I feel like I’ve led a very unconventional life. I’m half Tamilian and half UP (from Uttar Pradesh) for starters. My mother and father met in Philadelphia, where I’ve just graduated from, while they were both getting their masters degrees. This was a real life 2 States story. We never really watched Bollywood movies growing up, but my dad was a big Hollywood fan so every weekend we’d binge the newest and oldies of Hollywood. We rarely listened to Indian music; it was always either country music (I know. Trust me, I know.) or pop. We never went to Indian parties, didn’t spend weekends at family friends’ houses, and really never got exposed to modern American-Indian culture. I didn’t really consider myself Indian because the only thing brown about me was my skin. My brother and I were the only Asians in my entire elementary school so when we moved for middle school, I was suddenly thrown into this diverse mix of cultures that I had never experienced. I found it hard to connect with people because I felt like I couldn’t relate to the Indians but wasn’t Americanized enough to make a connection with the white kids. It wasn’t until maybe high school where I realized that this was my superpower. I have the ability to relate to multiple groups of people and find something in common with everyone I meet.
I don’t like to think of my past as being something I’ve had to overcome. The events I’ve been through make me who I am and I’ve learned to be proud of those little accomplishments and stumbles. I come from a “broken family” as the parents of my childhood friends used to say. My parents got divorced in culture that expects the wife to serve and keep her family together and if the marriage fails, it’s her fault. Now before you start feeling sorry for me, don’t. Their marriage just didn’t work and I understood that early on. I’m so grateful for the way my parents handled their separation. My brother and I never felt pressured to pick favorites and I think them making this situation as normal as possible made it easy for us to not compare our situation to everyone else’s. It was such a taboo to talk about divorce when I was younger but that never stopped me. My parents divorced before I turned 3 years old so this is all I’ve ever known; I shifted from house to house during the week, I got two presents on my birthday, two beds, and two loving parents who were happy doing their own thing, so why do I have to look at divorce as some big tragedy I’ve learned to cope with? I remember one of my neighbors shushing me for explaining to her 5 year old daughter what divorced meant. “She doesn’t need to know what that word means. Just pretend your mom lives with you here but she’s always at work,” she said. I remember feeling so offended, reprimanding me as if I trying to teach her daughter a curse word. But I guess that’s when I really realized that not everyone is going to accept my situation as easily as I did.
I’m a Graphic Designer, which my mother actually suggested I do while I was applying to colleges undecided. At the time, I was kinda scared that graphic design would be a mistake; I really had no idea what to expect and just couldn’t see myself as a designer, especially since I didn’t have as much experience creating visual art pieces. I guess I never really cared about the money part of going into art because my parents never put that pressure on me. As long as I was happy, my parents continued to encourage me. And if I ever wanted to quit to chase another dream, my parents were right by my side. You don’t see a lot of Indians pursuing art as a major because it isn’t seen as a profitable or honorable career. It’s still seen as a hobby to a lot of desi parents. Over the past 4 years, I’ve realized that art has so much power, whether it’s through illustration, dance, or fashion. I wish more people weren’t deterred from doing what makes them happy just for the sake of money. The world will print new dollar bills every day but they won’t give you your time back. So do what makes you happy and do it for you because ultimately you have to live with your decisions and you never want to go to bed regretting the opportunities you missed out on.