October 16, 1971 was the day we arrived in this country. Remember the month of October, because as you learn more about my life, and some of the great stumbling blocks and life altering events that happened, October comes back into play in a very significant way.
Back to the journey. I do not remember much about the plane ride. But, I do remember a stop in Tokyo. As I shared in an earlier blog post, my father had only $24.00 dollars in his pocket. I did not know that until years later. I was hungry in the airport. I rarely could keep anything down and I wanted a piece of fruit and crackers.
I recall a look passing before my parents faces. My mom looking at my dad with such anguish. He just shook his head, as if to say, it’s ok. He got up and bought me an orange and crackers. As I write this, my eyes are swelling up with tears. They had such little money. I can only imagine the concern, but the priority was to feed their dying daughter. For the first time, in a long time, I kept food down. A small victory. A sign they did the right thing.
To lighten the mood, I will also share a story my sister just told me.
The airport was the first time my mom saw a television! She did not know what to make of it. She touched it tentatively and stepped back fearful. I can picture her doing it. Her beautiful long black hair in a braid, wearing a sari, not an ounce of make-up, but I am sure still turning heads.
Little did she realize then, the daughter she was so desperately trying to save would one day be broadcasting from one of those “strange machines” as she called it.
Back to the journey, our final destination was Seattle, Washington. My uncle, Ahmed Jaddi had sponsored us to this country. He had arrived years earlier first living in St. Louis because he was one of the architects who led the construction of the St. Louis Arch back in 1963. Humbly, I would like to add, I am so proud of so many amazing people in my family and their extreme intelligence. It is with such gratitude to my uncle that we are here.
I don’t recall stepping off the plane or how we got to my uncle’s house.
But, the first thing I do remember was the weather. It was chilly. I was used to the searing hot sun of India.
My father quickly wrapped his arms around me to keep me warm. I also clung to my little sister Shala. God, how much I love her. I express this overwhelming love because to this day, I really don’t know how I did what I ended up doing? Leaving them all for years. How did I do it?
My uncle had a party for us at his home. There were so many tears and so many hugs between the family. This day was an emotional roller-coaster. And there was so much food! I came from such an impoverished country, and while my grandparents did well by all accounts, there was never this much incredible food to eat!
My memory is very hazy of those first few days. I do recall my parents being very happy. I was eating and gaining a little weight. It seemed oranges were my favorite food.
Life seemed to be getting better. But then just days after arriving, I was walking down some steps. And, all of a sudden my legs gave way. I only remember the piercing screams and then laying on a hospital bed.