The Worst Fear of Every Immigrant – Having to Leave it All Behind

No one tells kids how life can suddenly throw you a curve ball and you are supposed to act as if you expected it all along.

It was a simple life, my family of four. A tiny apartment, family friends and weekends spent enjoying celebrations. Much like life is now in Richmond.

I was 10 and happy to just have become elder sister to a little brother. We had just visited Iraq on a month long trip seeing all the sights and meeting the friendliest strangers. Till some of those very strangers (I presumed at age 10) helped invade Kuwait August 1990.

When we visited India, 3 months every year, I never ever thought we would one day have to take refuge in our motherland. Leaving a whole life built behind. Moving with nothing but an purse full of jewelry and a bag full of diapers for a 6 month old.

Life was different. A room on top of the terrace, with a tin roof that made atrocious sounds when rain or hail came. A school in which I failed in the first semester, pining for my dad. Caste system. Relatives. Being a non vegetarian in an all vegetarian household was

All were jarring to a 10 year old. Not with any awareness mind you! I had no conscious inkling of how all this was affecting me. I just went along with everything, because, hey! I was a a kid. My life was all about making it through whenever and wherever we were.

Once my dad came back, we moved to a different city. A home my dad could build after losing everything because he had savings to fall back on. Two years of me building memories, another safe haven and learning dance and then that too changed with my parents deciding to move back to Kuwait.

Back to a tiny apartment, family friends and weekends. But you see, things has changed. Everything felt a shade greyer. There weren’t as many celebrations anymore. Fewer parties. People kept more to themselves and saved every penny and thing they owned, for the day they had to leave Kuwait again.

Living with the Worst Fear of Every Immigrant - Having to Leave it all Behind

It was not a question of IF anymore, but a WHEN.

There were after all around us the reminders that some day everything could disappear again and we would be left with nothing. The old apartment that we would pass by, the tanks, the buildings that were destroyed and of course the liberation tower.

The entire older generation turned into squirrels. Foraging for winter. Either you had people not buying anything and saving everything or my parents, who bought everything twice, keeping one in India whenever we went there for the time, we had to go back. Even if after retirement.

My mom became a borderline hoarder of things. She currently has things going back to 1990. Not just for sentimental reasons but out of fear. I get why she does it, but I hate it. It means we have cupboards full of things no one needs anymore, or could even use if they wanted to.

Yes, life had certainly changed.

The Constant Reassurance to Self

Today, I feel abhor storing things and am constantly purging. The possibility of moving our whole family back to India at a moment’s notice is an underlying rhythm to my days. Losing everything my husband and I have so lovingly built haunts me, more so now that I am a parent and think about what my parents had to go through. It makes me extremely conscious of choosing anything I buy or put my time into.

No matter where You end up living with your family, you have to be very aware that you are but a phone call aware from losing all that you have. Your pretty things, furniture, cookware, photos even. Poof!

So, make memories with those you love, and take full advantage of EVERY city you live in. Be mentally prepared for tragedies and constantly converse with your children about the world so they know that a place, at the end of the day is just that. A place. Who you are inside is what matters.

For my America born kids, India can only be as much as home as for me, a Kuwait born child was. Is. The day it happens, I hope they can happily acknowledge that the place they live in does not define who they are, their experiences do. Their values do. And how they live does.

A home is wherever your family is.

What advice do you have for people who live in this fear?


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