Thursday, May 07, 2009

Aloha and Mahalo

After performing in a play, I was thinking about doing something new, something exciting, maybe something a little forbidden too. So when my friend pinged me saying- let’s make a trip to Hawaii, I had my eyebrows raised, wondering if she was thinking straight. 

Most people have a habit of giving their own 2 cents about everything, whether required or not. Over the next few days, I have had to hear so much from my so called well-wishers. Hawaii is not a place for 2 girls. Hawaii is where you go for your honeymoon. Go to Vegas, but keep Hawaii for a special occasion.

I wondered what was this big deal about Hawaii. One, most people who were advising me hadn’t even been there, maybe they had kept this so called secret location for a special occasion they had no idea about. For me, it was one of the 50 states in the US. And why not? US laws do not permit me to leave the country till I have had my visa status updated, and that is not happening for the next 6-8 months. Then what was so hush hush about going somewhere with a friend who is not a lover or a husband, in fact, not even from the opposite sex? Don’t girls travel on their own? In fact, don’t people travel on their own for pleasure?

Despite what people said, I had the best trip of my life. 5 days in Hawaii. 5 days of sun and sea and sand. Life is unpredictable, fate is fickle, and I will never again die with a regret that I listened to people and did not go to Hawaii.

As for the title of this post, it means thank you and welcome. Two words I picked up during my trip there.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Playing It By The (Y)ear

What a journey from F1 to H1B. An entry into the PhD program ensured that I was “visa-safe” for the next 5 years at least. But fate had decided differently, and 2 years into the program and I was decided I was done. F1 continued into OPT for another year, so I was safe till the next few months. But what next?

What next is a very tricky question. Everyone asks me, "What next?" I wish I had a concrete answer to give. But I do not. My parents always questioned me about things I did not have the answer to. “So when will you obtain security in life? When will you get a secure visa status? When will it be that you will not be worried about your stay in the US?”

Unfortunately, I did not have an answer to these. The “What next?” question baffled me. But what baffled me more was the anticipated anxiety of change in status against my control. F2. H4. It scared me to think that if I did not get a work permit, my stay in the US would be untimely curtailed. It scared me to think of being on a dependent visa status, unable to work. It scared me depending on someone else for my need and greed. It is degrading , being physically and mentally sound and stable and yet not be allowed to work. It wasn’t just about the money. It was also about growing and achieving and contributing.

Marry someone here and you will not have to be worried anymore. Better still, marry a US citizen- they told me. It was a depressing idea, not because of my high moral standards and all, but because no relationship that starts in convenience can end without extracting substantially out of you. I wondered what was the price one paid in return for status security.

I panicked and applied for a PhD program again. If H1B didn’t happen, the plan would be to go back to school again. Fortunately, I heard back a yes from 2 good schools. But you know what I heard back from me? That I did not want to go back to school. That I wanted to work.

And thus continued the tug of war, the war on nerves, the unnerving anticipation, and the hope that things would be okay. Obtaining a job was one thing, getting a visa was another. True, there was no security, no comfort of being a foreigner in an alien country, no matter how diligently you tried to work.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I finally got an H1B visa approval, after months of prayers. Truth be told, it is a relief, but I haven’t yet started to feel ecstatic. News, good or bad, takes some time to seep in. It isn’t being nonchalant. It is just giving yourself time till the news seeps in.

So now I am good, like they say here, for the next 3 years. Like I see it, security and visa stability comes in installments of a couple of years. The next 3 years are secure as of now. Next, we will see when we come to it.