Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Visu pointed me to this link, which lead me here. Isn't it amazing that the Bard of Avon had such an impact on the English language and we do not even know it. Did you know that commonly used phrases such as be-all and end-all, break the ice, neither rhyme nor reason, and what the dickens are from his plays?
In the past decade at least a lot of new words have been added to the dictionary and there is at least one professor I know who invents his own words. We do observe kids inventing new words all the time. I know my lil nephew does so all the time. I am all for inventing new words all the time; however, I do not like American misspellings of proper English words. Then again, that's my own bias towards the British system. Here is a link to common grammatical errors by an American Professor. Touché do you say?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Rain Sweet Rain

The rain gods are happy with Hyderabadis this year. It has been raining almost incessantly the past three days and I wish I were up and about running and getting wet in the rain. Rains in Hyderabad need to be experienced. There is a lot of wind, thunder and lightning and sure there are traffic snarls. All of that is part of the experience. The worst part of rains for two-wheeler riders is that the vehicle could stop and not start again (being drenched is the fun part). But then again, when you are young you do not mind it. Pushing a 100+ Kilo vehicle towards the closest mechanic is fun especially when there are a dozen others doing the same around you. Oo! Sweet rains. It is the season for charcoal smoked corn on the cob laced with salt and lime, the season for the sweet scent of jasmine flowers around you, the season for a hot cuppa at the corner irani chai cafe, the season for hot pakkodas and samosas and the omniscient chat wala making garam garam ragda and gol gappa.. Hmm!! Hmm!! Hmm!! It marks the beginning of the festive season, and the start of a new school term. Beautiful rains! Wish I could just stay here and not leave at all.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A name for every relationship

I do not know about other Indian languages, but in Tamil, there is a word for most relationships in the family. We have a special title for every type of cousin. For example, dad's sister's son is athan, and dad's sister's daughter is athangar. Likewise, mom's brother is mama, mom's older sister is perimma, younger sister is chitti, mom's brother's son is amanji, mom's brother's daughter is amanga. My parents' generation still uses the relationship to call their cousins; however, my cousins and I somehow never caught on to the practice. We just call each other akka and anna which are terms for older brother and older sister respectively.

My mom used to call one of our relatives ammanji manni, which means the lady was the wife of my mom's mother's brother's son. For the longest time my brother and I thought that ammanji was that aunty's name. Turns out, she was my mom's dad's ammanji manni, and everyone had just become used to calling her that. Not only that, until my brother and I asked mom, she herself did not know the lady's actual name. It was then that she asked her dad and found out. Relationships in India are complex and simple at the same time. They are complex, cause there are so many different names, and families are so big. They are simple, because, everyone just loves each other, and they do everything possible to be in touch. The simplest way to do that is attend weddings. At least the older generation never misses a wedding in the family wherever they are, and close family includes your third cousin twice removed. Giving names to these relationships makes bonding easier and that is what is unique about the Tamil culture. I am sure it is true about other regions in India as well.

Here's a picture of my folks and I with my mom's athanga (the 80 year old in the picture), athanga's daughter, athan, and athanga's son. They are all still very much in touch with each other, and they came specially to see me, how cool is that!! Family networks in India cannot be beat by any other!!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Resilience Indian style

Here's a guy who had the right priorities even if he was not really successful. He is 73 and has failed junior high 39 times. :) Why did he keep trying? Cause he would have better marriage prospects if he had the High School Diploma. Read the story here


Monday, June 11, 2007

Through sickness and health

I had lower back surgery a couple of weeks back. I was very uncomfortable with the idea of surgery especially given how young I am. However, my doctors and parents convinced me and turns out this whole episode has all the hallmarks of a miracle. Apparently if I had waited even a month longer I may have been paralyzed. I am grateful for having such wonderful parents and brother and being able to afford the best doctors in the city. My family had no hesitations about the procedure despite the costs. I am personally pretty much bankrupt and my family footed the entire bill. By American standards the cost was pretty low at about $1500, but it is a lot of money in India and for my family.
In the days since the surgery I have been on strict bed rest and my parents have been waiting on me literally hand and foot. On one level it feels nice to be pampered especially since it has been a loong time since I have felt this way. This is also the longest time I have spent at home in almost a decade and I am so grateful for it. It feels bad cause they are old by Indian life expectancy standards and I should be taking care of them rather than the other way around. Nevertheless they have been satisfying my every whim by cooking exotic dishes and offering amazing conversations. I am experiencing all the love they have for me and am so grateful for such amazing parents. They don't think of this as an extraordinary event or that it is something amazing they are doing for me. To them their lil un is sick and there's no question of who will take care of her.
Such are the stories of extraordinary heroes in America. However in India this is commonplace and is just everyday stuff. This is the social value of families that cannot be described in words. Even now I do injustice to my parents by being inarticulate about the nature of how it is that they are helping me. It is something one knows only by being an Indian growing up in India. I do not say that American parents do not love their kids. They also love their kids. But there is something in the nature of the relationship between parents and kids in America that is distant and formal. It cannot be explained, just experienced. This is our dharma and this is the tradition and legacy I wish to pass on to my children. I love my mom and dad and hope I am as good a parent to my children.

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