This American Life | Anupama Menon

Some of the most defining phases of my life have been in the USA and my take on each phase has been shaped as much by my stay in the US as by my upbringing in India, the influence of my family, religion and culture.

Despite all the easily available material comforts that even a middle class life in America offers, we as immigrants from India find a ton of things missing from our daily lives. Constant cribbing about how we do not get the right fruits for Poojas, how we cannot get good fresh coconut, how we cannot eat panipuri on the roadside, how we cannot attend every naming ceremony/wedding/house warming party that happens in India, how we cannot hang clothes to dry on rails behind our house, how we cannot get anywhere without knowing how to drive etc. Somewhere along the way, I got off that dismal train. I made a conscious decision to enjoy everything that is good here, and to underplay things that I might be missing, about India – home. I suddenly found myself becoming an outcast at many places (people stopped short of calling me a traitor) – like I was cheating on my home country. How could I openly admit that I LOVED living in America? How could I say in public that there are a lot of things here that are better than they are in India? How dare I vocalize that American culture is not all bad and Indian culture is not all good? How disgusting that I agree that I will miserably miss the great life I had here when I leave?

Before you jump to conclusions and call me a “Americanized Desi” let me clarify. I am still as Indian as I could be living in India. My three year old son speaks better Malayalam than I do. We eat regular home cooked meals most of which are Indian. I celebrate all the Indian festivals with more interest and authenticity than it was celebrated in India. But I try not to hold on to our culture so strongly that it gets in the way of our life here. When we have two minutes to spare we drive off to see fall colors, or pick apples at a nearby farm, or go hiking or boating or, watch the birds that come to have their lunch at the bird feeder we have set up in our patio or make a snow man or participate in charity walks – a zillion things that do not make up the normal fabric of life in India – all this with no worries about choosing one over the other.

I excused myself from the trouble of deciding what I wanted to be – Indian or American. I decided to be little of both and pick things from here and there as I go along.

So in this multi-episode project, I hope to be able to spell out why people back home and everywhere else Love to Hate America; how we, immigrants in US go through a tug of war everyday – more and more as our kids grow up and we grow older; how we get drawn deeper and deeper into the life here making it painfully difficult to live anywhere else. Nothing that I write in this is going to an eye opener for anyone – you might have heard the same sentiments from me or others a million times before this. This is just my account.

I don’t intend to write philosophically and decipher the “Great American mystery” for the population – it is going to be more of “my life in America” and what I learnt from it. In true American spirit, I shall pass no judgments on life anywhere.. just my take on things. The intention is not to offend anyone, any country or culture, or to finally crack the case open on why one culture is wholly better than the other.

Read more here

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Anupama Manon is in her early thirties, cruising through life with her partner in crime, Ajith, and a five year old, Hari. She’s not ashamed to admit that she loves life, and likes to give an impression that she lives life on the edge. Juggling a zillion projects at most times, she finds that twenty-four hours in a day is definitely not sufficient. A market researcher by day, Anu recently registered her own market research consulting firm in London. She loves travelling, photography, reading, listening to music, watching movies, writing, her day job, and just planning in general – planning for anyone, anything, anywhere: birthday parties, potluck dinners, corporate events – you name it! She also hates cooking, and will do anything conceivable to avoid it, but loves eating…is that the definition of laziness?

5 comments

  1. Rekha

    The introduction to your blog really echoed the way I feel about living in London. You have narrated it so well. Enjoyed reading the blog
    Strangely as well, I feel more at home here than anywhere else. Living here is like having the best of both worlds.
    People tell me that if you have money in India you can live like a queen – maid, AC, cars to avoid the crowds etc. But it is the things that money can’t buy that I am interested in : Fairness, justice, freedom in the true sense, love for nature, the fact that I can walk back home late and not worry about my safety, no corruption to deal with, charitable people etc etc etc

    • Thanks a ton, Rekha….Totally agree with what you said about life in India… I had the good fortune to live in middle east for a while before choosing to come to London…Despite the obvious difference in life style and the more obvious lack of “support system” – we chose London…and have not regretted the decision one bit till date!
      I get your thoughts 100%..
      Thanks for reading…

  2. A nice read!!..Waiting for more!!…Anu you are right in a sense but I do not want to agree since this blog makes me more and more wanting to go back and secondly it makes me think why did my partner in crime chose India from all the places:(

    • Thanks for reading, Soumiya…and thanks even more for leaving your comments…
      Talking about the decisions our other halves make – Well, that is totally another discussion, that needs to happen offline…:)

  3. Shylaja Gopal

    Hey Anu, Good job. Simple yet effective lanuage. Your ideas are conveyed with clarity. I am sure it echoes the feelings of the Indian diaspora in the US of A. Good work. Keep it up:)

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