This is the first in a five-part series on my experience as an immigrant to the United States.
There are millions of immigrant stories that make up the fabric of the United States, and every single one is important in their own way. These are the stories of adversity, privilege, lack of privilege, race, racism, loneliness, acceptance, and everything else in-between.
I was born in London (Hillingdon Hospital — the same one as James Corden. We even have the same birthday!)
I was five-years-old when I moved to the United States. I didn’t know what to expect, and while I don’t remember EVERYTHING…I do remember being sad, scared, and curious…all at the same time. I had some high expectations of my new home.
I’m not going to go over my entire life. Just the parts that make up my own…immigrant story.
Before we took that final flight into the States, I remember having a certain set of expectations for coming into my new country.
Imagine a young boy’s voice. Slightly Indian, with a heavy British accent. Now continue.
I will make friends just like the ones I have right now.
Samosas and jalebi will be everywhere!
Everything else will be the same.
(Ok, you can stop with the accent. I lost it as time went by. Probably because of this kid.)
Looking back, each of these expectations was lofty. I had no idea that moving to a new country meant that NOTHING would ever be the same. Not even close.
I hadn’t thought about how this move would affect the rest of my life, and truthfully…it’s only now (nearly 40 years later) that I am looking back to see how this all played out for me.
Being an immigrant means dreaming big. I didn’t know that.
Being an immigrant means growing a thick skin, dealing with a lot of bullshit, working twice as hard as your counterparts to succeed and most importantly…it meant fighting for acceptance.
I didnt know that.
When you live in a bubble, you can be protected by the weather of society, and certainly, other children.
There isn’t a manual for a young child on all the things to expect.
I’m not even going to attempt that, because everything that happened to me is what led me to who I am today.
Now if you want to know the reality…my reality of being an immigrant, then you are in the right place.
WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND
Life was pretty good. We lived in Hounslow, a suburb in the greater London area.
Looking back, I never felt out of place because of my skin color or Indian culture. Everything around me was very “Indian” and not just the food. All our neighbors were either Indian or Pakistani. It was the norm. I didn’t know much else.
I remember going to school in a tie, vest, and peacoat. My private school was very proper.
The Springwell Primary school claimed that I had early stages of brilliance. I was reading at a 9-year-old level at age 5.
I held smart conversations whenever my parents invited their friends over to the house.
I was ready to conquer a new country.
It’s April 12, 1986. I’m five years old. This was the biggest day of my life. This was the day that my parents and I immigrated to the United States on a TWA flight from London to Los Angeles.
We had four very large suitcases between the three of us. Our entire life packed into those bags. My mom had two carry-on bags: one filled with all of her spices and masala blends, and one that was filled with various Indian snacks like chevda, sev, and even samosas.
We definitely had an aroma to us, but I didn’t know any different.
The flight itself was turbulent. The shakes and bumps quickly took a toll on the optimism I had for my new journey. Why was this so uncomfortable? Why did the flight attendant hand me a bag?
I was going to put my legos in it, but immediately my Mom said to put the bag’s opening over my mouth. Just in case.
Life was quickly changing for me, and suddenly I was uncomfortable.
What was happening?
If you made it this far, THANK YOU for reading! This was the first installment in my Immigrant series.
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Are you an immigrant too? Or has my story helped you better understand what it’s like to move to the United States? Drop me a line!