I am no longer a “non-resident alien.” The “non” has been ejected and my alien-ness is marginally more accepted – I am now officially a resident alien of the United States of America. Whoopdidoo. Doesn’t mean much, though. It doesn’t mean that I have a “Green Card” or a desire to become an American, nor does it entitle me to settle here irrevocably. It just makes me pay more taxes. Fair and all, but bloody hell.
I’ve always had an issue with my sense of belonging. India groomed my toddler touchie till I was about 9 year old, and as we all now, pre-age-nine is all a blur, so that’s hard to count. My true formative years were in Dubai where I lived till I was eighteen believing devastatingly, that it was home. And it technically is, but with restrictions – I can only visit for two months at a time, after which I cannot enter for three months. I need a visa to go home to Dubai. Read that again – I need a visa to go home. That just doesn’t sound like what home should be.
2007 – Exit, Dubai. Enter, America. The air of democracy was refreshing. It mattered that my education and existence was not going to be defined by my race or color. The playing field was leveled and everything was hunky-dory. It’s been 5+ years now in the States for me, most of which has been as a student. The comfort that an average citizen here enjoys is unparalleled, and I am extremely fortunate for that. I owe my education and my just-ignited career to this country, and I respect that. But, my life is literally controlled by pieces of paper. If I get robbed, I am more worried about losing my passport and my documents, than my TV or my laptop. It’s currently almost impossible for me to leave the U.S. until my work permit gets sorted out, and that’s not going to be for another 9 months, if at all. If, by any misfortune, I do have issues with immigration, even if it’s because of a misplaced document, it goes on record and getting back into the States becomes a nightmare. Sometimes, I genuinely fear my compliance of the multitude of statuses, procedures and documents, and yes, it’s pretty close to the silliest of all fears. To get rid of all this personal bureaucracy, I have a two options – work here for 6 more years and then apply for my “Green Card” or take the super shortcut and marry an American girl. The latter seems bloody attractive, but the former? Six more years? That means that despite living in the United States of America for eleven years as a law-abiding, tax-paying, socially aware citizen, I will only be close to getting my Green Card. What the fuck?
I am not looking for your sympathy or for a American citizenship – I am just trying to validate my desire to belong where I live. Anyway, as much as this thumps my brain, it’s not important right now. As per the rules created by governance of the world, my passport says I belong to India. Someday, I envision embracing that. Not yet, though.
P.S. Yes, I pay Social Security and Medicare taxes even though I will never be able to claim either. Joy.