Gracious, immaculate Gothic buildings, plush green summer lawns, fall leaves in orange-burnt-sienna-yellow, and glistening winter snow—prettier than pictures and postcards. This abundance and variation was echoed in the seemingly endless choices of food and drinks in the cafeteria, the Coca-Cola on tap, and the academic offerings that were as thick as the Calcutta telephone directory. Mind spinning, I dived into many Wonderlands with abandon, trepidation and exhilaration.
It was in a very White Anglo Saxon Protestant Wellesley College that I discovered Indias I did not know all the while I lived there. I met students from many parts of the sub-continent, took classes dealing with vibrant Indian social movements, development and under-development, women’s status, and theories of social change. I joined other Indian students to protest against the declaration of Emergency, and engaged with the gender, race, social justice and nascent sexuality movements of that time. I learned the power of organizing.
My transition from student to immigrant opened my eyes to another America. As a privileged woman of color, I did not experience blatant discrimination, racism or sexism—or maybe I was too naïve to perceive their more subtle manifestations. I began to grasp how race, class and gender determined the experiences of so many people around me. I stood in solidarity with others to challenge discrimination.
I never felt silenced as a documented immigrant nor did I feel I had less right to engage and challenge injustices. Had my route to America been a different one, however, I may have been denied the privilege to speak, act and engage. This is especially true now, as the pathway to legal status in America becomes progressively more difficult to navigate.
I continue to stand in solidarity with vibrant movements that strive to develop and ensure America’s real wealth: a commitment to diversity, human rights and a respect for the environment.