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The Life of an Undocumented South Asian Immigrant -

Stashed in: India, America, India, Immigration, Immigration

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Nirmal’s daughter, whom he has never met, is now a teenager. With the money that he faithfully sends to his wife every week via Western Union, she has been able to purchase a flat in a posh part of town. She sends their daughter to a relatively expensive school, where the girl is learning to speak English. Nirmal listed the luxuries his family has been able to afford on his meager salary as if he were reading a list of groceries. That’s when I realized that these things are not tangible to Nirmal because he has never seen them. What, I asked him, made him take such a substantial percentage of his paycheck each week and send it to two women he doesn’t even know very well?

“What else am I here for?” was his response. Nirmal lives in a hovel in Queens, jammed into a two-bedroom apartment with three other men. His hours are so long that by midnight his feet are sore, his back is killing him. All this for about $500 a week, a small part of which he keeps for his daily expenses. But what is the option?

“There is nothing for me back in Nepal,” he said. “There are no job opportunities there. Better to suffer here and let my child live in peace. Maybe because of me, she will have a better life.”

Another good piece was

Why do I feel better in the U.S.? Maybe it’s not because I’m at home here, but because I’m an alien. Perhaps three thousand years of history have made us Indians a little too familiar with one another for our own good. We’ve perfected Malcolm Gladwell’s “blink” — the reflexive, addictive and tragically accurate placement of other Indians into bullock carts, scooters, airplanes and who knows what else. These issues exist in all countries, but in India, I could see the bigotry in high fidelity and hear the stereotypes in surround-sound — partly because it is worse in India, mostly because I am Indian.

India’s wealth and lifestyle disparity is still impossibly great; I probably spent more on pizza than on my maid. She knew this too, because she was often the one who handed the pizza delivery guy his money. Everyone in India has to deal with this, but I coped in the worst possible way: by dehumanizing her and other people like her, ever so slightly, ever so subtly — chronic amoebiasis of the soul.

He feels better in the U.S. because here gross income disparity is considered okay?

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