In this edition of Girl Talk, we talk about being away from ‘home’. Payal came here as a student two decades ago, Priyanka moved 13 years as a young bride and I came more recently as a not-so-young bride. Read our adventures (way too many are food-related) and do share some of your stories :)
When and why did you move to the US?
Shradha: I left India in the end of August 2014 and moved in with my fiancé. We got married in December that year and the US has been home since. I’m relatively new, but what’s strange is some days it feels like I’ve been here forever and other days I feel I JUST moved!
Priyanka: I moved in August of 2004, right after my wedding. (Yup, been married a while now!) Dallas is home now. As a kid, I moved around a lot when I was in India but funnily enough, Dallas has been the longest I have lived in anyplace. That strange feeling you were talking about, that doesn’t seem to have gone away for me even after all this time. Some days I feel like this isn’t home, it’s temporary, that I just moved and will move again. And some days I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Payal: I came to the US for my undergrad way back in 1998. I stayed in Michigan for four years, got tired of the extreme winters and moved to Texas when I got my first job. Have been in the Lone Star State ever since! Can’t believe it will be 20 years in the US next year!
Via Priyanka’s Instagram
What’s the toughest part of being away?
Shradha: I hate being so far from friends and family. And eating home cooked meals NOT cooked by me is a pain point too.
Priyanka: Can I just say Ditto? Friends and family are a big part of it. Considering my sister moved back to India and sees my parents more often than I do, I can’t shake off that FOMO. And friends too! I have been incredibly lucky in finding awesome friends this side of the pond. That said, there’s something about pre-adulthood friendships that makes them invaluable. Oh and I have major bai/dhobi/cook envy.
Payal: I grew up in the Middle East so I’ve been away from India since I was 12. I also lived in a hostel for a while. Being away from home was something I was used to. When I moved to the US, I guess I missed food the most. Indian food wasn’t so readily available back then let alone good Indian food. But, it’s different now. Dallas has us spoilt for choices. Now, if only I could find a restaurant catered towards Oriya/Bengali style of cooking, and I would be a happy girl! The only thing I miss now are the festivals. Like the mood around Eid in the Middle East. And Diwali and Dussehra while I was in India.
How long did you take to adjust to life away from your roots and how did you build your new support system?
Shradha: I think I’m still adjusting. The first year in New Jersey was rough. I tried the whole house wife thing but it wasn’t as glam and I wasn’t really lunching that much with any ladies! My husband had a group of friends who gave me the 411 on life in the US — everything from how to boil dal to what masalas to stock in the kitchen! Some of those friendships clicked and have grown to be real, solid relationships. Two years ago, we moved to San Francisco and I had to start the process of building friendships all over again. I’ve met people through my day job and through the usual friends-of-friends route. It’s probably going to take a long, long time to consolidate my core group but I’m grateful to have found some amazing new friends. So yes, the new support system is underway!
Priyanka: I was lucky enough to walk in to a social situation I could easily adapt to. The women I met nearly a decade and a half ago are today some of my closest friends. I also reconnected with some of my friends who had moved away and had somewhat drifted apart. Getting to know them again was fantastic! I also quickly realized that when you meet someone you hit it off with, make it a point to stay in touch with them or at least see if there’s a friendship to be had there. Making friends as adults is hard and it will serve us all well to remember the other person is no different from us, and it’s just as hard for them. It wasn’t all easy but I let things take their time and it all eventually fell in to place. Big shoutout to a very supportive husband who let me rave, rant and whine when I wanted to and helped me snap out of my funk when I most certainly needed to.
Payal: College wasn’t so hard as I had a class-mate from high-school also attending the same college as mine. That made the first semester a whole lot easier. When I first moved to Dallas after graduation, I decided to get a roommate. Best decision ever! Our social circle pretty much grew from us two meeting new people (including Priyanka) from the day we roomed together and this was almost 15 years ago. Till date, she and I still hang out if not every weekend, every two or so. I don’t even think I can ever think about moving out of Dallas because of the strong social circle here. My inner friend circle is family. We’ve gone through ups and downs together.
Via Payal’s Instagram
Where is home and how often do you go back?
Shradha: Home is Calcutta and I’ve been lucky to go back to visit every six months or so.
Priyanka: My parents finally settled in Hyderabad about 16 years ago and that’s been home. I go back every year, haven’t missed a single one yet. And am lucky enough to spend about 2 months each year there.
Payal: Home for me is now Dallas, oddly. I have lived here more than I have lived in any other country. But, when we do travel towards India, I visit Dubai and then Bangalore and Bhubaneshwar. My husband and I joke how we always need a vacation from our India vacation because of how much we have to squeeze in with our limited time off.
What are the first 5 things you do back home?
Shradha: Can I talk about the first 5 things I eat instead! Here are the first five things: Give a million kisses to my nephew; eat homemade kathi rolls; call my closest friends; fix an at-home massage and then get down to business — plan my trip’s worth of meals!
Priyanka: Drink filter coffee. (It’s not the same anywhere else.) Plan breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, the following day’s breakfast… You get the drift. Begin texting friends- there are people to see, places to go! Umm and finally, make sure wi-fi is working as it should. (It probably is the first thing I do but shhh!)
Payal: There is this funny ritual I would have when I was eating non-veg. I WOULD HAVE to make a pit-stop at Kentucky fried Chicken in Dubai at least once during my trip. :P Now, I just get my Indian-Chinese fix as much as I can. Browse and Hoard up on desi clothes. Most of my friends are here so it’s mostly catch up on family while there.
Via Shradha’s Instagram
Some coping tips for our recently relocated readers?
Shradha: I think the first step is to acknowledge the fact that you will need to cope. Everyone has different mechanisms, for me it was a daily call with my girls. I felt the need to be in constant touch with my old life. As time goes on, your dependency will reduce; you will make new friends and have a new routine. There might come a time when you and your old friends might not be able to relate to each other. Work through that if those relationships are important to you. If not, maybe it’s time to cut that cord.
Priyanka: Make peace with the fact that you have moved and that it’s not going to be picture-perfect right away, not for a while. Know that the life you left behind is not going to stay frozen in time for you to claim as and when you choose to. Once you get all that out of the way, you can get a move on. Get in to a routine, it helps. Put yourself out there. Know that for a while at least you’ll have to work harder, both at making friends and keeping the ones you left behind. Yes, friendships should be organic, natural and effortless but till they are, it takes work. Like any relationship. You’ll just have to roll up your sleeves and be adult about it. :) Talk, whatsapp, facetime, go on a social media overdrive. Take all the time you need and before you know it, you’ll have found your own place. And finally, know that you could be doing everything right but the angst just won’t go away. Don’t be hard on yourself. It gets better, I promise. At the end of the day, remember you are in a new country, take it all in. Explore!
Payal: I came here as a student so my experience is different than Priyanka and Shradha’s so let me give you the college student perspective as well. Reach out to the Indian Student Association of your College/University and volunteer with them or participate in their activities. Nowadays with social media especially Facebook, there are plenty of groups that one can join. You may not instantly feel like you sync with everyone in such groups but after a while you tend to find like minded people that you somehow connect with. There are also portals that cater to the South Asian population. I found my first roommate through that and look where it led.
What’s your homesick survival kit?
Shradha: Facetime sessions, Vogue India, comfort Indian meal, old family albums and a Hindi movie on Netflix. Sometimes one of these is enough and sometimes I need it all!
Priyanka: Being busy. When I am feeling particularly homesick I make it a point to have plans. Surround myself with friends, catch a movie, grab some drinks, try out a new restaurant, all of it helps!
Payal: The thing I dread the most once I reach home is laundry and that first grocery run. Don’t know which one I hate more. Once, I’ve dealt with these two items, it’s easy to move on. We do somehow also end up with our first meal at home being Rice, Daal and Aloo Bharta (that’s an Oriya dish). Well, I eat the Aloo, my hubby stays away from it.