How to Find Belonging in a New Country

Out of Place – Madhukanta’s Story

It has been more than 26 years since I first set foot on this vast land. I was barefoot. My shoes were hurting after the long flight and I was carrying them in my hand. This was after getting married, somewhat hurriedly, to someone I had never met before. So, when I reached the US, all I held in my heart was an intrinsic love of people and places and a lot of anxiety.

There was a huge crowd at the airport and I saw that the people looked different from people back in India. I was familiar with them though, through movies, magazines and having met tourists back home. Right from the very first encounter with them, probably in a shop, I developed a liking for them…they never failed to smile at me and I would smile back, happy!

In our new American lifestyle, we kept extremely busy. Socializing, setting up homes in India and here. In my elation at a newfound married life, I could not really make out that some people around me were not too eager to see me happy in their heart of hearts. They would indicate in various ways that I belonged elsewhere. These people were not Americans, they were somehow close to me. Innocent as I was at that time, I tried to ignore all of it and keep happy in spite of it all.

America did not fail to keep me happy and smiling at all times! My husband and my mom-in-law would also sometimes be made to sound harsh…I would wonder why.

Love and loss in the immigrant’s journey

Life became a medley of the sweet and the bitter. We traveled places, made friends, made a lot of love, and did every such thing which a newly married couple indulges in. But, at the same time, there was this undercurrent of bitterness which I could not really identify, as if I was not supposed to be happy.

This land gave me a lot of love. That was a major factor in my being able to stay happy. There was some kind of a tug of war between the good and the bad forces in my life.

Being an immigrant is a sad experience for most of us in the beginning. You miss your native country, which is very special to you in its flavors, smells, sights, languages, colors, family. You miss all that. I had left family behind and missed everything sorely. I would run out and introduce myself to any Indian I saw on the streets. My heart cried all the time.

We became busy, I enrolled in college for a Master’s in Fine Arts program and that kept me going. We set up homes in India and here and were very busy accomplishing that. The other saving grace was that America was extremely welcoming to me. My heart sang when people smiled at me, even when they met me for the first time…

Besides, our only son, born in 1997, was being brought up by my mom-in-law in India. Our hearts would cry out for him and we would rush to India at every occasion possible. We went back once, in 2011, shipped everything from here and made plans to settle down there. Kaustav, my husband, got an offer for a very prestigious job in our hometown and was toying with the idea of taking it on.

But once we reached there, things changed. Our son Harsha’s grandma passed away. So we ultimately decided to bring Harsha back to the US for college. We came back and it was then that I finally felt, after 22 years of living in the US, that I would like to try out settling down here. Now, we are a happy threesome, about to welcome another dear member into our family. Our son’s girlfriend.

When you come into a new country, you have to be careful about the friends you make. You are in an emotional state of mind and have to know that you are vulnerable. I had become a totally outgoing kind of a person, totally unlike the real me. Let some time pass, and then, when you have collected your senses a bit, extend your hand in friendship to the people who are worthy of it. America is a great place!

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll get access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

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Meet Madhukanta Sen

Madhukanta Sen is an Indian artist based in Clifton, New Jersey. Her practice is concentrated in painting, poetry and vocal music. She is poised to exhibit her work with RAW Artists in New York City and other cities in the United States. Sen is an Assistant Teaching Artist with the Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art program. Products with her designs are available at VIDA Collection and Le Galeriste. She has exhibited both solo and with another artist in Kolkata, India.

Her poetry has been published in The Telegraph, The Poetry Guild, and Hello Poetry. Madhukanta Sen holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Montclair State University and a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, India. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram!

*Feature Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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