Growing up in the northeast part of India in Tripura with lush green vegetation and hills gave me a sense of appreciation for nature. My parents were both educators. My sister and I felt the intense desire to do well in school and excuses were crushed. My father taught Chemistry in a College and we lived in College Quarters along with other professors and their families. Across our flat, the Howrah river flowed with gusto whenever there was torrential rain. The monsoon season created havoc amongst the villagers who lived close to the river. We had a radio that was in my parent’s bedroom. I would look at amazement at the radio and wait for the man to get out of the box but that never happened. Along with my childhood curiosity and hot summer days, life seemed content
Education being a priority, we were enrolled in Holy Cross School, an English medium Catholic school with strict discipline and the nuns monitored us with close attention. My childhood comprised of studying, playing and reading books. I had a lot of friends who lived close and we played cricket, table tennis and occasionally soccer. It was a golden era for me. My mother taught Bengali at an All Girls High school and would bring home sweets which we devoured in a few minutes as we pillaged through her bag. My sister was five years younger than me and much quieter. Life in Agartala, my hometown, was small and most people knew each other. Then the war between India and Pakistan started around 1972 or so, and witnessed and heard bombings and air raid sirens that made us run to the bunkers which was a stairwell. School was out for almost three months. Nights were dark as of the war and only candles were being used. Our windows were covered so light could not escape. As with anything in life, the war finally ended. Our city, Agartala, is a border town and close to Bangladesh and so we witnessed the war first hand.
Growing up my father was the disciplinarian and when I got in trouble, I knew a thrashing was coming. I could never do anything questionable without my father finding out. My father wanted me to join the Indian Army School for Officers which is now known as Rashtriya India Military College which was renamed from Royal Indian Military College after the English left. I was in the seventh grade and I had to move to another city of India, Dehradun and live in the dorms with nineteen other students. After a lengthy process of tests and physical endurance tests and written exams, I was selected from my state and off I went to another world of discipline and physical exhaustion. I stayed at the academy for six months and then my parents visited me. My mother was appalled to see me skinny and malnourished which I was not. After convincing my father and crushing his dreams, I returned home to Agartala.
I was admitted to Central High School since Holy Cross did not have any vacancy. The new school environment was lackadaisical and students were a bit wild. Having been in a disciplined and strict setting, this was on the other side of the spectrum. My parents migrated to the USA when I was in the eleventh grade and then I followed finishing High School. My sister had left a year before me for the States. I eventually arrived at LAX in May 1983 and the second chapter of my life began.
Being in a new country with no friends was a hard thing to adjust. Within a few months, I found a job as an assembler in a furniture company in Torrance where we were renting an apartment. It was a small apartment as my parents were trying to settle into a new life. Initially my Aunt had sponsored my father and through chain migration, we arrived and tried to settle in this country of opportunities and freedom.
As we managed to live in our one-bedroom apartment with noisy neighbors, my job where I started making $3.35 an hour gave me a raise and moved me to another department where we made radio shack printer covers with fiberglass and molds. I made few friends with a group of Vietnamese employees. They were also new to the States but were kind and generous. I even learned to drive from one of my friends who showed me around and introduced to new people. I enjoyed learning to play pool, hang out at the coffee shops and have Pho. My father got me a Rabbit VW car which had big “Rabbit” written on it along with a picture of rabbit. I would often get teased driving my rabbit. Eventually, the company closed and I was laid off. I was also working at an AM/PM mini-market under a grumpy boss who would make me clean the bathrooms and other menial tasks and then one day my patience ran thin, and I quit.
I started attending El Camino College and got a job as a computer installer’s helper in Venice, California. We finally bought a condo in Carson and my father secured a better job. My major was also chosen by my father as Chemistry as he was a Chemistry major. No matter how much I argued and lost interest in College, he did not seem to notice and I got a job with the City of Los Angeles, met a girl and moved out.
I was finally away from my family and felt free. I was also living with a girl, who I had known for maybe six months. She was my guide into the American life and dream, which I was finally beginning to decipher and untangle. We both enjoyed each other’s company and we were only 22 and 19 with a combined emotional age of maybe a ten-year-old and a thirteen-year-old. We had our moments where we struggled with our commitment. I was not ready to settle down and she felt she had to. Needless to say, the marriage lasted four years and we divorced.
I moved out and decided to go back to school while working which became hard as my emotions were frayed and divorce was becoming a bit of hard work. I kept working for few more years and then I started back school as my work started to feel meaningless and depressing. I knew I had to make a choice and I started school full time and I quit my job. During the time I was attending school, I worked with homeless population through City of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. I really enjoyed interacting with them and learned a lot.
After I completed my schooling and landed my first job as a foster care social worker at International Foster care Agency in San Bernardino. I loved my job and the children I worked with. It was something I knew I enjoyed and thus started my chapter in foster care social work.
Now I am here at HUGS.