In the first episode of the second season of British television show, The Hour its protagonist, Freddie Lyon upon returning from America explains why he was intoxicated by the new world:
“Being nobody in a country where everybody thinks they can be somebody…”
That one utterance by a fictional character sums up why every immigrant wants to come to America and that does include me. This is the country where Albert Einstein and Nicola Tesla were somebody. This is the place where Kim Kardashian and Alex Rodriguez are somebody. Kanye West and Steve Jobs, they are somebody. At one point they were nobodies. This quirky, burger munching, frappuccino swigging, football loving, gas-guzzling cross between utopia and Disney Land is a nation of nobodies who are on their way to be somebody.
And that is the beauty of America.
On a globe, America is a landmass, a country. In an immigrant’s heart it is a belief that future is almost always better. It may not be perfect and it is certainly not equal, but it still is one of a kind — the only place where an absolute stranger with a funny name and a funny accent with no friends or contacts can show up, work hard and actually get to do what he was destined to do.
That America is the place, I can now officially call home.
Today, in a ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California, I was sworn in along with 1224 others and we became Americans. I am still memorizing the Star Spangled Banner and trying to imprint the oath of allegiance on my heart, but I have always known that I was an American.
Long before I left my parents home, in those hot summer nights when I read American magazines and dreamed of New York, I knew where I belonged. That America was brought alive by pulp fiction and noir writers. America was Michael Jackson. America was Wall Street. America was Tom Wolfe’s Electric Acid Kool Aid Test and his Bonfire of Vanities. America was Bell Labs. It was Bruce Springsteen.
The America I found was a kaleidoscope of all those fictions and many more realities. Random acts of kindness from absolute strangers, failures that taught more than successes, disappointments that taught the meaning of joy, but most importantly the America I found was a place where my mind could finally roam free. It was a place where I learned that tomorrow is another opportunity.
I didn’t come here for some canned version of an American dream — a two car garage and a house in the suburbs. It certainly wasn’t about getting rich. And it wasn’t about snapping a selfie with Scarlett Johansen (though it would be supercool). Instead, it was about the promise that people should have a chance to attain their hopes and dreams.
In most places in the world, outsiders like me don’t have that chance. That simple truth is what makes America so special. A chance – to be somebody even if you are nobody. America is a state of mind and I have opted-in!
73 thoughts on “iAMerican”
Congratulations and welcome! I got chills reading this.
Om – we would have embraced you up here in Canada too 🙂 Congratulations!
Loved this entire post. It made me appreciate the place I’ve called home my entire life once more.
Poetic. A nation of nobodies on their way to be somebody. Congratulations.
Congratulations Om 🙂 deserves a long post sharing your journey and experiences..
We are lucky to have every dreamer like you who comes here. My great grandparents came for the same reason. That said, if I ever get asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance, I always substitute “Constitution” for “Flag”–it’s our best invention ever, after Jazz.
So kind of you — thank you.
Thanks Anthony 🙂
Om, You copied Amsterdam and their I AMsterdam slogan 🙂 by the way, congratulations from a long time reader from Italy
This needs to be engraved and bolted to the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. Congratulations Om.
You are a great role model David and have helped shape me and took a chance on me.
Congratulations, and welcome home!
Became an American in June of 1999, one of the most moving experiences, with another 1000 people, from every country you can think of.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Beautifully put! As Americans, we often lose sight of what truly makes this country great. Thank you for writing this, and welcome to the U.S. of A.
Congrats Om! Welcome to the United States of Americas. Now, please enjoy the taxes, long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles, apple pie and ice cream and hotdogs.
That is very New York Times’ styled reality check, Nick. 😉
Awesome post, good sir. Congrats 🙂
Thank you stat30fbliss
Nice buddy, congrats! You make me re-appreciate Merica in a new light 🙂
You are part of the journey and I wish you were here today to celebrate.
Reminds me of how my father explains why he moved here. Cheers!
Thanks Semil. I am sure he has better story than me.
Well done, Om. Curious if you considered OCI?
What is OCI 😉
HOORAY! Congratulations, mister.
Thanks Maggie. 🙂
Om – Thanks reminding us “natives” why America is a special place
Om, thanks for reminding us “natives” why America is a special place
As an immigrant working on a startup and battling with immigration issues this gives me a lot of hope.
Keep working and it will happen – don’t worry too much! Not joking
Welcome, welcome, OMigrante, to my country, welcome home!
Thank you Gordon 😉
Heart felt post! As an Iranian immigrant can certainly relate. Congrats OM, always been a big fan!
Thank you kind sir
What a beautifully written piece. Such an eloquent description of what is so appealing about the American dream. Congrats!
Thanks John 🙂 glad I am here
Congrats Om !
Thanks Raanan 🙂
Congrats OM! Very happy for you!!
“America is a state of Mind.” Very well said.
Congrats Om, from someone imbued with that state of mind, and keeping it alive in India 🙂
Congratulations Om! Reminds me of my own journey and I know exactly what you mean by “read American magazines and knew where I belonged..”
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
First of all congrats. I am one those dreamer who wish to come to America, lead a tech company, roam around at times square with a smile of satisfaction, be known, and more importantly to be that somebody. I am from Mumbai, India, I have no contacts, no relation, with anybody who could show me a way, a ray of hope, but I am struggling, striving to achieve my dreams 🙂 But I just like everyone(I think so) expect to get that ray of hope to take a right step.
It’s like your house (or apt) becoming a home. I guess you’re even closer kin, now. 🙂
Thanks Ed – I appreciate your kind welcome
Reblogged this on Eideard and commented:
Among the eclectic clutter of the three desks that consume much of the square footage of my study sits my Italian grandfather’s naturalization papers. The only document I have from the entry of my mother’s parents, of my father’s parents, into American citizenship. Back then, it only took Eduardo Trotta a couple of years to finish required classes and become a citizen. The same for his wife, Clara. But, it’s an important reminder to me that it took a great wrenching for a teenager to travel thousands of miles with his family to join a new culture, a new language – a new way of life.
Om Malik deserves an enormous amount of credit for having the heart and spirit to make this journey. I wish him well in what lies ahead.
Om, I reblogged this over at JCD’s blogsite, too.
this is actually the problem with America. this delusion that everyone believes they are on the verge of greatness when they are in reality on the verge of bankruptcy. Success in the USA is an elusion perpetuated by dept both finical and social. the so called American dream is vastly more achievable in countries where opportunity is much more evenly distributed like Norway or Sweden or even Canada. wake up USA
Were it not for the immigrants from South Asian countries, I would not have had the ambitious, agressive and supportive (and very successful) dealer networks I had when running PC hardware and software companies in Canada. Om, you have expressed it nicely and the same opportunities apply in Canada.
You expressed your experience with so much heart. It was only a couple of years ago that I found and read with tears in my eyes my great grandmother’s diary where she proudly said: “Today I am an American Lady.” It was so special then, and it is just as special now: the freedom to dream and make your dreams realities. Congratulations Om!
Scarlett Johansen? I’ll take that as well 😉 Congrats!
Congrats Om! This is beautifully written expression of how so many of us immigrants feel. I have yet to cross the bridge to citizenship but at least I am no longer an “alien” but a legal permanent resident.
I am hoping to celebrate your citizenship day whenever it comes. It is a different feeling. Hard to describe 🙂
Your eloquence is beyond amazing.
I’m proud to call you a fellow American.
This country needs thousands more like you.
Keep inspiring others to do the same.
do you keep your Indian citizenship and you have both US and Indian citizenship or you have only only US citizenship now?
That’s wonderful news. It’s sometimes easy to forget how truly lucky we are to be part of this country. It’s not a perfect place (far from it), but the spirit of opportunity is one that we all need to cherish and nurture – and not just here – everywhere. Thanks for your heartfelt post.
Thank you David for that welcome. It is a blessed place and despite what we read in the news, the streets are paved with hope and dreams.
Thankyou for sharing OM and Congratulations! Very inspirational!
American at heart (living in India)
Om, this reminded me (again) why you’re one of my favorite writers. Fabulous stuff. (Lily sends hug). I have the choice of living in four different countries, and I’ve chosen the U.S.
When are you back in town? Say hi to Lily!
Lot of things could be said with this. But it’s so good reading someone’s happiness, thank you for sharing… and please don’t change 🙂
Congratulations. (I’m a little behind on my reading) We are lucky to have you.
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