How an Immigrant found his second home
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
What is a home?
To me, it’s where my family is. Well, mostly. But home to me is also a place that I’ve spent enough nights sleeping and dreaming. I have a permanent home in Mumbai, the place where I grew up and the place that its mere visualization in my mind gives me a warm fuzzy felling.
It is where I spent my formative years and has had a vital role in shaping me a person.
But over the years I’ve called multiple places home. Whether it was a hostel (Let’s not kid ourselves. It was a hotel room) in Infosys Mysore, a row house in Pune or my 2 hostel rooms at MICA (my post grad school). There was no instant connection with these places, unlike what they show it in movies. It happened over a period of time - slowly and steadily. I spent enough nights on that mattress or the creaking bed, sleeping, dreaming, crying and then one day it gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling I’d felt before.
It became home.
This is an account of how I came to call this 1 BHK in Jersey City, New Jersey – my home (at least for now).
Before you proceed further, you should also be aware of why I chose to move here. It'll just add more context to this story.
I landed at the Newark airport on a slightly chilly Saturday morning only to realize that Uber here didn’t accept cash unlike back home in India. It also refused to accept my Debit Card and Vodafone international roaming was yet to be activated.
Thankfully, there’s no need for an OTP to connect to a Wi-Fi at an American airport and I was able to get in touch with my wife. She was probably still half asleep when she told me to get a yellow cab and come home.
Home, it sounded weird to hear that. But there was enough chaos around me to get philosophical at that time.
I lugged 3 full suitcases around to figure out a way to book a Yellow cab at the airport and eventually managed to get one. The process was simple, but it is the most money I’ve ever paid from Newark airport to what I now call my ‘home’.
The initial days were chaotic. We had an idea of what a home should look like. And my wife and I went about achieving that ‘look’. That means, an elaborate process of furniture shopping began.
Since I already plan to write a separate chapter on furniture shopping, I’ll end this section of my life here by saying that the process of furniture shopping (after marriage) will suck the life out of you. And I’m not exaggerating. There’s a reason why a trip to Ikea is an ultimate stress test for couples. Those who survive it, survive anything else life throws at them later.
Let’s just say, after a few months (or may be a year) we were able to achieve the ‘look’ we’d thought our ‘home’ should have. We had a new couch, a new TV stand, a coffee table, a study table, a dining table, chairs, a new cupboard to store both our wardrobes, a wine stand (please don’t tell my parents) and a couple of lamps too. It was satisfactory but like what most Marketing Managers say after looking at the first draft of a creative, “Feel nahi aa rahi bro”(Where's the feel bro?).
Now, this wasn’t an activity that was happening in a silo. There were other things happening simultaneously. There’s a reason why the word ‘chaotic’ above is in bold.
Read more about the different phases every Immigrant goes through early on in a new country.
I was in a new country for the first time and I had no job. And so, started the job-hunting process. I’ve had 2 jobs in the past. Both jobs were campus placements and therefore I had never experienced what I was going to for the next 3 months. Every person at some point of time should go through this very humbling process.
I had good experience with good references. But with no experience in the country, it was mind numbing and at the same time a great learning process. I eventually scored an internship for 3 months in a start up that promised to make me permanent after that. And there I was, in a job I was over-qualified for, making minimum wage. But I was not complaining. This job has taught me a lot of things that my previous jobs didn’t and for that I’m grateful. For those wondering what happened after 3 months, I got permanent.
I've documented that process (sort of) in a different blog. You can read it here. It's actually a rant.
Finally, life was good. I had a job, the ‘home’ was shaping up and I was travelling every day from Jersey City to New York City. I think it was Karma that I found a place in Jersey City. It was a F**k You from all the people who I had corrected for calling Vashi or Thane, a part of Mumbai. I was now living in New York City’s Vashi. And I made peace with it.
Like I said, Life was good. I had a routine. Wake-up, Work, Work-out (yes, I could do that because I was not travelling for 2 hours in traffic like I did in Mumbai), Cook, Eat, Watch TV, Sleep, Repeat.
The place felt homely, but it still wasn’t home.
Like millions of other couples who make it a point to travel after they get married, we did the same (minus the Instagram showoff). We took trips to Amsterdam, Italy, UK, and some within the US too. After returning from each trip, I used to pray that when I hit the bed, I felt at home. But that feeling alluded me. I stopped chasing that feeling and made peace with the fact that it may not come soon enough.
In the meantime, we had to travel to India for a family emergency. I was sad about losing a loved one but there was also a warm feeling of going back ‘home’. The mood was somber at home and it got better in a few days. The warm-fuzzy feeling was back. I was happy and then I was sad when it was time to leave again.
I was tired, jet-lagged when we opened the door of our apartment here in Jersey. Unconsciously, I set about doing tasks - emptying our luggage, getting milk from the Deli downstairs, making tea etc.
Still half asleep, I poured tea in our cups when I had a weird feeling in my stomach. I thought it was my motions, but it wasn’t. My wife and I were having tea when I realized what it was. My wife asked me why I was smiling. and I said, “Nothing. It just feels good to be back home.”