I just got done talking with my mom on my mobile phone. My mom used to always say that she took us to the most prestigious country in the world: America. It is the best country in the world. She brags that we so lucky to be in America. She'd migrated from Thailand and Laos carrying us all the way to America, which is the greatest thing she has accomplished.
But I didn’t give much thought into what she meant. I never understood why she kept on saying that "America" was so great. To me I saw a different perspective of America, a lot of negative things because my education has taught me that. My education in the U.S. taught me about White Supremacy, Colonialism and the cruel things the White men have done. I was taught that “America,” this land that held the “American Dream,” was not built for minorities like me. The discrimination and racial inequality in the states didn’t please me. I kept saying, "Oh Mom, you don't know. This country is not as great as it seems."
To my mom she didn’t understand the latent oppression that is placed upon her. Although she hates the fact that bills invade her wallet every month, she loves the “kev yeg pheej” that America gives her. Every time I drove her anywhere she would comment on how lucky we are to drive on smooth cement roads with rules and laws to prohibit reckless driving. She compliments the U.S. government on their ability to run a country as big as the U.S. She very much loves America, although she misses Laos and Thailand.
Being here in this India I've come to understand what my mom was talking about. Her world and the sky she grew up in is different from my world and the sky I grew up under. Now I'm here under the sky she grew up under (not specifically India, but this is close to Thailand and Laos – I’m in Asia). Being in this part of the world I constantly think about my mom and all the words she'd been telling me; the words she constantly say day-in and day-out about how lucky we are to be living in the "land of opportunities"; the land with independence, with freedom. Now I finally see her point.
Though India is emerging as a developing country there are still a lot of third-world-country elements. I never understood “poverty” until I got here. My mom used to say that back in the jungles of Laos they were so poor to the point where their bodies would shake because they were so hungry. Here in India the face of poverty looked me straight in the eye and all I can do is look away. I’d never face anything like this before.
I was unprepared to respond to a situation where a tongue-less girl held a piece of paper saying, "I have no tongue. Can you donate some money because there is no possibility of me getting a job for myself." I didn't have any small change so I didn't donate. What else could I have done? Give her money so she can live for one more day? So she can wake up tomorrow and beg again? I just looked away.
My mom’s voice at the back of my mind whispered, “You should always give to the poor because in return God will repay you.” Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you – that what I live by. But in this instance that philosophy didn’t apply.
Being here has tested my ability to miss my Mom and to challenge my beliefs and values. I think about everything that my Mom had lectured me about and now it all makes sense! All of this has opened my eyes to see and understand the different world between my Mom and me. My values are challenged here and it’s been a rollercoaster ride here in India.