Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 2:49 am | Overcast 57º


Kids Speaking Up: Young U.S. Newcomer Shares Observations

America may be world's nation of plenty, but it comes up short on the ties that bind this student to his native India.

Everyone hears good and bad about America. Every place is full of people who praise the star-spangled banner, as well as people who would spit on it given the chance. How do I feel about America?

Anand Das
Anand Das
Well, it’s only been about six months since I came here from India (And God knows we’ve all heard so much about that old place. Slumdog Millionaire, anybody?), so maybe it’s unfair for me to judge a place so quickly. However, since I’ve gotten here, I’ve had the strongest impression that while America may seem like a heaven on earth, in reality, it lacks some things. These things cannot be bought with money, nor can they be bartered for. These things have to do with the people who are brought up here, the people born here or coming from all across the globe to lose their own cultures as they transform into the faceless mannequin that is an American.

It is human nature, I suppose, to only be interested in things that are new. It’s also human nature to want what you can’t have and take the things you do have for granted. That, I suppose, would be how I’d describe America in a nutshell. It makes me so grateful that I was brought up in a place that doesn’t have everything because it gives a value for things.

It’s almost scary as I look around and find myself surrounded by huge fields of green grass, basketball courts lined in a row, tennis courts of concrete, and so many other facilities that seem amazing to me for the simple reason that they’re rarely found in India. That’s not the scary part, though. The scary part of it is that they’re almost all empty. Who are they there for? People, of course. Where are the people? Ah, well, that’s the real question, isn’t it? The people are all inside, doing something that’s pretty much pointless. Of course, once in a while everyone gets out to conquer the sense of insecurity that they’re not having fun, but no one plays for fun. It’s become more about “perfecting technique” and exercise.

It’s such a contrast to where I come from. There, we don’t go straight home after school to play the latest video games. We stay practically till the sun goes down as we kick a dusty soccer ball around, blissfully enjoying our childhood. There, you’ll find 20 people playing on a plot of land on which a pile of garbage has been dumped, but playing with so much soul. It’s impossible to put into words the sense of satisfaction my friends and I felt as we returned home, muddy but content. Compared to India, kids here are almost zombie-like. And the saddest thing is the corrupting hand of Westernization is gripping India slowly as well, as more and more people leave the fields to live like their “cool” friends on the other side of the world.

Well, bravo America, I believe you’ve just killed childhood.

The stench of individualism also reeks here. Everybody figures things out by themselves, earns bread alone and fights alone for personal ideals. Help? No, you don’t need help, because you’re better than that. These thoughts might not be spoken aloud, but they certainly are prevalent as we live in our houses separated by huge spaces, creating gigantic personal bubbles around ourselves.

I have seen this everywhere, even in the way people date. It’s hilariously stupid to me to think of taking a complete stranger to dinner, but then again I suppose getting to know the person and becoming friends by the standards here wouldn’t really make you much closer. I was surprised after a few months at school when I realized that I was as close to most of the people in my class as they were to each other. Now, I must be modest, I’m not super social, making friends by the minute. I was as close because no one seems to be close with anyone.

I make a generalization, of course, meaning in no way to offend the people who’ve known each other since they were 3 and are best friends, but honestly how many such cases are there? Everyone seems to be so occupied with themselves and their own precious “individualism’’ to recognize that the people around them are people. Again, I can’t help but compare it to back home, where such boundaries didn’t exist. Everyone was family. Everyone knew everyone. I myself had a “gang” of 15 friends who I’d share pretty much all of my life with. Why is it so hard then to find just two people who know each other that well here?

It’s terrifying again as I think back and try to imagine what my life would be like without friends like those. All those mistakes made, those lessons learned while happy overall with no regrets at the end of the day. If all of that were to be erased, I’d be merely a shell of the person that I really am. Six months living here, and I still haven’t convinced myself that some people here are more than the hollow shells they seem to be. Even that could be tolerated but for the fact that this extends even into families. Everywhere you look, families get torn apart, divorces ruining lives. What happened to living life to the fullest? What happened to loving and sharing, committing and caring, trusting and hoping?

I’ll repeat it again: I’ve been here only six months. I’ve only seen such a little portion of a country so maybe I’m wrong. But shouldn’t each part be a reflection of the whole? If that is true, I think it’s sad because that would mean about 300 million people have forgotten the true values of life. Leading power America may be, but until some things about the way children are brought up and the values they are taught (or I should say not taught) are changed I think my opinion will stay about the same as it is right now.

It wouldn’t hurt to look at the less developed countries, where people are suffering but happy. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m sure I’d much rather be suffering and alive than have it all with absolutely no sense of fulfillment and purpose. So stop, take a look around, and tell me if you really are happy with what you see by the dawn’s early light.

Anand Das is a Dos Pueblos High junior and contributor to Kids Speaking Up, a local group working to educate youth on social, national and political issues and inspire them to write.

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