It is truly said by Christopher McCandless, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun “.
When I was a teenager, the West, as always, seemed the epicenter of possibility and opportunity. Through this article I want to share my experiences as a young immigrant in the western world over the last 20 years. I was only fifteen years old when my parents decided to move our base from India to the United States of America. Being a young teenager, like all at that age, I was very excited with the idea of Immigration and becoming an American citizen, exploring that part of the world I had read so much in the books. Coming from an Armed Forces back ground my life was always adventurous and fast-moving with exposure to many states, cities, cultures and wonderful diversity that is India. Like all Fauji (army) kids, as they are called I lived in a very adventurous but protective environment where we are in some way spoilt to the core with comfort, security and down to earth joys of life. I loved that life.
I finished my board exams and we travelled first to UK for a holiday, which was wonderful and mesmerizing, being my first international exposure and then reached the dream destination of all The USA. The first few weeks were like a dream, where everything was perfect, we holidayed in Washington, Orlando and Seattle. Then slowly we were getting into the realities of life and the challenges of new immigrants. I joined a school where I felt lonely and odd because my accent was different than most others and I could not quite understand the spoken language of many students and vice versa. My way of thinking and also the concept of my public school education was very different in India, but soon my teachers began to understand the inherent strength of my educational knowledge base including the grammatical correctness of my written English which was lacking in my class-mates. Along with this I joined a summer job at the airport where we were supposed to assist passengers in all manners, language, disability, location guidance etc. On the very first day I helped a passenger to a particular destination at the airport, she gave a tip of 5 dollars. I took the money but as soon I reached home, I cried my heart out to my father saying that in India we tip the poor and here I am getting tipped. I was feeling small. My father tried to explain to me that it is the culture here and there is nothing wrong, this is the way of showing courtesy, but I was too upset to understand then. So this was my first experience to the new culture of the west. My work continued through the summer, and I still remember by the end of summer if I was not tipped I use to get upset that I did not make enough pocket-money. I met an elderly gentleman a co-worker who I learnt had just retired as a senior manager from Boeing.
He told me that he did not necessarily have to work, he could sit at his big house and just do gardening. He came there just to have fun. At another instance we found a war veteran a US Marine officer driving a Taxi. He said he did that as a matter of pleasure since in no other occupation he meets so many strangers with whom he enjoys interacting. There I learnt the value of human dignity. No work is small, and no work makes you feel bigger than your life-size. Political and business class here have a lot to learn from them. Then I got back to my school. I was gradually getting adjusted in the new environment but missed my life in India to the core. On any opportunity I would be ready to rush back to India. Over the next few years I experienced many aspects of the new society, some were good and some made me think. We often travelled to Vancouver in Canada, merely two hours of a wonderful scenic drive. Another aspect I learnt that when living abroad Indians are more cohesively Indian than in their home land where they remain rudderless.
My life continued with spells of stay in India and America. People in India envied me where as I envied them. Then came a phase in my life where I moved forward, did my professional degree and joined Bank of America in the Investment branch. I was doing well professionally and by now had no conflict with the Western life. We generally travelled to India once a year and now I started seeing the positivity in my new resident country also. I started realizing the scope of opportunities there. The quality of life, whether you are rich or poor, it is essentially the same as you eat similar food, you get quite easily all the basic comforts of life, there is dignity of labor, dignity of any work you do and most importantly no corruption at the level of common man’s life. It took me many years to understand this but I now know for sure what I am today is because of the multiple exposure I got in my life. I do not say that as an Immigrant there would not be problems, definitely there would be because we come from different culture and upbringing and go through the pangs of transformation. But that is all a phase, like the first time a small child is put in a boarding school and cries under a bed sheet.
Today my family members are well settled in America with children doing very well and getting the best education and opportunities. I lived in USA for 15 years and have had many opportunities to see the world around, West and East, both offering quality life style to the enterprising fortune seekers. I am back in India, equally comfortable and running my own Immigration and Visa company after completing my Masters in International Business. I myself as an immigrant who has seen the best of life in India and then the experience of struggle of a new immigrant, a phase where one wants to run back to the life of home country, now into a phase today where I love both the worlds equally for what they have given me and my family.
Today I am the Managing Director of AKKAM Immigration and Allied Services which provides solutions and meets all requirements concerning immigration, study visa’s and allied services to multiple destinations across the globe. I feel all immigration consultants and agents can guide clients with authenticity if they themselves have experienced the realities, challenges, and opportunities in immigration ventures. I would always advice all my clients, friends and family that life is a onetime blessing, spread your wings and experience the move towards the Horizon, a lot awaits you, distant dreams, some dark clouds and wonderful colors beyond the Horizon.