Years ago, I was visiting friends in Seattle and they couldn’t understand why I prefer to live in Mississippi, even after retirement. Their question: What do you have in Mississippi?
I came to Mississippi in 2004 when someone from the VA hospital called me for an evaluation of an employee. After we talked, they unexpectedly asked me if I would like a job. I said “no” as there was no reason for me to move, and I was happy where I lived. Then came the guillotine: Do you mind coming for a cup of coffee? I fell in the trap, and I am still here in 2016.
Now, as I am preparing to leave my Biloxi apartment and the city that loved me so much, many thoughts come rushing in.
In Mississippi, people have innocent smiles and the ability to look you in the eye as a human being — not as white, brown, black, rich or poor — and deal with you as such.
Here, a smile is a smile, and when someone pulls your leg, it’s out of pure affection.
I feel a profound sorrow because I will miss all the patients, caregivers, parents, kids and students I’ve dealt with.
They say the South is racist and Mississippi is its epicenter, but I am from India, and after being here for more than 12 years, I can’t say I experienced a moment of racism here. It made me wonder how different can perceptions and reality be.
So why am I leaving? For personal and health reasons, but I will still be available to my co-workers, students, patients and all their families.
I would like to copy what someone once said: “To meet, to know, to love, then to part is the sad tale of the human heart.”
Thank you, Mississippi.