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My Turn

February 2008
My Turn


As a newcomer to Atlanta I was a bit apprehensive. Even though I had lived five years in China, I just wasn’t sure what to expect in the place that was to be my new home. I had some e-mail contact with a few “friends of friends” before coming to the U.S. To my good fortune, that contact made a world of difference, as I was welcomed with open arms by these “strangers” who soon became just friends rather than friends of friends.

Soon I was falling into a predictable routine. There was some excitement about my new surroundings, but boredom was setting in. While doing my household chores, I had been listening to an Indian radio station on the Internet. Suddenly an idea caught my fancy. What fun it would be to come up with a radio skit about Makar Sankranti! Something that would draw out the mood of this fun festival for its listeners!

After the impulsive thought settled, I began considering it. What could I do to evoke some nostalgia for Makar Sankranti in the U.S.? I wanted to submit to the Marathi programming of this Indian radio station. But there were no Marathi songs on Sankranti that I knew of. I mused some more? to finally come up with the idea of weaving the script around a few Marathi women who gather to prepare for and celebrate the festival.

One afternoon, instead of cooking and cleaning, I sat in front of my laptop and began to write. Getting started was difficult. It is one thing to have vague ideas and broad generalizations, and altogether another to actually come up with a script. I made calls to India and browsed the net to get my creative juices flowing. Slowly, the flow picked up and the dialogue started to come through. Some of it turned out unworkable, and the rest was for keeps.

Now it was time to approach my new friends and ask if they would partake in my harebrained scheme. The little I had come to know of their interests and personalities gave me a feeling they could be the characters of my impromptu production. But I could not muster up the nerve to call them. After all, I had been in the city only a month, and although warmly received, I wasn’t sure about introducing an idea that would surely call for some commitment from my new friends. So the idea flittered around in my mind for a few days.

I finally gathered the courage to send the script to the radio station. To my surprise, I got an approval on the third day, with instructions for rehearsing and recording. Now what? Not only had I not sought the cooperation of the women that were integral to the item, but I also knew nothing of recording a (somewhat) formal presentation. To my surprise, my computer-savvy teenage son offered to help with the recording! OK, so now I had cornered myself and had no choice but to approach my friends who had, so far, been active characters in this undertaking only in my mind. Though I knew them well by now, I wasn’t sure if they would be available or even ready to participate. Thankfully, all of them showed great interest.

Before I knew it, we were consulting each other’s schedules to meet up for rehearsals. We met at a friend’s house, which turned out to be a fun endeavor?the chitchat, the giggles, the Indian snacks with hot tea, and of course, working on our newfound mission. The frank opinions, diverse proposals, and everyone’s sincere effort made the program better. My edginess about my new friends vanished after that gathering. Their pleasant attitude and whole-hearted contribution to an idea initiated by a newcomer like me made me more assured about our new bond.

Sure, we all were a bit nervous about being on the radio. How would we sound on air? Would we make mistakes? Would our voice, tone and pronunciations work? We drew comfort from the thought that this was not a live performance, nor was it a TV program where we would also have to worry about how we looked! After many rehearsals and retakes, we did come up with a final recording, which we promptly sent to the radio station. To our delight, it was accepted without any changes.

My purpose in writing this is not to boast about what we did, but to share my experience as a newcomer to America. In the large scheme of things, what we did was not only modest, but possibly also quite quotidian. But this small event infused my friends and me with a huge enthusiasm, and also, I hope, touched thousands of listeners. And it all happened because I did not accept inertia and boredom as my lot, and gave my comfort zone a slight push. The experience gave us a collective confidence to pursue new initiatives in the future, and brought an ease into our relationship — the kind that has the potential to grow into a lifelong friendship.

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