I am part of three countries: USA, India and Mexico. It is wonderful yet sometimes challenges my identity. Lately though, my heart isn’t in the USA, NYC to be precise. I feel like an outsider, an immigrant and even a refugee in my own country. The ways of this culture feel foreign to me. When I’m recently returned, as I am now from India, it’s natural for me to smile at a stranger in passing on the street. Mostly people look the other way and I end up feeling foolish. I don’t want to lose the joy and friendliness that I experience while walking the streets in India and Mexico where smiles are shared and greetings like namaste and hola are customary, even amongst strangers. I am saddened by this.
I know every one is busy and preoccupied but a simple smile? It reinforces our connection. Is it not human nature to want to smile at each other? Is every one so busy texting that they can’t look up and into someone’s eyes? I fear for us as a country and as a city. Clearly most people desperately want to feel connected or they wouldn’t be texting all the time yet when presented with the opportunity to smile at a stranger they are disoriented by it.
Perhaps after a few more weeks here, I, too, won’t even notice that I’ve stopped smiling. I’ll be another immigrant trying to make it in America not sure where home is or where my loyalty is. For now, I’m just another New Yorker that you’ll dismiss on the street, wondering why she’s smiling at you.