What was your first day in the US like?
A huge cultural shock, for me, I had never seen snow, when I first landed in Chicago Papa had come with a huge bouquet of roses for me, and I saw snow for the first time. Grandma had made dinner for us when we reached Ann Arbor, and I couldn’t sleep all night. I didn’t know where I was, I’ll never forget that day. It was like, I didn't know where to start, it was very very strange. Papa and grandma were trying to make me very comfortable, grandma taught me how to use the vacuum cleaner and the washing machine. I also cooked the first day. I made daal and aloos. I got dressed up in the morning in my salwar kameez, but Papa said “people over here don’t roam around in these clothes” so Grandma had bought me Western clothes which I wore.
What were your first impressions of America?
It felt very different from India, coming from such maddening crowds to a place where there was no one around. I asked Papa, ‘do people live over here,’ but he said, ‘we do have neighbors, but no one really comes out right now during the bad weather.’ But in India there’s so much hustle bustle.
Did you feel homesick when you first came?
Oh yes. I could not drive, I could not commute. There was no public transportation in AA, I felt homebound, but Grandma used to take me in the Ride busses sometimes. But I forced myself to learn how to drive. You can’t imagine the hardships I went through. I couldn’t go to a nearby market to buy groceries, I had to wait for Papa to come back from work to buy basic groceries. Like in India we were so used to walking and buying to get what we needed, or the vendors coming to the house, but here we had to go physically in a car, couldn’t walk there. So that was a big, big obstacle. Didn’t know anybody, had no friends, no one to talk to, no emails. No phone calls, the phone calls used to cost $100/phone calls from AT&T, so we used to really ration those.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.