What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “Two Little Suitcases”?
How about a fun Vacation somewhere far far away from work?
Maybe the number of checkin bags airlines used to allow for free?
When I think of “Two Little Suitcases”, my thoughts always go to my first journey across the oceans. A journey that changed my life...forever!
I was a very happy, rebellious child growing up in India. I gave my teachers fits of frustration, my parents headaches and my friends much amusement! To me, it was more fun to play tag in the class than learn about soils and minerals in geography. You know the childhood I am talking about - a “normal” one! But those are not the stories I want to share today.
After graduating high school, harsh realities of growing up hit me. To balance the years of inequality of the past, the government allocated quotas, first for government jobs, then for education and finally for pretty much everything, for political gains. Well, long story short, I pulled the short end of the stick and missed my pre-med by a hair’s width. My parents had to borrow heavily against our home to help pay my way through college. But those are not the stories I want to share today.
I graduated at the top of my class. I found a software sales and support job that gave me a good jumpstart. We built a team and a very good one at that. We met our sales targets and most often exceeded them. About a year in, I work up the courage to go ask for a raise and my boss says, “Nope! Good try working up the courage and all, but sorry, not right now”. I had to think out of the box. My boss is a tough cookie. The next day, I went and proposed to her and believe it or not, she said “Yes”! Well, I did get my raise in the next paycheck.
But, here’s the catch! She was 4 years older to me. And that is a big NO NO in India then. But those are not the stories I want to share today.
My boss (and girlfriend!) and I decide to get married. But the social fabric will not allow for that. So we decide that we need space and time - not from each other, but from everything else around us. We land up on the brilliant idea of doing a Masters in the US. Most rebellious kids that age looking to get out pretty much ended with the same conclusion! That's back when "Brain Drain" was a real thing! We applied and we got in. But, here’s the catch! No assistantship. I will have to pay my way through college again. But believe it or not, those are not the stories I want to share today.
I pack my two little suitcases, with all my belongings I could stuff in it and took off for the first time ever from India. There were many firsts - my first flight experience, first travel outside India and a first step towards a higher education!
I landed in Atlanta, Georgia. 1996. Atlanta was playing host toto the summer olympics. The airport was an ocean of people, vibrant, full of energy. I felt home. Dragging my two little suitcases, I catch my connection to Memphis, TN. I hit the ground running, searching for any assistantships, passing my resume like flyers. A week later, I get a call from this professor who is very impressed with my resume. For the first time, I am being recognized for what I have done.There was no burden of the past that I had no control of. It was a clean slate.
This trend continued through college and at work. Not once, I repeat NOT ONCE, was my past held against me. Yes, I am an immigrant, who has experienced America, the land of opportunities - if you choose to seize it.
So, when I think of two little suitcases, I always reflect upon the journey that started in my childhood and led me all the way here to the great US of A. That’s the journey, I wanted to share today.
I leave you all with this thought:
I am not sure of what you think of Uncle Sam
But I am always grateful to him, I truly am;
For he took me under his care
and opened his home for me to share.
Two little suitcases were not big enough
to hold all my past belongings;
but it sure was large enough
to hold my dreams, my new beginnings.
Until next time...Cheers!