India, 1985, When I Left for USA


Update: I just heard that one of my most beloved high school teachers passed away. Find him in the last photo at the bottom. He is the goal keeper in front with glasses. Mr. Swarnendu Deuri. I dedicate this blog to him. He was a phenomenal English teacher. He knew how to love, encourage and inspire his students. He knew about young, adolescent men and their emotional and biological needs. He knew his English literature. Deuri Babu, Sir, this is for you, from Partha.
Often, I look back at the time I left India to get a degree in the U.S.
It took me and my family, seriously, a lot to come to this point of my life. Successes, failures, struggles, wins, losses, tears and joys. But believe me, we went through a heck of a lot, in one life. We gained a lot. And we gave up a lot too.
Often, I question myself if I had done the right thing. Was it also the right thing for me to drag my poor wife along with me, who didn’t have to leave India at all, and did it only because I did it? If it was sacrifice for me to leave my very familiar place and people behind, it was even more so for her to leave her loving parents, uncles, aunts and cousins and friends behind. She was the only child, and her parents were heartbroken when she left.
On this Valentine’s Day, I want to send my wife a special message of love, for being with me, together, in this lifelong search of gold. We never cared for the material gold. Honest to God, our pursuit was truly an intellectual one. On that front, definitely, we’ve won.
Yet, looking back, just leaving behind that unbelievable place — so full of love and maya — we lost too. I guess, that’s been the story of most immigrants coming to America, through generations. Italian or Irish, Russian or Chinese, African or Arabian, and more recently, Bangladeshi or West Bengali — all perhaps share the same story of a torn, traumatized identity. Some say it. Some don’t.
But I’m not sure how many immigrants who left in recent years keep such an intense, emotional bonding with their homelands. But I do. For me, India, Calcutta and Bengal are not just places I was born and grew up in. They are as present and as real and alive as they can ever be. Even though I’ve lived in the U.S. for almost thirty years, and got used to the American way of living and speaking and walking and swearing and partying and criticizing and paying and receiving and teaching and learning and friend’ing and foe’ing, deep inside, I’m still as Bengali and Indian as I was back in that August of 1985.
I now know about America more than many Americans, I can swear. I identify with my American’ness more than many so-called mainstream Americans. But I also know about India and Bengal and Calcutta more than many Indians, Bengalis and Calcuttans. I have some deep-seated pride in my international identity with both places, across the two sides of the globe.
I live on both sides of the globe…exactly at the same time. Remember, I said it before?
My wife just returned from India after a month-long trip. I could not go with her. It was difficult to travel together for various reasons. One reason was financial. Do you realize how much money it costs for a one-month trip to India? And we’ve done it, regularly, for so many years. Well, except for the first nine years, between 1985 and 1994, when we had absolutely no money to travel. I’ve written about that very difficult time too. I’m writing more carefully about it in my memoir.

I was there.
I was there.

When I left India, not only we carried thousands of years of a great civilizations’ great history, heritage and Hinduism (our liberal-progressive way), but we also carried with us thousands of pieces of music and poetry, sights and sounds, games and riddles, funs and fooling-arounds, and of course, food and flavor.
It would take me a whole chapter in my memoir to talk about the food and the flavor.
Often, I think about discovering a way to record the smells — the zillions of smells — that I carry deep down inside.
I shall write more about that intense search of gold — how to record smells — later.
India, 1985, when I left for America, brings back a lot of memories. My deepest desire is to share some of them with you.
Would you care to share your memories with me?
Hoping for a real, loving, sharing and caring Valentine’s Day, heart to heart, away from the malls,
Brooklyn, New York


  1. I know how pricey it is to go to India because I feel stuck here for not having enough finances to go see my aunts, uncles, and cousins who ask me every now and then when I’m coming. And they can’t come out here to visit me either. Not in a long time anyway. With America’s poor job market, unemployment, and high cost of living, one hardly saves much. You have rich getting richer and poor getting poorer while the sham or facade of an American dream is shamelessly sold to foreigners. The hypocrisy of US international image vs how things actually are locally is pretty darn shameful. Personally when friends and acquaintances ask me about moving to US I tell them don’t! You won’t like it here and you don’t realize all that you will have to sacrifice (family, culture, communal civility, warmth, etc).
    I did not know what a big sacrifice it would be neither did my dad who just wanted us to have the American everything (citizenship, education, etc) (my siblings and I added spouses to that mix) that the price is so high that it makes you numb. I celebrate Eid by not celebrating. I have not fasted because I can’t alone. Its a desolate atmosphere here. The people at mosques are like zombies, torn between western ideology and culture and their own Islamic one. To me it appears like having one foot in each boat and trying to keep it straight. I’ve been to the Church here which is another business, the bishop or preacher cannot get enough tithes squeezed out from the church members. It is disgusting of course this organized religion but power and politics have their hands so strong in controlling the masses that what I think does not matter. But how easily people are fooled is disgusting. So I don’t tithe – I don’t believe in paying money to a person at church instead we feed the homeless if they need it.
    As for your wife, you pay a beautiful tribute and dedication for her life long sacrifices 🙂 She has kept the family together, preserved the essence of your culture, and gifted it to the children.

  2. Mailed your post to my son, Aditya, who recently shifted to NY for his job. This may be a great inspiration for him. But, I wish to see him back—sooner or later—before my last call. God bless him and you too.


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