What brought you to the United States?
I came to the United States in the early 90’s after my marriage in India. My husband wanted to complete his Masters in the US so I followed him along to start and settle into a new life here.
What were your first impressions of the country?
My first ever experience in a long-haul flight was coming to the United States. Everything was really exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when most part of my life I have grown up in a small town called Trichy(Tamil Nadu), India. America was so beautiful and “big” as my eyes had just opened up to a new world
How hard was it to adjust life in the U.S compared to the time you’ve been staying in India?
I moved here as a newly-married couple with my husband, therefore there were huge expectations on us by family as we were establishing ourselves for the first time on our own. However the reality was very different. My husband was settling down in his job and career, and it used to be “long days” for me as he had just started. We first moved into a small and contained apartment on the fourth floor and life just felt different. In India, I used to be a busy performer in Carnatic dancing, performing at least 50-60 performances each year. Nobody knew me here, and I struggled practicing on the fourth floor of my house, with neighbors who found it disturbing and annoying. I was not a good cook either and had to adjust here myself in a 500-600 ft studio apartment whereas I grew up in a huge house back in India. I do have to say, my husband was an extremely hard-working person as he was establishing a career here. I wanted to support him and found different ways to be creative and remain active in this country.
How were the initial beginning moments and days spent for you in the U.S?
Indians weren’t as prevalent around my community at the time I arrived here and because the art (dance) I pursued was more relatable to only Indian audiences it was a hard time to kick start things. I began to see if I could get a hold on starting some classes or giving performances myself. I was trying to get a foothold for myself in this new alien country. Raising awareness had its own challenges with limited space in my apartment to teach and find people of the same interests. We found an “ashram” (religious home) in Pennsylvania where we were able to perform for many fundraising shows. Temples in D.C, Maryland, and California gave me many opportunities to perform dance shows. Celebrating Indian festivals and occasions along with my dance performances helped us to stay connected with our roots and culture. My performances increased slowly in various community events with every passing year and it helped me to grow and keep my art alive.
Was food a big adjustment you had to make?
Indian grocery outlets were very few back in the days. My limited cooking expertise and my love to experiment new types of food made it interesting for us. My husband and I weren’t the most pickiest eaters in the world, which made it a lot easier to adjust into this lifestyle.
What did you do on your first day? Where did you go? What did you eat? Where did you stay?
The first day, the whole apartment was filled with my things, books, thesis papers. We hopped around the house for a few days till we could clean it up, making it an interesting start, from what I had imagined it would have been.
What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in your opinion, as you adjusted into life here?
The hardest challenge for me was my inability to use my talents, skills and resources in the quickest possible way. Communication was a challenge as I remember writing multiple application letters manually and personally mailing them. I couldn’t drive in the initial days and it made it harder for me to put myself out there and showcase my skills.
Reflections...anything you’d like to share? Advice?
I feel these days people are very smart and the people coming in from around the world know more about the U.S than we do primarily because of the resources available in hand. We are more connected globally, so anyone would have a better idea of what’s happening, but one important thing to keep in mind is that from the outside it may seem beautiful and easy to conquer, but to get something going here you need to work a lot and put in your best efforts. Focus is just as important as anything. With a country offering so many things for every individual, it’s easy to get distracted, so you constantly need to reevaluate your goals and be at it.