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The Balancing Act of Marrying Together Two Cultures

When: 31st July 2017

Where: VA

A few months back I read a dissertation on the acculturation process of immigrant Asian Indians in the United States. This one I read was approved in the May of 2008 and was authored by Dr. Nirisha Garimella. When I was looking up dissertation and thesis documents submitted by Indians at TWU, this one particularly drew my attention for two reasons: one, Garimella is a very popular Telugu surname and two, it used a qualitative methodology for studying the phenomenon of how Asian Indians settle into United States. While I cannot share the detailed contents of the dissertation here, to simply explain what the study highlighted, one can say it narrated the stories of 15 immigrants settled in the US from a kal, aaj aur kal (yesterday, today and tomorow in Hindi) perspective.

"Oh my god! I cannot believe it has been so many years since I saw you!"

Fast forward to last week when I visited my cousin's family. As I was about to walk into the house, the main door sprang open and my cousin's wife like literally crushed me with her hug. Not that it surprised me! 3 full days at a conference, lot of listening and lot of talking later, a 11 PM arrival after two hours of train journey was making me feel weary until she crushed me :) Such energy and excitement in receiving someone into their home at 11 PM was so refreshing to experience. What happens after I receive such warm welcomes is a story for another time. For the next three hours I was surrounded by a family (including a 15 year old and a 10 year old) that made me laugh to the point of having tears in my eyes.

"It is very hard to describe the early years! I would wonder what the hell is happening to my body, why don't I feel healthy?"

As we continued to talk about the six years that happened between my last visit and the current one, at one point, I saw her eyes well up. This was followed by a lot of head nodding. We spoke on so many things ranging from  parenting to politics. A lot of the talk was surrounded around how healthy vegetarian food was an impossible thing to have around when she moved to the States. All through these hours of conversations I shared with her, I couldn't stop thinking about this dissertation I read. As she spoke about her own life, she would start with the history of her own life, talk about what is currently happening and then present such a positive and hopeful image of the future.

As I currently split my time between understanding immigrant perspectives, their challenges and physical activity, I am often drawn towards these conversations that happen with Indian women who move to the States at a very young age and are then trying to create a home here for their own families.

"No matter what my day has in store for me, I need to work out early in the morning. Then I can handle anything."

I woke up this morning very early and through my foggy eyes, I saw her dressed up in her work out clothes, walking over to my bed and saying "I will see you exactly in 45 minutes Padmini. I need to go work out! Sleep in if you don't feel like going. We shall figure it out!" And she is gone! I was like "Whoaa! What just happened?" These days I am not a very morning person and seeing her be so active I was like, "What the hell! I need to get out of my bed right now!" And I was up and ready in 45 minutes. Now I can only imagine what that image of her can do to the young kids growing up in her home.

"Watching what I eat is so important for me because I know it powers every living second of my day. And I am constantly trying to make the meals at home interesting. That way I get the kids to spend more time with us too " *says this while smiling at me*

You see her order food at a restaurant and she is constantly talking to both her daughters about the content of the foods. And then she leaves them alone to make the choice for themselves. Her daughter wants to snack and she is immediate to bring her a bowl of apple slices. She does all this so naturally that it looks really easy. But all through our conversations, it was clear that all these awesome parenting skills came to her through many trials and tribulations she has lived through. This beautiful parenting and compassion that is evident in her personality came after years of lived experiences in a country far away from her parents and her own land (just like it has come to many other immigrant women too!). She is often very quick to say,

"We learnt from each other Padmini. We were both very young. We moved here with no clue of what the future held for us. But once we got here, we continued to learn and evolve."

Why it is important for me to write about her?

In today's times, I rarely see immigrant women (especially Indian women) who  are physically fit and can be active all through the day. I am guilty of it myself (I am not yet an immigrant. NIDIA you see). I let stress get to me so badly sometimes that it takes me about a week's time to recover. I have often said this to my American friends here.

Self-care is a very absent or unknown concept in the lives of millions of Indian women.

And the response was always agreement with an amendment.

"Women in general happen to neglect or not make time for self care. So the additional variable of immigration makes it more complex for y'all!"

She is an excellent example of an Indian immigrant in this country, who has learnt to bring together the best of two very different cultures that she got tossed into. If I had to summarise what I learnt from my conversations with her, I would say:

  • It is important for us to wear a smile on our face and embrace life as bravely as we can. No matter which direction life throws you in.
  • It is perfectly okay to slow down, take a step back and to ask for help.
  • It is important to have a fitness routine every day in the morning.

Portrait of Shanti Kondapi and Padmini Chennapragada sitting on a cement bench. Shanti is wearing a beautiful maroon long skirt teamed with a white sleeveless top and Padmini is wearing navy blue lenin shirt teamed with a denim skirt. The background has a white wooden fences and on either sides of the bench are white flowered plants looking pretty in the beautiful Carrytown weather.

Meet Shanti Kondapi, an unsung victor of the immigrant battles that many Indians try to survive, mother of two young American girls who can out a song in your heart every time you meet them. I was on my way to the airport when I heard the song "Badal pe paon hai!" from Chak De! India when I had the idea of wanting to write about her. Her life story is empowering for me to learn from because through her balancing act of marrying two cultures together, she powers three other humans around her. Also she is not related to me. Growing up watching my sister and mother closely, I always lived in this bubble that no one else is as capable as them to raise children or to be managing a family. But as I travel and meet more people, their life stories are constantly educating me on how so many women around me are leading amazingly positive lives.

I am sure Shanti's story is not alone. There are millions of women like her around the world. But these stories need to be told repeatedly. These voices need to be heard. They need to be talked about at our dinner tables. In today's times, it is more important than ever before to talk about how immigrants are bringing in great value to the citizenship of these United States.

Vadina (sister-in-law in Telugu), until we meet again, lots of love and hugs! I will miss you!

Annayya (brother in Telugu), I won't miss you, and no thanks for being so nice 🙂 I can try being not so nice too, if you visit me in Dallas.

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iSCRIBBLE

Growing with Life…

You’ve fought the wildest winds of Life,

With willingness and valour,

You’ve walked the loneliest of the nights,

Without the slightest of fear,

As you walk these final steps,

With a million wishes from the Motherland,

This is to wish you a safe and successful win .

A friend of mine had asked me to write a few lines about a celebrity for a very important forthcoming  event of her life and voila!!! this is what I could blurt out 🙂 it’s totally surprising for me:)

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iSCRIBBLE

My own foolishness of choice!!!

 

There were days when I sat and thought if I’d ever receive any help!!!! Ya I learnt it hard way that life is full of mazes and puzzles while I was here, stuck in a maze at a dead end .I always did what most of us do. I kept asking myself Why me!!!!

I always did fail to ask myself another question !!! Why not me !!! I know it puzzles some of you to why I should have thought so. Here I was facing one of the biggest challenges of my education phase, stuck in a situation that was affecting me badly.The world is filled up to the brim with more serious problems like poverty and hunger , I do not wish to put my tiny complaint high above them all and so  I  shall not discuss my situation here in detail…

I was here fighting against one organisation and the situation was getting more and more like Me Vs Them

During the initial stages of my fight I always asked myself the wrong question,

“why me?”

I wasn’t looking at how many ways the problem was helping me.I was fighting against the organisation everyday but everyday was another war for me against my flaws.

I was trying to better myself every minute I spent there. Why ????
I dint want to give them even a single chance against me .

I started taking my hobbies more seriously. I started improving at a pace where  my family even thought I might end up shifting my career to being a photographer than a therapist. 

One day I stop and look back at all those sleepless nights I cried out on the pillows to why I was the only one who is suffering.I am surprised at the progress I’ve made. I am surprised at how best the problem has chiselled my talents.

How “the problem” nurtured me carefully like a mother from an immature rebel kid to a mature independent young lady.

The problem for me at a time was everything that associated me with that place. Everything that sent me back to that place.

The situation, the people who were responsible for it, the people who had the power but refused to help me!!!

But when I started looking for a solution with more desperate measures, I realised the solution was within me!

I was not noticing what the problem was helping me become!

There were days I got kicked at in my study place! There were days my things went missing at the right time I needed them. All these caused me a lot of pain though not physically the trauma was badly cutting through my heart.

It all hurt me because I wasn’t in a situation to question them back.

There came a day when someone told me it was the rule of life… the rule of karma!

I was supposedly doing my share of karma that i chose for before god put me onto this earth.I was to do my share of suffering to enjoy my share of happiness.I will not categorise it under any name, religious , spiritual or superstitious belief.. I will only call it a belief!!!! For all the reasons and explanations that I received from countless people when I approached them for help this one made a lot of sense to me!

But everytime I started analysing and linking up one good incident and one bad challenge I was facing, I was enjoying the analogy more and smiling at my own foolishness of choice rather than feel bad!

I chose to get kicked in exchange of a DSLR????? (That is one of the best gifts I ever received!!) OMG!!! What was I doing when God gave me that MCQ sheets to choose the Good and Bad incidents of life!!

The problem hasn’t vanished even today … No miracles took place! No saviour angel appeared!!!

Every time I face a blow at that place! I wait a second and recollect one best thing that is right now happening in my life and I end up laughing at my own foolishness of choice!!! 

The power of laughter and happiness gives me double the strength to stand up against them yet another time.I wonder it still pisses them off to how I am still Happy 😀

 

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Avoiding the “L”

wondering whatz with the banner ? 😉

sometimes may b things do have to get going so good 🙂

today seems to be such a great day …just bac home from a stupid session of exam that i ruined in a great manner….

and the “swagatham” gift on returning home is a power cut ….the sunz having a great day out and am for sure not enjoying it…

ten more days to go for another session of exams…. hope i  don ruin them too…. 😉

and if u think what is it that i am trying to say for the past mins….

i was just trying to avoid the “L”
coz itz my bro’s great “L”aptop with no “L” on it…and i was trying to avoid ending up with some ske”L”eta”L” disorder for my index finger tryng to hit it on so many times…. was testing if  can try writing any thing for some time without the “L”

Ironic isn’t??? , was trying to avoid “L” thtz so prominent in words that run n fue”L” us….

“L”IFE and “L”OVE

🙂

Have a cheerfu”L” evening…

am sti”LL” Learning to b”L”og…bear with my nonsense  😉

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