This American Life: Arriving in America | Anupama Manon

Never in a zillion years did I think that I would come to America for my higher education. Things were just not planned that way. It was then that Ajith (my husband now and my boyfriend then) happened and somehow it was decided that I would go and be a student in America.

I applied only to Indiana State University and got in without much trouble. I got my visa and got on a plane to go to Indiana in August 2001.

It was the first time I’d gotten on a plane as an adult. I still remember how my aunt got me a soft toy from the airport- the tweety bird which was a rage at the time. As that plane took off, I was suddenly cognizant of having left the place that I had known all my life, all my people. I was traveling to an unknown land, more than 20 hours away by air.

My first stop was in London’s Heathrow Airport. Looking back, I had no clue why the airport was so big and busy. I had no way to make a phone call to anyone; had no idea what the blinking monitors told me about my flight to Chicago. That’s where I met some guy who also happened to be flying to Chicago – he taught me how to read the flight status and where to look to see which gate I need to go to. Now after 10 years here and numerous flights, I cannot imagine why I could not figure out such basic things. Anyway, I remember very vividly the fear I had of missing my flight and not reaching Chicago on time.

Though I wanted to use my newly acquired knowledge and find the flight and gate by myself, I just quietly followed the guy I knew was flying to Chicago. Once I got in the flight, I found that I was sitting in the seat right next to him. If I had any apprehensions about coming to America he took care of that for me. He spoke and spoke and spoke about how America was the best place to be. After eight hours of almost non-stop conversation (I hardly got three sentences in), we reached Chicago.

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is supposed to be the world’s second busiest airport. Sprawled over acres and acres and thousands of flights landing and taking off each day, this was a far cry from the Bangalore Airport. The airport felt familiar – thanks to the many airport scenes in Hindi movies shot at various international airports… a soft song in the background, overlapping announcements for departing and arriving flights. Busier than busy. Bursting at its seams.

Ajith being Ajith had not given me any directions about where to meet at the airport or which gate to walk out of. I just walked on and hoped that Ajith would see me among the thousands who were walking out from the airport. He finally did – I still have no idea how he knew where I would come out from. I did not ask. He had come with a few of his friends to pick me up.

We walked out of the airport and they got my entire luggage into the car. The car belonged to one of Ajith’s friends. It was a bottle green Camry.

As I sat in the car for the four hour drive to the University, the stereo suddenly switched to a familiar Tamil song from a movie that had just released in India a few months ago. Suddenly, in a second, I felt transported back to Bangalore. Chicago wasn’t so far off after all. To this day, I credit a lot of my comfort to that CD and those songs for having made me feel at home, in a strange place. Too many things had changed for me in the 24 hours I spent in transit and those songs made me feel I was going to be fine here.

Four hours of neatly marked boards, four lane highways, no honks, clean air and blue sky – we reached Terre Haute. Ajith had already arranged for me to stay at an apartment in the University Housing Complex, which two girls shared. I crashed at their place for the night.

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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?


  1. Jayasimha

    Excellent !!! i never knew the literary blood also runs in your veins. did you tell Aji that you spent the entire flight sitting next to a new found friend & chatting non stop.It’s amazing how Anumol could talk only three sentences in an 8 hour conversation. It normally is the other way ,right. Anyway, you are the same spontaneous, bubbling, witty, Anu we all know of whether you are in luv with USA also. You are as Indian as any of us are. But definitely we would be more happy if you had been around in NAMMA BENGALURU.I am awaiting eagerly the next part. It’s v v goooooooooooood!! keep it up.

  2. Thanks, J mama….Thanks for your comments and encouragement… Hope u will not be sorry for the later, when you see the subsequent posts:)
    I miss Namma Bengalooru since day 1… But i guess, it is a classic case of the “road not taken”….This happened – it was not planned at all..But i have enjoyed the opportunities that I got because of it.. I know I am missing tons – but try not to dwell too much on it 🙂 – Just easier that way!

  3. Jayasimha

    Hi Anu.
    Firstly i am very happy that my attempt at posting on a blog is successful.This was the first time. The question of feeling sorry does not arise at all since you have already shown your writing skills. It is as witty as your tongue. I am definitely waiting for the next edition. Keep it up. Say Hi to Ajji& Appu

  4. hey Anu, forgive me! but the one thing that caught my attention was”I only got 3 sentences in during the 8 hours”,; that is an amazing feat, from what I have heard and seen.
    I enjoyed reading the article.

  5. lathika

    anu.. happy that you started writing again after a gap… you are clear and precise… while reading i can see you through.. one thing i would like to modify… people here generally love to be in america… i havent heard any adverse remarks from those who visit there… the criticism is about the foreign policy of the US govt. with regard to developing and underdeveloped countries…..

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