I never really understood the meaning of the word chi. I heard it often, especially during discussions of better living and healthier calmer lifestyles. I’d a vague idea of its essence, but I never developed the intellectual curiosity to Google and understand its meaning.
A few days ago, while folding laundry, I thought, “My chi is unblocked.” I’m unsure if I used the word correctly. At that moment I felt relaxed, happier, calmer, and free. Until then I didn’t realize that I carried a heavy weight in my heart.
I spend the last year and two months just waiting for my final freedom.
For last twelve years and six months, I’m living in self-exile. I’d decided that I’d visit New Delhi only when I get an US passport. I feel that an US passport would give me protection from my parents. I know it sounds almost illogical that my parents can harm me anymore.
I live with the memory of my twenty-sixth birthday. The night before, at 2 a.m., my mother approached the New Delhi police security patrol jeep and reported that I was a stranger and a call-girl illegally living in their home. I was in my nightdress, all exposed and vulnerable. Two burly crude policemen had interrogated me and almost took me to the police station. All of my gazillion relatives who live in adjacent row-houses refused to help me. After the policemen left, citing it as a ‘family matter,’ at eight the following morning, while I was still sleeping, my mother had pummeled me to near-death.
I know that it happened years ago. My husband keeps on reminding me that I’ve him now. I understand over the years I’ve become stronger both physically and emotionally for my parents to hurt me. I’m not broke anymore. I realize that even if I’d visited New Delhi in last twelve years, my parents most probably could not have been able to beat me.
Still, there was a chance. They’ve bigger pull in the New Delhi society than me; they know people; they know the way to bribe people. I know, I know, that the odds were almost impossible that they could physically harm me. But then my life is totally built on one-to-million chances. With me, surely, if I’d visited New Delhi, my parents would have found a way to harm me.
Don’t confuse that I miss New Delhi because my parents live there. I miss New Delhi because I have memories. I miss marveling at the engineering feat of Qutab Minar, attending concerts at Old Fort, the architecture of Lotus Temple, walking in Lodi Garden, window-shopping at Connaught Place, worshiping at Hanuman Temple, shopping at Sarojini Nagar Market, haggling at Palika Bazar, and eating all kinds of street food.
After my Green Card, I had applied for an US citizenship. They say that the hard work is getting a Green Card. Rest is just a formality. So I applied for the citizenship after the stipulated five years wait.
In those years. I didn’t participate in any political rally, even when I strongly agreed with the cause. I wanted to volunteer at the women’s prison, after watching Orange Is the New Black; I didn’t. I didn’t want to make any waves or get caught in any one-of-million-chances-that-things-go-wrong situations.
So I waited. Once I submitted the citizenship application, within a month I’d my biometrics-appointment. I waited for my citizenship-interview call.
The first three months of 2017, I didn’t worry. My cousin-friend got his citizenship-interview call within months; he lives in New Jersey. I rationalized that I live in Silicon Valley–the hub of immigrants. By the six months’ mark, I was worried. The current president promoted new ideas of immigration. My husband told that it wouldn’t affect us. But I was worried. I hid it from my husband and my cousin-friend. I refused to discuss it. I referred to our citizenship status as ‘it.’ I didn’t want to acknowledge my fear.
I felt that I was so close to my freedom from my parents and at the start of my new life, yet it was not within my grasp.
By the October 2017, I was a mess. I couldn’t write the way I wrote earlier. I went through the motions of life–celebrating Diwali and shopping at Thanksgiving. I didn’t work-out as much as before. I didn’t reply to my friends. I avoided people. I was depressed.
Finally, one year to the date of my biometrics-appointment, days shy of New Year’s Eve 2018, I got the citizenship-interview appointment letter. Of course, I spend the month leading to interview studying like a zombie and worrying. For the first time, since I moved to the US, I lost weight. Not much, just a few pounds. The interview questions weren’t difficult. It was the most important exam of my life that made it terrifying. Any other exam, I feel, I can take again. Hey, for my grad school application, I took GRE twice. Citizenship-interview felt like a life-death situation.
The wait was the worst. I waited for the interview day. Worried and stressed that I wouldn’t reach there on time, I awoke at 3:30 in that morning. Btw, my husband was cool during all this. Or probably he didn’t want to burden me with his worry.
On the day of the interview, again I waited for my turn. After I passed the interview, I waited for the notice to appear for the Oath ceremony. First, they send you a text message, then the notice comes via post. The wait was long. In reality, it was only ten days, but it felt loooong. Of course, my husband and I worried that we might get a different date and time for the ceremony.
The wait for the Oath ceremony wasn’t stressful. But I was afraid to get even a traffic ticket. Oh, you have to mark in another form if you get a traffic citation between the date of your interview to the ceremony. Of course, I waited to make the ceremony day as perfect as I could.
I am waiting to get my US passport, but this weight isn’t killing me.
It took me days to come down from the high of getting the citizenship. I find that I feel lighter. I feel as though the weight of worry has lifted. I am writing again, more than blogs. I am reading magazines and books again. I not working-out as much as I like, but that is because I am still celebrating. I’ve put on the weight I lost, as well as few more pounds. I am doing yoga again. I am planning a trip to New Delhi. I feel protected under the US umbrella. If I get adventurous, I might actually contemplate traveling to other countries besides India. but in all seriousness, I feel real-happy and at peace. It is as though I’ve endured a long tedious journey. Whatever the heck chi is, it is cooperating with me.