5 Startling Things I Learned Giving Birth To One Child In India, One In America
  • Post category:Family
  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Post author:
  • Post published:08/01/2022
  • Post last modified:08/01/2022

1. You cannot erase the ill effects or benefits associated with your place of birth

I was born and raised in India, a country I should have never been born in. I say this as everything from my views, to my talents, did not pass my inheritance.

It was a land not suited for my distorted, liberal-minded family or me. We were three girls raised by a very disoriented set of parents who should have had little ones after growing up a little.

When you have three daughters in a country like India, raised in the rape capital, New Delhi, you ought to be a little more vigilant. My parents were consumed in their hunger to earn money and enjoy life and did not see what the servants did to their girls.

We were abused by acquaintances at home and by strangers on Delhi’s unforgiving streets. If the patriarchal nature of society in India did not make me hate the country enough, the lack of opportunity for me to grow my talent did.

In a country where I should have been interested in Bollywood, my voice naturally contained a vibrato to sing Opera. Opera wasn’t a genre many heard or offered lessons in here. My quest to learn the same made me long to go to a place where I could grow.

The universe heard my prayers. Out of nowhere, a French soloist spotted me backstage in my country while singing in a choir of 80 and literally, dragged me to Sicily, offering me several Operatic roles on a platter.

I was 22 at this time and spoke no Italian, but not a stranger laid a finger on me. Yes, I did have to watch out for my purse now and then, but never my private parts. I could wear what I wanted and walk out at any time of day.

It was then that I decided to never have children in India. 

The only two things my country blessed me with were a thick skin to submit to people’s judging eyes, and the courage to sustain the tremendous competition in this overpopulated nation. These attributes helped me survive in a world where people of color stood out like sore thorns.

When I was 25, my mother married off my youngest sister to an acquaintance. She was only 18 then, but the wedding was rushed owing to paperwork for her spouse visa in the USA. In a conservative land, when the youngest daughter gets married from a family of three daughters, people talk when the eldest is not married.

My mother asked me to find a mate for myself, but all the guys I liked through music or my journalism job were gay. So, she showed me, one joker, after another, every single day after work. Even before I entered home, my middle sister would throw my makeup down the balcony so I looked decent at first sight.

I would enter the main door and be greeted by a parent and a son staring at me from top to bottom measuring my every inch, like a tailor who had to sew me a gown. To make the process less awkward, I tried to engage in casual conversation with the observers. Many rejected me as soon as they went out the door for being too outspoken!

So I took matters into my own hands and tried my best to find a groom before my parents sold the cow to just any milkman. I found no Prince Charming willing to take me abroad and headstart my Operatic career. But I did find a caring husband single-handedly raised by an over-possessive mother.

2. I wish I had tried harder to have my first child also in a developed nation

Just one month after the wedding, my husband received an offer to travel to the USA on a project that may transform into a permanent opportunity. While his mother did not want him to move abroad, I agreed even though initially, I would have to stay alone with my mother-in-law.

It was at the same time I also discovered I was pregnant. We had used protection and wanted to enjoy singlehood as a couple before having a family. The pregnancy came too early even for her to understand or adjust to a new woman in her son’s life.

The misunderstandings created between us damaged our long-distant marriage. To make matters worse, it was at this time when my Operatic company granted me a long-awaited scholarship to study music in France.

Living alone with my mother-in-law was turning out to be a nightmare and I so wanted to leave everything and go and pursue my dream. But being a Catholic, abortion was not an option. Had my husband not been able to bag a temporary long-term visa for us to go to the USA, I would have run out.

It was decided, my son would be born in the USA and I would travel in the next three months to let at least one dream come true. But the universe had other plans. My pregnancy was not an easy one. The baby was breach. The amniotic fluid was less and the doctor advised complete bed rest. I was permanently ill throughout and defecated what I ate.

I was wanting to take the risk of travel anyway, but looking at my deteriorating condition my mother objected. In India, you cannot know the sex of your child before birth. Some people did not want to have a girl and would abort.

The baby came a month early and was Indian. I traveled with my son to the USA when he was three months old. Every time we applied for a visa for him to travel abroad or renewed his passport, we realized what a pain it was to be born in the third world.

3. The discrimination due to the different citizenships created a rift between the siblings

My daughter was born 21 months later in Indiana, USA, and shortly received her American passport. Just 18 months after her birth, our visa in the USA was rejected and we were shoved back to our home country.

My son joined Kindergarten in India. In the USA, Kindergarten meant singing songs and playing to learn. In India, he taught little fingers to write cursive overnight.

If this pressure was not enough for him to bear, he suffered from asthma and was on an inhaler every two hours. In order to lighten the load of this tragic move on all of us, my husband decided to book a second honeymoon with the kids to Malaysia.

My son’s passport was due for renewal and even though we had applied in time, and bribed and personally begged the passport officials to hurry the process, the passport never came. We had to cancel the non-refundable flights. The disappointment killed us more than the big hole in the pocket burned by India’s inefficient passport office.

“I will make such a wonderful India that all Americans will stand in line to get a visa for India.”

-Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister

With this episode, my rant for Conan being the unlucky Indian child continued. The different nationalities and the repercussions and privileges of each gradually caused a rift between my children.

4. There was no valid reason to explain why my son did not have the same privileges as his sister despite their matched appearance

The grind in Delhi’s capital and adjustment issues with my mother-in-law, drove my husband to escape the situation. He bagged another temporary visa for the USA and we left India after three years, vowing never to return.

We continue to be temporary immigrants in the USA as my husband’s company won’t file a green card. My daughter’s US citizenship could do nothing to grant us legal stay here despite paying full taxes and contributing to the US economy. But thanks to her American citizenship we save money each time we planned a trip to Europe.

My parents live in Germany and while the three of us need to apply for a visa and pay the hefty fees, my daughter could talk London and walk Paris. Once she wanted to celebrate her fifth birthday in Paris. We thought of sending both kids together but the Indian did not secure an appointment at the embassy in time. The American went anyway.

When asked by friends and nosy relatives why he did not go, my son nonchalantly replied, “Because I am Indian and she is American.”

Since then he has delved into this sentence a little more. He has asked us why we keep moving from place to place like nomads. Why his sister was the privileged American even though she had the same skin color and appearance.

Our explanations have only made him believe that his sister could travel the world as she wanted, while he had to beg countries for approvals, wait endlessly, and still be refused.

5. The American privilege my daughter had was as unsettling as living on a visa

Now I am in Germany adamant to gift my children a lifestyle they are used to. I am in the nursing program and waiting to sponsor my children here. The immigration rules here are fairer than in the USA.

A pandemic started just as I entered and closed down the embassies and flights for one and a half years. When they finally did open, I approached the German embassy in New York with my request.

Earlier even Americans had to apply for a residence pass at the German embassy if they wanted to spend more than three months in Germany. Now, my daughter could fly immediately and the same could be processed here. My Indian son, however, had to wait for an appointment and apply the normal way. The process could take one to three months.

After a delay of more than a year due to COVID, I wanted the children to be here in time for school to start. I begged the foreign office in Germany to make an exception on these grounds. The lady here told me to put the American on a plane. Nothing could be done about the Indian child.

Adamant to not let the Indian child feel underprivileged again, I am waiting for his resident visa to be approved. I have since begged the American embassy to grant me permission to travel home to bring the kids to Germany when the visa is granted in August or September.

The embassy made me pay the visa fees only to deny my request, even though President Biden stated that non-Americans with minors or a spouse working in the country were exempt from the COVID travel ban.

While American citizens have been traveling back and forth to meet the immediate family during the pandemic, an immigrant with a valid reason could not.

My son, who has tried hard to step up to challenges and adjusted across borders is more mature for his age.

“Why can you not travel to meet us after a year when my friend Kurt can go to Germany to meet his Oma and return back without problems?” he asks me.

“Because when you come out of sewage you have to be treated before anything comes in contact with you. So you are tested every step of the way to prove you are harmless,” I wanted to say, but could not.

Future is an unknown country that requires tough visas for anyone to enter. Not all of us will get the chance to visit it.— Mehmet Murat Ildan

Shireen Sinclair helps people appreciate life by writing about absurdities experienced in the third world. Follow her on Medium.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Leave a Reply