This blog is an imaginary letter written by a father to his son. He wishes to say something through this, which he cannot do it in person.
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 I had everything in life, so 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 explain everything which I had been hiding from you all these years.
To begin with, if you think that I am happy in the U.S, then you are wrong. I always consider myself a stranger in this country. Despite living all my productive years here, I have to say my heart was in this Indian village where I was born. To justify my words, I think 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 as a city by people living in authentic villages. It had one big Government school, two medical centres, and an active market that 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 also proud of his government job. He believed that he was the heart of communication between this place and the rest of the world. It was indeed correct when you consider living in an area with no internet, interrupted telecom facilities and no mobile phones. My mom was his childhood love. Thankfully, they belonged to the same neighbourhood, and both their families knew each other very well. So there were no hiccups in their love marriage.
My mom was religious. Two temple visits a day and an hour-long Puja on the Tulsi plant every morning accounted for most of her free time. Everybody in our home was a vegetarian out of choice. 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, my Sister, Me, Mother, and finally him. But most of the time, the last two people on the list were invisible.
My childhood memories remain afresh even now when I write this. I listed out those which I cherish the most.
The Village festival (colours, food and toy stalls, relatives visit with their kids)
Childhood friends (Outings to explore places, swimming in the pond, secret movies at the city as teens)
The school (a 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 (No job but boasting and gossiping)
The vacation trip to nearby uncle's village (swimming in the river, cricket, new friends)
Independence Day celebrations (at school, at the village)
The first-time dad bought me a second-hand bicycle
And on and on.
At school, I had been the best student in every aspect. I had been regular in my homework – thanks to my grandma and mom, they made sure I enjoy the process of homework by sitting next to me and my sister the whole time we finish it.
My school Headmaster had been a Gem of a person. He had sacrificed his luxury at the metros to do service in the village. His passion was to encourage students to make it big. He helped me to aim higher and also supported me with all the necessities. During my schooling, he trained me for the IIT entrance. I ended up becoming one of the toppers in the state board exams and also found a place in the reputed Madras IIT.
I had to bid my family and my village bye to pursue my dream at the IIT. I never thought that bye was the last one of my grandparents. IIT changed my outlook on life. I looked at the world from a whole new perspective. It propelled me to go beyond my limits. This time it was IIM. I made through the IIM's in the first attempt as well. I was proud of myself. Unfortunately, my parents had no clue what IITs 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 through corporate scholarship programs.
Once done with IIM, I was offered a job with a financial firm in the U.S, with a salary package touching the skies. It took a lot of time for me to convince my family that I am was offered this much pay package. I fell in love with your mom during my MBA times. She was my classmate and was more intelligent than me.
I went to the U.S with her. I stayed there for a year and came back to India for our marriage. During these days, I realized that my Mom and Dad had become more silent than ever. They never advised me on anything and made me go ahead with my own decisions. Meanwhile, my knowledge and worldly exposure made me think to be wiser than most of the others, including my parents. Later 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 (let me start with this or else it's still frustrating)
•Dream of going back home
•Look for a house with cheaper rent, buy things on sale
•Apply for Green Card
•To ensure better prospects of getting a Green Card and to justify that you pay the same Money but own a house instead of renting it makes you go for a mortgage. 30-year jail, I mean mortgage.
•Dream of going back home
•Buy a better car – you need it as 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 to 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
•Kid becomes too much trouble since you are in the U.S and you need books to learn about child care and no mom or grandma advice available
•Child grows up, and you grow down
•Dream of going back home
•You needed promotion or a new job to maintain the more prominent family
•You start putting up the 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 a relationship with your roots is to call on your parents on weekends.
The same things happened to me. Meanwhile, I went to India once 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 lied a woman who had sacrificed all her life for her children and here I am unable to stay with her during her final days owing to my professional commitment.
Sometimes I believe these professional commitments are the unwanted bondages we embrace ourselves for no reason of others. I always wanted to quit it all and come back to my Village and start fresh. But I felt it was too late. You and your sister were my concern now and I wanted to be around you guys. It was unfortunate that I never believed my Village, which had made me big could do the same with you. Therefore, I convinced myself to stay in the U.S as a citizen outside and the stranger within.
I was happy that you made into the best university in the 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 the same 3-bedroom home. Your mom is growing older too, and she is a priority for me. These concerns have made me bury my dreams of returning to India.
I missed a lot
• I missed my mom's final days
• I missed my father's final day at the job
• I missed saying goodbye to my grandparents
• I missed seeing what new additions are there in the village festivals
• I missed my childhood friends
• I missed checking out if mom was still wearing her wedding sari for Diwali or the ones, 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 heads and their gossips
• I missed the bonding I shared with my family, my friends and my Village
• I missed the Tulsi plant
Things were getting harder when I received a call early this week saying that my dad is ill. I prayed "not this time God". I took the first flight and yet I had to reach my village via train, bus, boat, and also a cart. It took more than two days to reach my home, and yet I was late. He died the same day of the call. I missed speaking to him on that day. I am writing this from my home facing the Tulsi plant.
Son, people see me as a successful person. I had been successful in my endeavours from the start, and I can say that all my accomplishments had been my dream someday. Yet, I am not happy with that. I thought I was missing something all my life.
How can you say you are successful when you could not do what you wanted to?
What is the point of having money when it can't bring you 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 they still possess the soul it had earlier. I was surprised to see how this small house had been a beautiful home to six people. It has two bedrooms, just one short of our home in the U.S.
The temple has been renovated, and so was the school. The new headmaster wanted me to address the children there. I did that. I saw myself in those kids' 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 learned "you can't make your kid happy unless you are happy."
• I learned "families are more important than the fortunes'
• I learned "power manipulates oneself more than it manipulates others."
• I learned "wishes are from heart and desires are from the brain."
• I learned "sacrifices can be selfish."
• I learned "I was rich when I had nothing."
• I learned "wealth and power are a prolonged illusion since it disappears over time."
Finally sitting in front of my village house, I learned that "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. Don't make me your Idol."