iSCRIBBLE

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ I can try being not so nice too, if you visit me in Dallas.

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Dentoning

Yesterday morning, a friend I know from the Special Olympics Texas movement asked to meet me for an interview. She was doing a class project and needed to do an interview on cultural differences I experienced as a non-immigrant Indian in the United States. We met at a very nice coffee shop on the Square called Jupiter Coffee House.ย The hot chocolate here is to die for. For once I also tried a grilled bagel sandwich with pepper jack cheeseย ย and garlic cheese spread. It was super tasty.

While I cannot disclose what exactly I was interviewed on, I can say this. After several years, someone asked me to tell my life story.ย I am sure I blew her brains by telling her about so many things she could never guess about my life from just the look of it. For her all these years, I was an Indian Masters/Doctoral student volunteering to learn about Special Olympics or Adapted Sports. Nothing else about my life showed on my face ever when I was working (volunteering). Not sure if it is a gift or not. Still figuring it out.

After talking about who I am, in real words, vocally, I felt this sense of liberation to just go out and click some frames about what caught my eye. I don’t know after how many months I was actually able to do that without any regard to time or other pressures. It felt very liberating. I look back at my life back to the dark days and feel extremely thankful to the invention of photography. And then to Hyderabad Photography Club and its very early members. Extremely supportive and encouraging group of ย open mined men who supported my curiosity to learn. I am still not sure how much and what I have learnt in a true sense about photography :). This is yet another time again when I will shamelessly compliment the Indian men who backed my efforts to survive the dark days of my life. Will always be thankful to you all guys. Daddy, I can never thank you enough for going out of your way to buy me a camera that was going to be easy for me to learn with. I always remember what it meant to make that financial decision for you and Amma. And I can never forget the value it brought to my life right when I needed it.

Dedicating this to all of you for always letting me have my training wheels on. And for smiling with your hearts for every little accomplishment I make in my life.

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The Denton DownTown Mini Mall

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iLIKE

Foods I Enjoyed

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Documents-001

Where: Shenoy Nursing Home,Secunderabad
When: 1986, October 29th
Who: This is me. Yes, Jussri. Since I’ve always posted pics of others here I thought, this article would be the best only if I put in my pic.

I post a lot of pictures of random people and scenes on my website. I like to spread goodness around me. These days I meet a lot of people who often ask me if I am a photographer. Well my answer would be a yes-no. I have forever used photography as a medium to attract people to read my scribbles. Alongside in life I developed a love to capture other people smiling. That is how I ended up taking assignments. But if you ask me who am I?

I am a qualified Physical Therapist working towards contributing back to the field in my little way. Photography and writing help me spread the good things that I was brought up with.In two days from now, my parents celebrate their birthdays which are on May 9th and 10th :)[Yeah yeah, both are Taurus(eans) ๐Ÿ™‚ ]. This post would be the only best gift I can give to them. Having talked about the ‘ Why’ part of this write up, I will now move to the ‘what’ part of it.

Every time we rushed home to complain that the teacher caned us bad,my mother’s standard question round was the first wall to hit. I swear to God I have never hated anyone more than my mother all those years. At times I felt she enjoyed making us feel bad.She would start her conversation like this.

“Nuvvem chesaavo cheppu” ( First tell me what did you do)
Well, it was difficult to hide facts from her.
“Memedho arusthonte kopam lo kottindhi sister( Yeah, yeah we were yelling and sister caned us[I studied in a catholic convent and we called our teachers Sisters(nuns)]

Then she would start her reverse engineered explanation for the entire situation. You are three kids for me at home to take care. I still find it difficult to manage you. How can sister make 60 students quite in 45 minutes?
I think it is justified she caned you guys!
Justification for the caning done!
No more arguments your honour.
And we disperse. This was the order of our life all through out our schooling.
Everytime there was a complaint from us, my mom went back to the root of the issue. Looking for the cause.

Fast forward many many years and I am in my General Medicine lecture. Day 1. Dr Joshi. A veteran general medicine specialist from our hospital was taking our first class.
Two things he spoke that day have remained in my mind forever.

1. Developing an inquisitive mind.
2. Believing that every problem/obstacle had a cause for it at a grass root level.

20 years of listening to those two lines and a professor telling you the same point in a medical school!
I really needed a break from listening to the same stuff every where i went. Looks like every one has same mothers like mine. But having been through medical school, surfacing out of a hell hole with minimal scarring, fighting my way through tough situations in life, I can never thank my mother enough for teaching me my basics right.

In these days of arm chair activists and anti-arm chair activists, I want to send out a plea.
Look with in yourself. Are you doing absolutely the best thing right now?
Are you able to show the strength of your character in testing times?(by not giving into temptations and short cut ways to success and wealth)
Can you say a No to yourself and strike a balance in the temper times?

Well, when I was tested, I asked myself these questions.More precisely,I was taught to ask myself these questions.I have always been this, ‘ drops of water make an ocean’ kind of activist for social causes. For all of you who are bugged by the over motivational videos and shows that keep cropping up around you every once in a while:
Stop watching television
Pick a hobby
Make a to-do list
Appreciate little things
Spend time with the elders in your family , let them tell you stories from their life
Count numbers when you are angry.

I never liked growing up under the iron hand rule of my parents. Today I absolutely cherish those moments. Today I am glad I grew under their parenting.

For all the challenges I faced,I surfaced unscathed because I was taught one best thing right.

Problems are mere situations and the solutions are right within them if you look at the roots, routes and causes.
Here’s thanking my parents for giving me an excellent up bringing. I thank God for letting me be your daughter folks ๐Ÿ™‚ Have an awesome year ahead.

iSCRIBBLE

of Roots, Routes and Causes

I am a qualified Physical Therapist working towards contributing back to the field in my little way. Photography and writing help me spread the good things that I was brought up with.In two days from now, my parents celebrate their birthdays which are on May 9th and 10th :)[Yeah yeah, both are Taurus(eans) ๐Ÿ™‚ ]. This post would be the only best thing gift I can give to them. Having talked about the ‘ Why’ part of this write up, I will now move to the ‘what’ part of it.

Every time we rushed home to complain that the teacher caned us bad,my mother’s standard question round was the first wall to hit. I swear to God I have never hated anyone more than my mother all those years. At times I felt she enjoyed making us feel bad.She would start her conversation like this.

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iSCRIBBLE

Why am I in love again….

I must accept I am very indisciplined when it comes to blogging. Never mind coz I haven’t signed up any contracts ๐Ÿ˜€ ย  Last few weeks in my life have been so normal and peaceful that I sometimes ask my siblings to pinch me to feel it is all so real. From the day I have landed in this country I have been coming across so many new things that the list goes endless.

I just love the almost zero pollution environment here.

The traffic discipline!!!! amazingly depressing…sometimes i feel like walking out of the car running away. I know i know the safety first thing …so good about it but ya i miss the hyderabadi autowallah’s torture turns . You can be sure to end up on a hospital bed even if you are following traffic rules ๐Ÿ™‚ . Here your saved from that .

The houses how perfectly planned and lined up they are!! I feel the best part about them being like that is how much ever junk you dump around , the houses still look great!So ideal for someone like me.

The way some stranger on the side walk looks into your face and wishes you a hi how are you doing today with a sunshine smile..

The way people binge on tempting calorie filled foods and the way they just rush to the gym to burn it all out. Balancing acts huh!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ย Just the way they sit back and enjoy life unlike so many of us who are always on a run to achieve things than accomplish them.

The way you can take up any hobby that appeals to you just by walking into a store. The way they stack up their stores meticulously. Ah!! how I dream of a day when I can wake up and become a carpenter when I want to make frames for my photo works. (the outcome doesnt matter you get to try your hand at it atleast buddy)

I hate to compare it all with anything back home just for some reasons like how much we lag behind when compared with them.

WE have a very small piece of land with too many humans eating out of it.

So with no comparisons I can say I just am in love with this nation for many more reasons. The list will never end.

I shall scribble again!!! See ya…

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