It was a long yearning to live in the United States. It probably is for many. As a kid, I wished to see what the people looked like, how they lived, how they talked, how similar or different things would be in America than in India.

I remember the television would have news from America. My dad once said, it’s the most developed country, with riches, opportunities, and elegant lifestyle. Women live a free life. With no restrictions from family or spouses. They work even after they are married. These days women in India work as well but it wasn’t that common growing up. They raise their kids like lioness raising their cubs. I never understood what that meant.

For sure there aren’t as many restrictions for adults or for the kids here. They get to decide what they want in life, in their choice of partners, for education, and for friends. I remember I was allowed to wear jeans only when I was in the tenth grade. My brother was pressured to become a doctor while I was not allowed to pursue my law degree. “It’s a man’s thing”, my dad had told me.

As I grew up, I forgot about my dream. Almost 5 years after my marriage, opportunity presented itself. With my husband’s job, we moved to the United States in January 2013. The society seemed very friendly and kind, but most importantly not forcing. My dream had finally come true. I was mesmerized by the beauty, sophistication, cleanliness, and civic sense of the citizens (great infrastructure, multiple driving lanes, traffic rules, no unnecessary honking while driving, sense of discipline and obeying the rules, day to day etiquettes, so on and so forth). 

I was, as they say, in the land of opportunities. But with changes come challenges that I never knew existed.

When we would go out for dinner, the waiters would be very particular to mention that the food contains beef.

“Yes, we know.”

“You’re sure you want to eat beef?” A little unnecessary.

“Yes,” we would firmly reply retaining our composure, not wanting to be rude. These were moments of disbelief. Some of my American friends would tell me that this resulted from their exposures to Indians in the community who would either be vegetarians or only eat chicken. I would joke, “I lived in China, I eat anything that moves.” 

The town I first moved in had a population of 8,000 approx. To my awe, I hardly found any diversity in that town. Within a month in US, wanting to meet new people, I started walking to the local stores, libraries, restaurants, cafes, and farmers’ market. People would ask me where I am from?

India, I would say.

“Oh, yes, I guessed from your thick accent, but your English is really good. Have you been living in US for a long time?”

“No,” I said.

People would often ask me if I knew someone from town. If I said no, they would often come back with, “but they are also from India”. I would be very disturbed with such intrusion. Even in the subsequent years, I met very few people of Asian and African American descents at the University and on my way to the grocery store.

Long ago, my husband introduced me to the popular sitcom Friends. In one of the episodes, Joey was admitted for his gallbladder surgery. The doctor who operated him was an Indian. They made fun of his accent on how he pronounced “kidney stone”. The doctor had emphasized on ‘d’ and ‘t’. 

In the Psychology Today article “Racial Teasing: Reflections On Being Different Part – I:”

 “Because we sometimes wear a bindi like with Indian clothes, a ‘dot head’ is way of making fun of people who are Indian. When I was younger sometimes people would say that to me to tease me because I’m Indian.” 

When I thought of writing on diversity for this blog, I thought to focus on my personal experiences. While I was researching on the subject, I came across much disturbing facts and incidents that had occurred within the last 20 years concerning Asian immigration. I wonder, why we get scrutinized for our color and not treated as another human being? Don’t we already have enough hatred and disputes to deal with in political and international level? If we can see beyond these trivial external appearances, we might actually bring peace within the country and in a bigger spectrum.