The smog lay thick over downtown, fading into the evening blue. The sun was leaving, tucking in the masses under the blanket of the night. I stood on my apartment rooftop, looking out at Calcutta, saying goodbye to the mayhem and madness of four million people and got on a plane to come to Baton Rouge. When I was first told the news that my mother, sister and me would move, the excitement of visiting somewhere else engulfed me, until I realized I would have to leave everything I had known for fifteen years.
“It won’t be that bad,” people told me and I believed them, until I looked around me at the airport. Saying goodbye to all of one’s extended family and closest friends does not constitute a normal farewell.
It has been many years since that move, but as our plane started to move across the tarmac, the condensation streaked across the tiny piece of Plexiglas. Through the night I could see people waving. Some of those waves were for me, and I knew I would not be able to see them again for a long time.
As I maneuvered my way along the next four years, I struggled to learn the nuances of the south. The private school I was enrolled in acted, dressed and talked like one single homogenous mass, throwing me in sharp contrast. My attempts at assimilation often ensued hilarity and ridicule from my peers.
After graduating from high school, I found myself in the company of a biologist, an atheist economist, a black gay painter having conversations about spirituality. I went to camping trips with political scientists, anarchists and writers, to spring break with valedictorians, to road trips with a nurses and back home to Calcutta twice with myself. Slowly but surely, I found myself trusting people, redefining my stance about “southerners”, and laughing about my high school years in the company of friends.
To be scared of the unknown is natural, but to let such fear advance to the point to being paralytic is unforgivable. In every event my life, I have either chosen to open my mind through it, or had it reaffirm my stereotypes. No matter how bad my situation was when I moved, it would have been a lot worse if I had chosen to close my mind. I believe in nurturing hope, and keeping an open mind no matter how defeating the present might seem.
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