He complimented me about living in a nice part of the metroplex and said I made a good choice to go to school in Denton.
SB: “I came to the US eleven years ago. Went to school here and graduated from high school. Are you from India miss?”
I uttered a how did you recognise me to be from India while laughing my heart out [It is not hard for people. I wear a bottu always]
He smiled and asked me “Don’t we all from outside the US look a lot same like people from one country miss?” He continued talking. “I was raised as one of the many children for my parents in Liberia miss. So, what do you go to school for? Nursing? Lots of Indians are doctors and nurses. Do you know that hospital on Independence, Presbyterian something? They have a lot of doctors from India there miss”
I am in Adapted Sports…[pausing a second to say] like Paralympic sports..Do you know about it?
SB: “Oh yeah! you guys do that sports thing with peoples who have disabilities right? That is such a blessed work. So nice so nice miss!”
I paused a bit before I continued talking because I didn’t know his name and I am so used to conversing with people by using their names where ever possible. “So, have you seen any adapted games in live?”
SB: “No, but we know. They are everywhere these days. You see ads and all and then you see so many friends sharing these videos on Facebook always. It is amazing that people who don’t have hands and legs can do so much!”
Does Super Shuttle treat you well?
SB: “Oh yeah! I work 5 day/week. They are very fair and nice people at work.
That is good! Its good to know they treat you well! So you help your family back home? You send them money?
SB: “Yeah, I send $100 and that is about 8500 money back home. Helps a lot to send even $100…So… You get scholarships? A lot of Indians I pick up every week. All of them in colleges. Every Indian takes college seriously. Always working hard in college. No fooling around. So many rich Indians in Plano and Frisco. So nice to know hard work pays someday.”
[By now I was smiling and imagining the multiple factors that contribute to the ‘high’ number of Indians in Plano and Frisco. And coming to many Indians in colleges, I can’t but wonder how many even know where they are headed.]
I break my thoughts and say, “Yeah, studying beyond high school is important and for some people it works. They have help. Turning back looking at me with a smile in his eyes, he nodded affirmative.
SB: “Yeah, my brothers and sisters are old enough to come and work here now. I am processing the papers and they should come here soon. I want to save enough for myself also because I want to go to college too. Someday.. Now if they come and can earn too, we can all go to school. So, do you get a scholarship miss?”
I am on a student loan for tuition and an on campus job pays my bills.
SB: “Oh, that is good! Very good!”
You can sometimes qualify for some university programs that will help you pay for college but that will put you out of work because you should go to school full time then.
SB: “Yeah, that is nice but I can’t do that now. But once my brothers and sisters come here, I will definitely try to apply for such programs. Thank you for telling me. I never thought of such options.”
Do you know that some of my most favourite songs are by a Jamaican band called Boney M?
[I cannot believe to how many people of African heritage that I have introduced Boney M. It is like I am born many years after they stopped singing but I am still stuck in their peak years of music]
I played the song on Youtube for him on loud volume and he was all tearing up listening to that song. I quickly scribbled the song’s name for him on a piece of paper as we pulled into the airport.
SB: “In my country, there are so many languages. Don’t know what language this is but the music reminds me of home..my country.. I haven’t gone home on 11 years. Next year I want to go home.. [He broke down and kept wiping his eyes with his collar]
So you are finally going to meet your family?
SB: “My parents are long gone. When we were kids. I just miss my country and my home. I will go next year if I am lucky”
I got down the shuttle, gave him a ten dollar bill and told him, “this is not a lot but I want you to continue and believe that your siblings will come here. You will all be family again. I want you to go to college some day and feel proud of what ever you want to pursue as a career. I want you to help more Liberians study and do well.”
For many of us, we get to eat a meal we crave for, buy what ever we desire and watch a movie we want to. Our family ( or parents) are a call away. Or even sometimes, hardly a plane ride away. But unfortunately how often I see that these exact blessings are so invisible to us. We don’t realise how irreplaceable these people are and how invaluable their presence in our life is. We are lost in our own perceptions and pains leading everyone around us into a vicious cycle. I wonder how would the same perceptions and pains take shape if one is made to face the decision of their life with life and death on either sides of one single choice one has to make: Like leaving one’s country for almost forever to find a safe job to work in and send money home.
I was on my way to a vacation last Thanksgiving and this conversation happened. I got on the flight with a lump in my throat and cried out (while writing this in my journal) till I could almost forget the look I saw in Sangray Bangalee’s eyes. It is a curse sometimes when you can be sensitive to other person’s suffering. Everyday when I pray, I wonder if his siblings are here and if they are all one happy family living together. Sangray’s case is not alone. We cannot solve all the world’s problems. But we can at least regard what blessings we have. We can share our blessings with others. That is all that we can do as mere humans. Otherwise, we will, as a human race continue to grow in numbers but be of the worst possible quality.