College visit on the first day of college

Last Saturday, we woke up at 4 am and started from home towards Poughkeepsie, New York at 5:15 when the sun was still wrapped in a dark grey blanket. Our destination was Vassar College, a small liberal arts college in the midst of the Catskill mountains. Oishi, a junior, was excited about visiting colleges but anticipative about going far away from home and getting lost in big city colleges. To ease her into the process of college selection, we chose a small college not too far from home.

I thought the information session would be at 8:30 am, followed by a campus tour. But when we reached there, we found out the first tour was at 9:30 am followed by an information session at 12 pm. Since it was a very nice day, we walked around a bit and finally rolled into the admissions office, full of anticipation for the tour.

A bubbly and enthusiastic junior gave an informative tour of the campus. It was great to see Oishi taking notes and asking questions while walking. After the information session, we had lunch at the school and started towards home.

On my way back, I suddenly realized how smooth the college visit process was for the both of us and couldn’t help but compare this day with the first few days of my college life since the first time I truly visited a college (besides the admission day) was the day I started college in India. Coming from a very small town with one nameless road for public transport, when I started college in Kolkata, a behemoth compared to my hometown Hindustan Cables Limited, I was overwhelmed by the number of buses, routes and roads. Since I lived in a ladies hostel that was far away from the college, Baba showed me bus#33, a double-decker, which would take me from the college to my ladies hostel and back. He and I did a practice ride from the college to the hostel. Then he left for my hometown and I was left alone in a big city to find my way. In a couple of months, when Baba came to visit me, I told him that I have discovered three more bus routes back and forth from my college. He looked at me and said “I knew you would.”

So, last week when I told my parents that we were going to visit a college, they asked in chorus, “You have already selected her college? But she is only in 11th grade!” I said “No, Ma, I am taking her for a visit to see whether the college and its surroundings would be a good fit for her. Nothing has been selected yet.” There was a complete silence and I understood how difficult it was for them to understand the college selection process more than two decades later in a foreign country.

Sharmistha’s Book

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The question still lingers…

Being an immigrant is challenging at many levels, but most of all emotionally. My daughter and I came back from our every-two-year trip to India about a week ago, but I am still not back into the rhythm of life here. Typically, I call my parents once or twice a week but this past week I have called them almost everyday as though hearing their voice and their stories of how much they miss me would transport me in the midst of their loving life. The two weeks, from their eager wait at the airport to see our faces after a long gap to their teary drop-off the day we left, were gone in the blink of an eye.

Eighteen years ago, when I left India in search of a better future, it made sense because India was barely present in the economical map of the world. However, a lot has changed with the roads, buildings, cars and restaurants. The growth of infrastructure, malls, air-conditioned cars, hotels and restaurants has been astounding. Even more astonishing is the spending power of people despite the fact that the prices have multiplied several times over the last few years. I found myself converting the cost of most items into US dollars and muttering, “Really? How do people afford such an expensive lifestyle?”

The question that immediately followed in my mind was, “Are my friends who never left India better off today with their family around them?” After much thought and careful consideration, I answered, “no.” I do not live here because of the cars, homes, malls and highways. I thrive here because I have the freedom to dream the impossible.

But who knows? Even this might change in the foreseeable future, and that’s when my daughter’s dream of living in India might be a reality. “Mama, India is very cozy” was her unflinching answer when I asked her why she wanted to live in India; her reply is a natural reaction for a kid who is smothered with love, care and attention by her grandparents and family members during her stay in India.

Sharmistha’s Book

DSC_0943Oishi on a rickshaw ( a tricycle as a means of transportation)

DSC_1002 Celebrating Independence Day (15th August) in Kolkata