Cultured Campus — Indian

daniel-antolin
el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">DANIEL ANTOLIN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Most international students come to the United States to get a college education, yet there are those who come in search of something more.
An old-fashioned romantic at heart, Irene Gupta traveled 8,000 miles from India to America, leaving behind her beloved homeland for another love — her future husband Pradip Das.

“We met on the Internet [and] became good friends but met in person only when I came to the U.S.,” said Gupta. “From then on it has been one great romance.”

Originally, the plan was simple: see the sights and “take it easy for once in your life,” as her American cousin suggested less than a year ago, urging her to make the trip.

Gupta, now a Glendale College student, was more than willing to visit a country she always saw as rich and full of fancy malls and fancy cars. During her stay, she decided to finally meet the man with whomshe had been keeping an e-mail correspondence.

Her husband Pradip remembers meeting her in person for the first time. “She was great. I don’t know how to say it … how to put it into words. I was very very delighted to meet her. I fell in love with her [on the Internet] long before I saw her. She was a very, very good person.”

Shortly thereafter, he proposed and she accepted, ready to take a chance on someone she knew to be the real deal. Gupta’s family was stunned. “My parent’s don’t hate me, but they were taken aback … that’s not how we do things in India,” she said, referring to their brief courtship and how upset her family was with the fact that they hardly knew her new fiancé.

But whoever said “home is where the heart is” has never met Gupta.
On one hand, she has been living happily with her husband in the city of Glendale for almost a year now. He works as a software engineer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and she takes a magazine writing course at Glendale College when she is not at home, proud to be a dedicated housewife just like her mother before her. Her single biggest fear is that “some stupid deed of mine may hurt a good man,” a testament to what her husband Pradip loves the most about her, that she selflessly puts others first.

The couple have much in common. Both want children, but agree that the world is over-populated and they plan to adopt instead. “There are a lot of kids out there who need a home,” said Gupta. “We hope to adopt a dozen.”

In their spare time, they try to catch up by telling each other their life stories or watching movies. While she is fond of the classic American romance “Casablanca,” he prefers more action-packed flicks.
On the other hand, she longs for her homeland India.

As a Hindu who considers her faith as more of a philosophy than a doctrine, Gupta believes “time is cyclical, therefore a soul is not born just once but a number of times before reaching their final state.” India is where her former life began.

“It’s difficult for me to talk about India without my eyes filling up,” said Gupta. “I miss my family…my friends…my pets… basically I miss my life. I’m dying to go back.”

Raised in Delhi and other parts of India due to her father’s job, Gupta, now in her early 40s, said she was a good kid but a bit of a tomboy growing up. Her father was an electrical engineer and helped bring electricity to parts of India where there hadn’t been any before. Thus, he was continuously assigned to different posts.

While she first aspired to be an artist, her knack for high school biology painted a different picture of what was in store for her future. “I scored very high in biology in my school finals and everyone felt that I would do well to pursue biology or medicine,” said Gupta. “I did not want to pursue medicine because I was not happy dealing with cadavers … so I went ahead and studied zoology.” Her love for animals came from growing up in a country where cats and dogs ran around all over the place.

“She loves animals but not in a superficial way,” her husband Pradip said. “It’s like if they are another person to her.” Then in college, much to her dislike, she had to witness several Hindu cremations first-hand when she was assigned to write an article on the ritual. Twenty years later, she is too timid to read a paper she wrote on the experience for her magazine writing class.

A fellow GCC student volunteers to read her words: “Groups of men in white…rectangular squares of burning wood…a fresh gust of burning flesh assaulted my nostrils…corpses lay on the ground tied to their bamboo stretchers…’Ram naam satya hai’ they sang…the name of the Lord Ram is the only truth.” The process is meant to free the body of its earthly desires before it embarks on a karmic journey.

Gupta’s own journey led her to receive master’s degree in zoology from Delhi University, graduating in 1984 near the top.

For the last eight years, she was a producer of news and current affairs programs that aired on several TV channels in India.

Soon to be an official U.S. citizen, she cannot help but notice how similar, yet how different, her new homeland is from India.

“In modern cities in India, everybody is in a rush yet everybody has time for the other. Person-to-person relationships are full of warmth,” said Gupta. “In contrast, I find people interaction in the U.S. appears to be pretty minimal. Everybody is in a rush. They do not have time for others…even during rush hour one sees that the car pool lanes are empty.”

Still, there are some experiences that appeal to all people regardless of cultural differences, to the human condition overall. On the third anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Gupta recalled that fateful event. She was eating dinner at home in India at the time, watching the BBC news.

“We were all saddened. We understand what terrorism means,” said Gupta. “India has been a victim of Islamic terrorism since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Not a day goes by when terrorism doesn’t find mention in our newspapers.”

She didn’t know then that she would eventually be seeing events through American eyes.

Starting her life all over again from scratch, Gupta’s only regret is that her father wasn’t able to attend her December wedding to give her away — his only child.

While she is uncertain of the future, she does know she will live it with her husband Pradip. “My only anchor here is him. I love him very much,” she said.