I am no different
Ila Imani, Workshop 4
Schooling in Chicago as a 14 year old wasn’t easy for me. I spoke like an American, and my name was Indian – Suparna, but I didn’t look like anything. Anything human. My parents were the best parents ever, they never let me feel small. My close circle of Amy, Paul and Vinita were my pals who supported me. But the rest of the school was a misery, a daily torture. Because I didn’t look American, or Indian. Or anything.
I just looked broke. Bruised. Battered. Scarred.
My parents celebrated my birthday each year, as I grew older. Not realising they should actually be celebrating yet another year in my life, when all I did each evening was to go stand on the bridge, and ponder about jumping down.
As a 14 year old, what did you expect from me? When I was 8, you transported me from Mumbai to Chicago to save me from the humiliation of growing up in India after that b* Anil threw acid on my face. I lay in hospital for 6 months, in the paediatric ward, watching other kids hop around and giggle. Month 2 was when they showed me the mirror. That broke me forever.
Day after day, month after month, all I could think of was, how can I ever go back to school? To my friends? The humiliation, the shame?
Mom, you did the right thing, plucking me out of that horrid place, and bringing me here.
But I don’t fit in, Mom, not here too. Not in college, not in my swimming class.
Yet something’s changing for me. Finally. Maybe.
I am now finding a new light in my life, which shines through the window and I jump out of bed with joy. Each Sunday I go to the hospital for my therapy and counselling, and I meet Ray.
Ray, he is 18. He talks like he’s older. He doesn’t turn away when he sees me. In fact he sees me, and not my scarred face. The other day he asked me, “Oh you are from india? I am so amazed by the Taj Mahal! I went there last year! Have you seen it?”. He chats with me about his foster home, the good stories and the ones that make me cry. He never asked me about my face.
I like him, Mom. I like Ray.
Last night I dreamt of the Taj Mahal. That’s what I was reading about when I fell asleep. The Taj. The proof of love. The giganticness of a king’s love.
Yet, it’s so simple, Mom. It’s love, like what I feel for Ray.
Can we go to India, Mom? I want to see the Taj Mahal.
Ila, an MBA from IIM Calcutta, is co-founder and CEO of a startup. She attended Short Story Writing Workshop 4.