Friday, November 18, 2016

Ask Firangi Bahu: "I feel like we have nowhere to turn..."

(Img via Atlas Green)

"Hi Firangi Bahu,

I have been reading your blog for a while and I don't know where to turn. I don't know if you can offer me any advice, but this is a cry for help to the universe. I am looking for answers.

Here's my story: I'm an American and my husband is from India. We have two children who are currently in elementary school - my daughter is in Kindergarten and my son is in Grade 3. I work part-time from home and handle the children. My husband has a good job, but he is here on a work visa. He doesn't have his green card yet. We live in a large city in the American Midwest. I met my husband here when he was doing his Master's degree at my American university and we were married shortly after.

Last week, we watched in horror as Trump was elected and now we are doubting the future in this country. The state where we live is full of Republicans. We have had to deal with racism over the years, but nothing was as bad as last week. My children were bullied at school for "looking Mexican" and told by classmates that they would be "deported", even though they are American born and bred!!! When I was voting, a white man standing beside me remarked that he "couldn't wait until all the terrorists get kicked out", and he pointed to a Sikh man standing only yards away. Who could have been my husband. My husband has also faced numerous situations of bullying - at work, and even when he's been out grocery shopping. He doesn't feel like his job is secure. Frankly, it has been horrific for months. Many of our friends are dealing with the same thing, but they can't leave. We do not feel safe. We have both discussed a plan to leave the U.S. to a safer, more tolerant country. We have discussed renting out our house and maybe returning to the U.S. when it is more safe and when we can trust the leadership and the government. I feel like it's only a matter of time before my husband loses his job, or we are the victim of a hate crime. I'm not willing to expose my children to years and years of an intolerant dictatorship under Trump. This week was bad enough. I have lost all my faith in my country. For our family's safety, I'm not waiting to stick around until it gets better. I'd rather leave entirely for somewhere better, and live as an expat.

I have always thought of India as another possibility for us. A lot of Americans don't have the option of fleeing to their spouse's country, so in that way at least I felt fortunate. However, my husband's family lives in New Delhi and I have serious concerns about the air quality and also my personal safety as a foreign woman. Recently, our relatives have not been able to step outside because the smog has been at an all-time high. They said that even the air inside the house is bad.

I feel like we have nowhere to turn - my country has become a hotpot for racist attacks, and my husband's country has become physically unbreathable. It's like a nightmare come true...."

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Dear readers, what would YOU do if you were in the reader's position?
Helpful advice / brainstorming / solutions welcome...

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15 comments

  1. I am an Indian living in New England, I haven't faced any of the problems luckily. I find it highly unlikely any of the Legally immigrated individuals will be deported, like those on work visa. I do not know how it is in mid-west but a majority here in the east are Democrat supporters. If you strongly feel about moving, India is a tough change for the whole family in many aspects. Have you considered moving to a place within US which has a lot of Indian immigrants living like NJ for example :)

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  2. First of all, you have great courage to bring this topic up. Secondly, I can empathize with your emotions. It is scary. I think of my dad who is an amazing, kind, loving human being but has been discriminated against because of his Sikh religion. I think of my nephews who want to practice their religion and they get discriminated in school. It’s concealed discrimination but it exists in schools too and your kids have experienced that. The comment you heard in that voting booth was coming from ignorance and you can make a choice to either ignore it, accept it, or do something about it but running from it is not an option. The best option in my view is to be louder and prouder to drown out the voices that encourage hate. We don't need to fight but we need to keep practicing love and care for each other. This is the time when we need to get together and help our neighbors, our co-workers, our children, and all the people who are more scared than we are.
    If I were in your situation, I would be scared for sure, but I would also choose to not let anyone drive me away or push me away from what matters to me. You belong in this country, in this world so don't let anyone drive you away. It's easier said than done but I know you can do it because you had the courage to write this letter.
    Things have always been crazy and hatred has always been in the world but now it's just seen openly. You will find problems and issues everywhere.
    I can tell you that you can reach out when you are scared but don't run away from this. We don't know what's going to happen and we are in this together. I know I'm not giving you practical advice because you have to choose what you want for your family. You know it in your heart what you need to do. But you need support, encouraging words, someone to talk to or some safe place, give me a call, give the people you love a call or be with them. And know that I am scared too for my friends and family but I’m choosing to show up for them when they need me.
    You are amazing and courageous so make your mark and stay teach your kids to live a life of enlightenment and not ignorance. They are the future so help them create a better future than we are living in or we are experiencing. Hope this helps.
    With much love and hugs.....

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  3. Wow LW, we are twins! My husband is also from Delhi and here on a work visa. As soon as we saw the election results, we knew we had to get serious about his green card... is that an option for you?

    Also not to add to your stress, but did you see the report that if you're thinking of moving to Delhi with kids, don't do it? (It might not have been a report but some comments made by a really high-up doctor, I can't remember off of the top of my head.) My partner and I have talked about it extensively and I really don't see any way my future children and I could live there, just based on that. I develop a horrible cough every time we go back.

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  4. I feel like you're under the impression that only America has these issues which is not accurate. I faced racism in India directed at me. I've been in both Delhi and Amritsar and traveled quite a bit in the north. Most of the women I met while living there had experienced racism, and they all had viewed shadism. Our internet community is full of such personal stories. You won't be welcomed with open arms by every Indian you meet either. They are a lot less accepting of intercultural marriages than America is. Only, in India, all of this aggression and hatred will be directed at you. You may not realize it will be that bad if you are not fully fluent speaking the language. When I was living there and out and about in the city on a daily basis, I had evil glares, men making rude remarks toward me and more. My point is, the grass is rarely greener on the other side.

    Your husband is here legally, Trump isn't gunning for him. Since you mentioned he's only on a work visa though, there are avenues you can take to turn this into a green card legally, start pursuing them. Get a plan together to do so. Talk to an immigration lawyer, find online communities and ask lots of questions about the process before you embark upon it and you can resolve that situation. As for his job, he can talk to HR. He will be more desirable to keep employee if they don't have to feel responsible for him. You can also talk about him applying for other jobs in better living localities with the online boards and immigration attorney as you make your decisions.

    Not everywhere in America will you find the assholes you apparently live in close quarters to. I live in a conservative, overly Christian, fairly close-minded area (Lynchburg, VA) and not once have my husband and I ever experienced anything you mentioned has happened to you. The closest we came is an African American man at my husbands work accused him of being a goat eater...which we both found hilarious since Africa is a goat meat loving country way more than India likely ever will be. My husband couldn't fathom why eating goat is bad but he knew the comment was mean spirited and he also understood the mans ignorance when making it.

    We don't get hatefulness here like you've described. I'm not saying this area is perfect. I'm sure there's some real idiots around me. There's idiots everywhere. You just need to make a plan with your husband to find somewhere that you don't feel like the neighbors are against you. Maybe that's a better neighborhood, a different suburb, a different state, etc. Only you can decide.

    But you honestly cannot blame your fears on the election. Everything Trump says is just words. No American politician has ever stuck to their promises. As soon as they get elected, they soon find out they're not going to actually be in control, they're going to be controlled. The videos that came out of both Trump and Hillary from years past prove that. They had the same speeches - in different years - saying the same things. And that was all because it was what they felt would get them the votes. They don't actually care what they say and promise. They don't mean any of it and it doesn't actually come from them. It comes from their campaign directors and speech writers and the political parties. They are saying what they think the majority wants to hear. It's all BS.

    Whatever ties you feel like you have to the house and neighborhood you're in now, think long and hard about if they're worth the abuse you're dealing with. Clearly the people around you aren't intelligent enough to get to know you and make an informed decision based on your individual personalities. That's their loss but, what is there to say you HAVE to stay there and tolerate it. Don't give them that space in your life. Decide what you need in your life, do some research and then make it happen. You're in full control. :)

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. The comments my heard were worse in India, my son was excluded. My daughter was asked in February of this year if she would have been in the black or white school in the olden days...

      Keep your husband in a legal status and you should be fine. Work on his green card in case there are lay offs or something at his work.

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  5. I understand the dilemma. I am married to a North Indian for going on 10 years now, and recently he has been wanting to return to India. It was for more cultural reasons, as he feels uncomfortable about the influence of American Culture on our children, Ages 8 and 6. Although his family has moved to Bangalore, which I feel better about than Delhi, I still have been very wary of moving there. I feel as an independent woman, I would have to give up so much of my personal freedom, as evidenced by both times I have gone and spent several weeks there. I am concerned by the attacks on women, by kidnappings etc.
    Until this election, I have refused to move there. However, I did tell my husband, about a year ago, that if Trump wins, we can go. I thought it was a neat and tidy way out, as there is no way that could ever happen. Well, surprise surprise, it did happen. And my initial reaction was ok, fine. India it is. The only hesitation was that we bought our first home this summer, and I adore it. However, when we spoke about going, my husband said it would take "at least a year" to tie up everything here and have it arranged in India to move there.
    We live in deep red Arizona, but even here, we have a safe group of friends, and have chosen a school that is more than 50% international. As far as I know, neither my husband, nor my children have ever been harassed.
    I understand the feeling that this country no longer seems like the one we have been brought up to believe it is. Where all men are created equal and deserve protection under the law, the one that welcomes the huddles masses yearning to break free, the shining city on a hill.
    And so I say, do what makes your family safe. If you feel that is going to India, go. Perhaps go to a city with a better air quality record. If you want to give the US another chance, stay, but increase your options. Since you are married with children, it should take a very short time to get his green card. No expensive lawyer required. Just go online to www.uscis.gov and fill out the forms.
    We did it ourselves and he had his gc within 3 months start to card in hand. With the GC, he will have many more options as far as employment goes, and you will be much more free to move around, you are no longer at the mercy of a company filing for his visa. I recommend to find a place with a large Indian community, I know of many. Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, NJ, CA, and here in Phoenix. Plus there must be many more that I do not personally know of.
    I respectfully take issue with anyone who says "all politician are the same, they never do what they say" Again, respectfully, THIS IS NOT A NORMAL THING THAT JUST HAPPENED. It has been only one week, and many things have already been done which are unacceptable. I fear we have dark days ahead.
    I do not know what is in store for my own family in the coming year or years, but I know that I will speak up, I will stand up, I will show up and I wont give up fighting for this incredible thing called the American Experience. If we go to India, I will write from there, if we stay, I will write from here, and find ways to be useful. I wish you the best!

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  6. I just read your post and all the comments.I hear your fears, great advice in your comments, such heart-warming stories and lots of bravery... and I am really thankful for this great network and the chance for all of us to exchange our thoughts and feelings in this forum.
    I am from Germany and met my Indian husband 15 years ago in University in the US. We lived there for 10 years before we decided to move back to his hometown, New Delhi, to raise our three kids close to his parents. I have no advice on what is the best way to live your life when you are in an intercultural marriage and definitely idea what is the perfect place to do so. And seeing other couples over the last 12 years of marriage, I believe there is no right or wrong, better or worse when it comes to relationships, no matter if you are from the same town or married cross-countries - living in your hometown or abroad.
    But I have come to the conclusion that when you are in a cross-cultural marriage, there is not one place that is better for your family than another. I have lived in the west with an Indian husband, I have lived as a foreign bride in India... Unfortunately, cross-cultural marriages are still an exception! Racism is alive everywhere in the world - in some places more open than in other, but still. But you chose this path and now, for your family's sake and your children's, you should make the best of it. People will comment, no matter where you are; they are curious, they are shocked, they are in awe of your bravery to break the norms. As much as I sometimes get upset that things are never as easy as I thing they should be, I declared myself an ambassador of 'love without borders' and hope to promote acceptance, tolerance and love between all cultures.
    Because I know, every time I think that life might be better somewhere else, I know it's just going to be different issues... Life is not perfect and we just need to see which are the things that we are able to work with.
    As a mixed couple, we have the luxury to chose between homes and countries. It is a great opportunity for our children to learn about different cultures. Of course it is scary to be the victim of discrimination and of course we want the best for our children - and I have not solution to make that part of our struggle easier. But I am confident, that - even if we don't see it - for all the negative we experience from people who don't agree of our life-style, that love and friendship is possible across cultures, we are setting a good example for others that cross-cultural families work and that there is nothing wrong with it!
    As for living in New Delhi the last 10 years, it has taken me a very long time to adjust (with an ongoing culture shock of 10 years) but deep down I know it has been the best decision of my life seeing the children grow up as part of a Punjabi extended family.It is a huge change from the freedom and fresh air that we had when living in the US, but that void has quickly been filled with love, century old culture and strong family bonds ... For every cut-back there is another advantage and again, you have to see what works for you. I have been lucky that I have been accepted with open arms into a large circle of family and friends, and (touch wood...as we Indian say :-) I have never felt unsafe as a woman living my life in Delhi ... but of course been sensitive of cultural setting and big city restrictions that I feel that I even had to consider when living in NYC.
    Sorry for my philosophical outburst...this is a topic dear to my heart! Stay strong and
    know you are not alone in this! All the best!

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  7. First of all here are my (((((Hugs)))) to you. I totally empathize with what you are dealing with. I am an indian married to an indian, a day after Trump got elected, my son was asked if he was a muslim, he is an indian hindu and he has quite a few muslim friends with whom he plays. He is 7. He was then asked not to play with muslim kids. These were said by 7 year old white girls. My mantra is that this too shall pass. What we need to do is to support each other now, I am talking to my muslim and hispanic and black friends about the current situation, we have each other for support if we do get targeted. Please DO NOT move to Delhi. It is the most unsafe place for a woman and also the air quality is horrible. I have lived there and my asthma would get worse. Do not take any hasty decisions. I won't say that it will be a fairytale kind of an environment for the next 4 years, no, i will not say that. But, we can all make each other feel safe by coming together. If your husband is a sikh, go to the gurdwara and talk to the people, form a support group. A movement is rising, that day is not far when the current president will be forced to step down. Until then, please hang in there.

    A sister who is in a same boat as you..

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  8. I'm sorry that you and your family have to go through this... Unfortunately I do believe there are dark days ahead, as a previous commentator said, not just in US, but everywhere. With Brexit, now Trump, with the far-right rising in Europe. It will pass, the pendulum will swing back again, but it might take more then just the 4 (8) years of his presidency, the damage he and his cronies are causing takes a long time to correct.
    What can you do in the meantime?

    First, your husbands legal status. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but if you two married in US, have children born in US, he's working, then why haven't you done it before? Get started immediately, especially if what you say is true, that his job might not be secure anymore.

    Consider moving. I don't know about your ties to the community you're living in or your financial status, could you just move to a different neighbourhood, would you want to move to a different state. It seems to me that it might be easier to live more up north in a bigger city, but there are ignorant racists everywhere unfortunately. Trump didn't create them, they've always existed, he has just emboldened them and they feel justified to throw up any old c..p right now.

    Are you feeling safe in your neighbourhood? With your immediate neighbours? Any problems there?
    As with your children's school, are the teachers standing up for your children? Can you get help from them? I mean for bullying? Would it be impossible for example for you to go to school and talk to the class? About your experiences? Would the school incourage that??
    You might want to move to India, but if you're doing it just for the sole purpose to escape racism, then I'm very sorry, you might end up being disappointed. I mean no disrespect to anyone, but Indians can be pretty intolerant towards "outsiders". How's your relationship with your inlaws, your extended Indian family? How would your children react to the move? How would they be accepted in India? What would your role be there? Would you find a job, would you be OK if you wouldn't? All things to consider...

    I'm married to an Indian man born in England and at the moment we're living in my home country, a small EXTREMELY white eastern European country. Let's just say we stick out like a sore thumb, especially when we're out with our children (both from our previous marriages). Heads turn, I've almost stopped noticing the stares, but the occasional comments are a different matter. It can be a whisper of did-you-see-that, it can be someone pointing us out, and unfortunately it can be someone openly calling me a "traitor" for "not being with my own kind". I always confront the people, always! I've been lucky so far, no dangerous situations have followed, mostly people are just ashamed after me standing up for us, and the children haven't heard the worst of it, but it scares me, it makes me hurt inside.
    There is one thing I've noticed though. Interestingly, if it happens in "my country" and the children aren't with us, my husband doesn't care, he laughs it off and when it happens in England (as it has a couple of times), I don't care. I can distance myself, and just shrug it off, I can just pitty the idiot and laugh in their face. But back home I feel responsible, like I'm to blame somehow :(

    I'm afraid that I have no clear cut answers for you. Unfortunately these are the times we live in, and it's probably going to get worse, before it can get better again. I guess in your situation I would consider moving. To a bigger, more diverse city, possibly even to a different state. I'm not sure India is the answer you're looking for...

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  9. I can epathsize with you since i am forgeign born but a us citizen. I would contact an immigration attorney before you leave. You know the stipulations invovling his future green card. I know he can stay out of the country for a short period of time.

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  10. I really don't have much to add but I'll try to add some different angles.

    Most Americans I've met couldn't handle living in Delhi for more than a year. If you want to breathe (and breathing is important) don't move to Delhi. We have a flat in a swanky suburb in Delhi that we rarely visit because if we stay for more than 2 weeks we get sick. Eyes constantly watering, cough, nose running. Dengue is endemic in Delhi too. I have been verbally harassed, had my behind, crotch, and hair grabbed as a foreign woman in on the street and even in posh shopping malls Delhi many times also.

    As far as living in the US:
    I am an American. Good jobs are hard to find in America and most Americans can't afford to just move at will. If you have the finances to move and your husband can get a good job elsewhere in the US then that would be an option. Perhaps you might want to move to an area with a large Indian diaspora such as Fremont, CA or Newark, NJ. Another option would be to move to one of the 'blue' areas of the US like Austin TX or San Jose, CA. Wikipedia has a list of the cities in the US with Indian diasporas here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Americans
    Just be aware that growing up in supposedly 'liberal' and 'blue' northern California I was bullied as a child & teen about my hair, weight, boobs, height, race, and other assorted issues. A lot of kids were and still are bullied in the US at school. It is up to you as a parent to get involved with your school's staff and hopefully other parents to put a stop to bullying.

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  11. I am a Hindu ( Indian ) American, and I voted for Trump - Trump made a huge outreach to the Hindu American community with a focus on Islamic terrorism - About 30% of Hindu Americans voted Trump - Hindu Americans provided much of the Trump margin in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania etc

    The worst that red-neck whites can do is pass comments- ignore them - Compare these comments to what Tamil-Brahmins face in Tamil Nadu , India - for 100 years, the main political parties , the Dravidian parties, have made open speeches asking that the Tamil Brahmins be driven out - They have also made public speeches asking that Brahmin women be groped ( Hug a Pappathi ) - There is an official 69% anti-Brahmin quota in govt jobs and MD seats and in reality 99% govt jobs and MD seats are blocked - Periodically Brahmin priests are assaulted by Dravidian radicals - and 15% of Tamil Brahmins have migrated to USA, so called white racism is far less a threat than our Dravidian neighbors

    White racism is over-blown, we face far worse back in India, especially in different state - even within USA, notice Indians face far worse actual violence from non-whites, such as muggings - Indians dont want to live in non-white areas of USA

    What is needed is more outreach from Indian American communities to our Neighbors, to dispel ignorance

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  12. I do not think visa is a big issue for your husband as he is married to an American citizen. Your options include:

    - Moving elsewhere with your kids within the USA - another city/ neighbourhood
    - Wait it out till your husband gets a green card and then move to another state
    - Look at Canada?
    - Look at other cities in India like Bangalore, Hyderabad apart from Delhi etc.
    - Look at other countries

    If your kids are being raised in USA, India could be a big shocker for them and they may fall sick. Racism is everywhere unfortunately.

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  13. Hi all,

    I'm so moved by all the people who came together to help this reader of the blog. I'm sure she appreciates the help.

    I want to thank you all for being so generous with your time and be so kind with your words.

    I'm very happy to be sharing this planet with you all.

    Thanks Alexandra for creating this great platform for us to share our thoughts and ideas respectfully.

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  14. If you wish to move to India , try Mumbai/Pune or the south. Not Delhi.
    These places are a lot safer than most American cities.

    In US, you can try moving to a blue state like California.
    But do not expect the hate crimes against anyone who looks Muslim to not happen in the blue states. In New York, an american woman was sentenced to 24 years for pushing a hindu man in front of a moving train because she hated hindus and muslims.

    Too many sikhs have been physically attacked and murdered just for looking muslim.

    What is troubling is that America (especially the southern states) voted for a man who bragged about sexual assault and views women like 'sex objects'.
    See the link below for state wise rape statistics.
    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/03/opinion/sutter-alaska-rape-list/

    The southern and conservative states seem to have more rape. Is is surprising that
    these states overwhelmingly voted for a man who bragged about sexual assaults?
    1 in 5 women in US colleges is sexually assaulted - this is just college - God know
    how much it will be if every sexual assault is considered.

    To sum up:
    1. If possible, move to a blue state with a lot of immigrant population. It becomes difficult - not impossible- for racists to bully you if they(bigots) are in a minority .
    2. Do not leave the US as far as possible because it has better career opportunities in general.
    3. Apply for your husbands green card if you can. His citizenship will take 3 years from the time he gets his GC. Once he gets US citizenship , it will be much easier to travel. Also much easier to come back to the US , if you decide.
    4. Do not take any hasty decisions based on some specific incidences. There is no guarantee that these will not happen wherever you move.

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