All the recent layoffs reminded me of the anxious years I spent as a H4 bride. It was a different time, of course, but the vulnerability to abrupt, unexpected dismissal was the same.
The first few months of my US stay were marked by an chilling level of isolation. I had moved from New Delhi, a busy metropolis, to “Anysuburb America”. After having spent a year almost constantly in the hospital, the smell of phenol seemed to have seeped into my pores and the change from the rigorous schedule of internship was soothing. I went from busy independent doctor to housebound housewife in ten short days.
The 625 sq foot apartment was small but blessedly private, and when I opened the door and peeked out, the environs were often completely empty. I would go for walks, mustering up courage to explore, and often not encounter anyone on the sidewalk. Cars would whiz by, and I knew there would be some people at the Luckys nearby, but I didn’t want to interrupt their day. I couldn’t call home because the daytime international rates were much higher. So hours would go by without interacting with anyone. I missed the chaotic traffic, the street thelas, the call of the muezzin, family insistently pushing and shoving into every private concern, constant calendar of festivals.
Glass bangles were an important part of my wedding shopping, along with several pretty bangle holders. And yes, I carried the bangles with me on the flight. Unfortunately, almost half broke in the journey from India. I spent a lot of time picking off tiny glass shards from my clothes, which were themselves almost as inappropriate in this part of Silicon Valley as my skirts were in the hospital in Old Delhi.
I had been warned that the driver’s test was tough so I scheduled it when my still new (and anxious) husband went out of town for a business trip. I drove his brand new car to the DMV office, and scraped (pun unintended) through the test. I triumphantly informed him over the phone that I now had a temporary license, and he was torn between congratulating me and trying to get more insurance in place for his beloved car. The license changed my world, and soon I was able to do other things independently. I fell in love with the California freeways, and became a master of U-turns (no GPS back then).
But I remember the aching isolation of those first few months. I still have a whole drawerful of bangles left over. Blues, greens, reds and golds, glinting with beads and edging, fragile remnants of the girl I once was.