People ask me if I struggled in acclimating to America or if I ran into excessive racism/bullying. Given the nature of being uprooted from India at a young age to come to America, you would assume that I had a hard time acclimating. That could not be further from the truth. I like to think that I embodied my version of “normal-cy” well throughout my life. At 5 years old, I took a one-way ticket from Mumbai, MH to Phoenix, AZ with my parents and did not look back. An energetic, always laughing and fearless toddler I muddled through the transitionary years trying to assimilate and make friends. By middle school, I had moved from Arizona to North Carolina and then again to Pennsylvania. All the moving meant I didn’t really have childhood friends nor was I sure who I was. What did I want out of my life?
Luckily, like most pop culture clichés, high school became my defining golden moment. I hit my stride in high school when I found tennis and swimming. Like most Indians, I played tennis at the urging of my parents. But I found success as I became varsity first seed for doubles and became friends with my teammates. Around the same time, I also started swimming in the winter and that sport taught me discipline, strength and perseverance. Imagine waking up and hitting icy waters every day at 5:30 am and then repeating the same thing in the evening. There were literally winter days I went without seeing the sun at all. It also ended up leading me to discover my hobby of powerlifting. These three sports helped me build my confidence, gain a strong willpower and made me even more extroverted than ever before.
I was one of a handful of Indian kids in my high school and had grown up in a mostly caucasian town (King of Prussia). So, I wanted to branch out and learn about different Asian cultures. During college, I became friends with a lot of Asians. Hanging out with a diverse number of Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese and Filipino friends exposed me to a level of flavors and culture that I had never experienced before. I became a foodie during the years at college and ultimately became obsessed with Szechuan food. I remember lots of nights spent traversing Chinatown and exploring the menus of new restaurants. My love for Shanghai style Dim Sum and dandan noodles is a direct byproduct of this. Recently, as I have been traveling more, I got to sample authentic Vietnamese cuisine and Caribbean food. I am most excited for an upcoming trip to Japan next year, I will most certainly try to eat my weight in sushi.