasting time...Happy living in America...
     
  4. TSUNAMI

    TSUNAMI Captain SENIOR MEMBER

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    Bullshit
     
  5. shaileshmd

    shaileshmd IDF NewBie

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  6. shaileshmd

    shaileshmd IDF NewBie

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    Dear Abhinanda, I have earned the rights to call you dear as you are MY DAUGHTER's age.
    I just came back from India after 6 years hiatus. I am a US citizen and living in the USA for 40 plus years.
    I was disappointed with your thought process.
    India's strength is its diversity, religion, culture and the freedom of practicing what you believe in. You are young, idealistic and unable to see what I have seen and experienced over 40 years of US living.
    As a physician, I entered the USA legally in 1976. Even when I did not have a job, the Green card was handed to me in less than 20 minutes!
    I went through a demanding and a shocking experience of unemployment for 8 months. Ultimately, I did find an internship.
    You have not experienced discrimination in the USA yet. I wish I could bring you to my training years. Working as many as 110 hours/week was my life for first 3 years. It was not uncommon to work 36 hours straight without blinking the ' eye" for a 5-minute rest. The male and the female residents did not have a separate room for changing or a DEDICATED bathroom!We, the foreign medical graduates got treated worst than the drug addicted patients.
    When my colleagues and I complained, I was threatened with an expulsion.
    Moving fast forward, I am a successful healthcare provider. Compared to India, I have done very well. My dad was a Gandhian and a Pediatrician. His values are still hard to match.
    My recent trip to India was full of hope with some discomfort. I went to Kanpur, UP. It has remained unchanged over 40 years. same dirt, filth and lack of civic sense continue to paralyze this metropolis. The rich continue to get richer and the poor sell their votes for meager money.
    I also visited Mumbai, Delhi, Vadodara and several other places. I saw the young and the old full of energy and enthusiasm. There was a sense of pride, doing something special, exploring and getting ahead. The positives were noticeable across most of the places. India is a country with 1.2 billion people, a relatively smaller land mass than the USA with about 330 million population. The USA has massive energy reserve, established the industrial base, technology centers, and world's elite immigrants contributing to its brain power. The USA has gained so much because of the brain drain from the other countries, technology transfer from the German engineers after the second world war and massive natural wealth.
    India, on the other hand, has a " soul".
    My eyes were filled with joy and pride to see my motherland, my city of birth, my high school and the young children enthusiastically learning foreign languages.
    India's problems of population, poverty, and infighting are difficult and rather complex. Please remember in the 12 the century, India contributed 22% of the world GDP. If it was not for India, a definition of ZERO would not have happened! It was India who was using Algebra in the 16th century when the world still was struggling with the basics of languages.
    You have yet to see the many positives and the negatives in the USA. You could be denied an admission to Harvard because you are an Asian Indian.
    My wife was openly told she will not get the job because she was not of a particular faith.She has MS in Chemistry and was a National Scholar.
    I have seen my own patient's accepting a substandard medical care from a local physician because he is white.
    And what country in the world loves and lives by Gun culture? The friendly and not so friendly western nations are flabbergasted by the gunslinger mentality pervasive in the USA.
    I am sure you are going to be amazed and thrilled to experience the freedom of speech, transportation, material goods availability, utilities and freedom to express what you love.
    Be aware of a cliche," the cat hides its filth by covering with the dirt".
    India has given you relatively cheap education, culture, traditions and respect for all things living. If it was not for India, this world would have been wiped out many times over. Caring for others is in your genes. You will be successful, I have no doubt. You will remember your roots, your school, birthplace, the teachers who taught you Vandemataram and Ahinsa permo Dharma!
    I was like you many moons ago. I realize, how wrong I was.
     
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  7. Śakra

    Śakra FULL MEMBER

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    Stupid B***h took 1 incident and judges a whole country over it. Look at America with their daily school shooting and rampant rape on campuses. We don’t need junk-quality people like her.
     

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