Monday, May 29, 2006

One "Happy" Family

I was visiting with my friend A's family this weekend. Her folks are first generation immigrants with the difference. Her Dad went to grad school in the US, returned home and worked in India twenty odd years. He immigrated with his family when the kids were in high school and he had retired. Having started at an executive level position, he has not had to work his way up like most immigrants of his age group. It has been about ten years since they arrived.

From speaking with her dad, it seemed that he wanted the children to have gone through the rigor of the Indian education system and be rooted deep culturally so America could not undo either. Seems like the perfect plan for everyone. The kids are acutely aware of the sacrifices their parents have made in uprooting so late in life – there is a larger than life quality about it. They understand the rationale of the timing calculated for them to benefit from the American system sans any second generation confusion and angst.

After, spending three days with the family I felt sorry for everyone. The mother never quite made the transition. She does not have any of the dad's smarts or social skills. From the Indian backwaters to the US in her late 40s has been more than she has capacity for but she is the soul of perseverance. Your heart goes out to her – you wish there was way to put her out of her misery.

The older boy went to grad school and is working - nothing spectacular but good enough. A tells me that he is almost always been in relationships with older women of non-Indian descent including married women. The parents are blissfully ignorant. A and her siblings play at being good, obedient, conformist desi children when in truth they are all but that. Dad I am sure is smart enough to see through the flimsy fa├žade.

The parents are in India in the heart and soul, with the body only reluctantly here. They are not exactly sure when to leave the children to fend for themselves and turn home where they belong. In ten years the bonds back in India have weakened -over time staying back here with the children may make more sense. I came to the sobering realization that there is no such a thing as a perfect, water-tight plan for your children. I needed this experience to disabuse me of my illusions about my ability to make J’s Indian-American experience relatively painless. I am more concerned about knowing about her suffering so I can suffer along and learn as we go.

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