I am not your Idol
You consider me as your Idol; you have always asked me what I wanted in life. You do it before every birthday of mine. During those times I used to think that I have everything in life and hence I always replied,” it’s fine son”. But today I am writing this letter to tell you that I was wrong. Today the time has come to tell you everything which I had been hiding from you all these years.
First of all, if you think that I am happy in U.S then you are wrong. I always felt like a stranger in this country .In spite of living all my productive years here, I have to say that my heart still remains in that small Indian village where I was born. To explain this I have to tell you about me and my past in this village. The place where I was born was considered a village by people living in real cities and a city by people living in real villages. It had one big Government school, two medical centers and an active market which forms the meeting place of all the surrounding village farmers.
My Dad (your grandpa) was a postman. He too was born in this village and he loved this place. He was too proud of his government job. He believed that he was the heart of communication between this place and rest of the world by his profession. It was indeed true when you consider living in a place and time with no internet, interrupted telecom facilities and no mobile phones. My mom was his childhood love. Thankfully they belonged to the same neighborhood and both their families knew each other. So there were no hiccups in their love marriage.
My mom was too religious. She goes to the village temple twice a day. She does puja on the tulsi plant every morning. My Grandma and Grandpa used to live with us. Dad, even with his limited income made sure that everyone gets everything. The priority list was in the order of Grandma, Grandpa, sister, me, mother and finally him. But most of the time the last two people in the list were invisible.
My childhood memories remain afresh even now when I write this. The list includes
• Village festival (colors, food and toy stalls, relatives visit, celebration)
• Childhood friends (outings to explore places, swimming in the pond, movie visits to the town)
• The school (few teachers, free lunch, morning prayers, school day celebrations)
• Mom’s tulsi plant (a part of the family)
• Fights with my sister (pillow fights and pocket money fights)
• The village pond near the temple
• Diwali (early morning oil bath, crackers, new dress, sweets, new movies)
• The village heads (with no job but boasting and gossiping)
• The vacation trip to uncle’s place (swimming in the river, cricket, new friends)
• Independence day celebrations (at school, at village)
• The first time dad bought me a second hand bicycle
And on and on....
At school I was the best student in every aspect. I was regular in my homework – thanks to my grandma and mom, they sit next to me and my sister the whole time we finish the home work and made sure we enjoy this process of home work fully.
My school Head master was one gem of a person. He had sacrificed his luxury at the metros to do service at the village. His passion was to encourage students to make it big. He encouraged me to aim higher and also supported me with all the necessities. During my schooling he trained me for IIT entrance. I ended up becoming one of the toppers in the state exams and also found a place in one of the reputed IIT.
I had to bid my family and my village bye to pursue my dream at IIT. I never thought that it would be my last bye to my grandparents. IIT changed my outlook towards life. I began to understand the world in a whole new perspective. It propelled me to go beyond my limits. After IIT, it was my time for IIM. I made through the IIM’s as well. I was proud of myself. Unfortunately my parents had no clue what IIT’s and IIM’s are. All they knew was that their kid is studying more and studying better. Most of my education was sponsored by the government and corporate scholarship programs.
Once done with IIM, I was offered a job with a financial firm in U.S, with a salary package touching the skies. It took a lot of time for me to convince my family that I was being offered this much pay. I fell in love with your mom during my MBA times. She was my classmate and was more intelligent than me.
I went to U.S with her, stayed there for a year and came back to India for our marriage. During these days I realized that my Mom and Dad had started becoming more silent than ever. They never advised me on anything and made me go ahead with my own decisions. Meanwhile I had been thinking that the knowledge and worldly exposure which I had been exposed to had made me wiser than others, including my Mom and Dad. After that what happened to me is what happens with most of the NRI’s here.
I believe I won’t be making a mistake if I make a checklist of these events
• Get married
• H1 visa
• Dream of going back home
• Look for a house with cheaper rent, buy things on sale
• Apply for Green Card
• To ensure better prospects on getting Green Card and to save the rent, I decided to own a house on mortgage.
• Dream of going back home
• Buy a better car – you need it as a social status and to justify that newer the model the safer it is.
• Invite all the other NRI’s for the parties and start living in a world which is neither American nor Indian
• Go for Niagara Falls
• Dream of going back home
• Change the job at least twice for a better package and more permanency factor
• Start living on the internet and try to get close to the roots virtually
• Start cursing India for its corruptness and improper governance
• Have kids
• Kid becomes too much trouble since you are in U.S and you need books to learn about child care as no grandma advice available
• Go for a Europe Trip
• Child grows up and you grow down
• Dream of going back home
• You needed promotion or a new job to maintain the bigger family
• You start putting on weight on your body and also on the mind
• You get pissed off, you want things to go the way you want it since you know you are right all the time
• Meanwhile all you do to maintain relationship to your roots is to call your parents on weekends.
The same things happened with me too. Meanwhile I went to India once in the middle to see my ill mother. I cursed the medical facility there and got her treated at the city medical hospital. But she could not make it through. It was one big blow for me- there lies a woman who had sacrificed all her life for her children and here I am not able to stay with her during her final days owing to my professional commitment.
Sometimes I believe these professional commitments are the unwanted bondages which we embrace for no reason of others. I wanted to quit it all and come back to my village and start fresh. But I believed it was too late. You and your sister were my concern now. I want to be around you people and unfortunately inside me I never believed that my village which made me big cannot do the same with you. So I convinced myself to stay in U.S as a citizen outside and stranger within.
I was happy that you made into the best university in U.S. I could have built a bigger house but I wanted to have you people as close to me as possible so I continued with our same 3 bedroom home. Your mom is growing older too and she is a priority for me. These concerns have made me burry my dreams of returning India within myself.
I kept on missing my Dad and Mom. I missed a lot
• I missed my mom’s final days
• I missed my father’s final day at job
• I missed to check the Diwali mood at home without me
• I missed to say goodbye to my grandparents
• I missed to see what new additions are there in the village festivals
• I missed out on my childhood friends
• I missed to check out if mom was still wearing her wedding sari for Diwali or the one I bought for her
• I missed out to check on my dad’s health
• I missed my school and my Head Master
• I missed the temple and its pond
• I missed the old village folks and their gossips
• I missed the bonding I shared with my family and friends
• I missed the tulsi plant
Things were growing big inside me when I received a call early this week saying that my dad is sick. I prayed God “not this time”. I got the early flight to India. I reached my village through flight, train, bus, boat and a cart. It took more than two days to reach my home. But it was too late. He had died the same day I had received the call. I missed speaking to him on that day. I am writing this from my first home facing the tulsi plant.
Son, people see me as a Successful Person. I had been doing great in all my endeavors starting from the school and ending till at the office. What all I have achieved today had been my dream some day. But I am not happy with that.
• How can u say you are successful when you could not do what you have wanted to?
• What is the point of having money when it can’t bring you the happiness?
• What is the point of being powerful when you know it has no value among your loved ones?
Today I roamed the entire village, explore my old house. Lots of things have changed but it still posses the soul it had earlier. I was surprised to see how this small house had been a wonderful home to six people. In fact it has two bedrooms, just one short of our home in U.S. The temple is renovated and so was the school. The new headmaster wanted me to address the children there. I did that. I saw myself in those kid’s faces, having big ambitions loaded in their tiny heads.
• I am writing this not to stop yourself from being successful in the corporate world, but I am writing this to tell you to do what your heart desires.
• I had learnt “you can’t make your kid happy unless you are happy”
• I had learnt “families are more important than fortunes’
• I had learnt “power manipulates oneself more than it manipulates others”
• I had learnt “wishes are from heart and desires are from the brain”
• I had learnt “sacrifices can be selfishness”
• I had learnt “I was rich when I had nothing”
• I had learnt “wealth and power is a prolonged illusion since it disappears over time”
Finally I had learnt
“All my life’s effort was for an extra bedroom which is of no use to me anymore”
“So your dad is not rich, not powerful, and not happy as well. So don’t make me your Idol”