Around six years ago, I came to America from India wondering why I had to leave everything I’ve ever known for this “land of opportunities.” Who’s land of opportunities? I certainly felt content with the sun-filled days of my childhood and my playmates; what more did I seek at the simple age of ten? Of course, my father—his austere and determined persona sought after education, recognition, wages, and in the literal sense: a better life for himself and assumingly for the rest of the family. The day before I boarded the flight to the unknown mysteries of the western palace, I received the last gift of a necklace of frangipani flowers from my childhood love. I knew it would be too long before I catch another glimpse of their colorful pinwheel petals, ranging from tinges of sunshine drops on the outer edges of some, or a color as delicate as a youthful blush upon a boy’s cheek as he toils over his family’s land. My father told me they never bloom in America.
In India, I would rather pick these flowers from the trees with their pure untouched beauty rather than gathering them from the dusty earth, their imperishable fragrance defiled among the mortals. They grew everywhere—an idiosyncrasy in itself; I found them reaching towards the same sky in the midst of the twisted barbed walls; they created an illusory scented breeze above the garbage and foul wastes; they bloomed along the hallowed temples of Shiva and Krishna, and of course the very same flowers grew in my own backyard. With sincere devotion and care, these shrubs rooted firmly into my land as its perfume lingered eternally within my senses. As the earth grew hotter and the air became sweltering, I knew my time was coming. Gently tucking a flower behind my left ear, I ran to my love to pay a final tribute as Radha would fall to Krishna’s feet. In the pouring rain, the garland of frangipani flowers was exchanged and I was bound forever with the promise of an identity—an existence and a being of self awareness.
Though I’ve selfishly tried bringing the flowers to America multiple times, the attempts are futile. Even the mangoes grow occasionally, but perhaps the flowers were meant to wilt in sadness when they are uprooted from their rightful place. Some traditions are better left appreciated where they truly belong. I believe in these flowers—their symbolism of clashing traditions, their ability to someday bridge the east and the west and to bring humanity to the various façades of mankind through its universal appeal. At times, I feel as if the associations of my childhood memories, passions, and intensities have broken, like the chord that ran from my own mother to me, yet my future here renews life and love like an endless cycle. May the pen fuse cultures, melt boundaries, and evoke balance between the old and the new.
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