I just turned 23 today and I’m spending it in Delhi, India. I’m building a campaign for an amazing international organization to help guarantee women 33% of Parliament’s seats (#Ready2Lead) and working with Oxfam to create India’s first internet video series on inclusive growth by CEOs, a pivotal step in tackling inequality through business and building more sustainable capitalist India..
I’m thrilled to be where I am and do what I’m doing. I just got off the phone with my Mom and I think it’d be good to take a look back.
Ten years ago it was me, my mother, and my sister. With our father recently leaving the house in divorce–a big brown stain in the India-American community, it was just the three of us. At that time my sister was in high-school. She was quick as a whistle-a natural fit for the soccer team, and a genius so a natural fit for the schools AP courses. I remember one time going with my mom to her game. On the other side of a small hill were the bleachers where my mom and I grabbed up a seat and sat watching her play. It was a cool break from life almost like disappearing into another reality, but sure enough we’d climb back into our 1992 Toyota Corolla and head back into the house on Corinthian Rd, just the three of us.
Things back then were different. The home lonely and the future uneasy. Lots of people have this idea of what India’s in America are like and we couldn’t be further from it. Though at times I don’t think I would have minded a Doctor Dad and Surgeon Mom (just kidding mom!)
There were times when our furnace would run out of oil and the house would go cold. Filling the tank was either too expensive or the levels would go unnoticed in all the lists of things that my mom had to do while playing father&mother, keeper, cleaner and feeder. I remember wondering what the future held for us both worried and anxious. We were first generation Americans with no family to turn to for thousands of miles and things weren’t normal but we’d go to soccer games, choir recitals, AP Tuition and to Shoprite as often as the others. My mom worked as hard as she could to make everything look normal, for us.
Back then she’d always say leave everything to God in prayer, but her faith left me puzzled. Where was God all this time? Her faith was as big as Goliath and no David could ever bring it down. Those days were intense. Though I didn’t believe it then, God was somewhere nearby.
In church a mentor found me and became someone who, I would for a few years, aspire to emulate. This relationship taught me a lot. It brought Halo into my house-a medium for my family and friends to gather around and spend countless hours with each other. It was by this relationship that I learned football and basketball, sports that gave me an extra strut in my step as I dawned my Football first game-day jerseys around the Freshman Center of Ramapo High School. This mentoring relationship did a lot for me, not on its own but alongside my small community: my mother, my sister, my mentor, and even some of my best friends from church. Those times some 10 years ago are moments that I will always remember. When I consider the enormous odds that faced us 10 years ago, I wonder how we got to where we are and appreciate greatly how many undeserving blessings have come down for it.
For me the last few years have been thousands of new faces and hundreds of new places. It’s taught me the power of collaboration, community, and mentorship. While I’ve been endlessly privileged with amazing opportunities, platforms and friendships with amazing people that humble me dearly & daily, I’ll always remember and seldom feel like that 13 year old sitting on his stoop in New York wondering will be of the future. Delhi on my 23 Birthday and the work that I’m doing was never apart of the plan. Then again, “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans”(Lennon)
“Appreciate the people who help you, who are there for you, who see that you are vulnerable and who don’t just look away.”
This is by no means a momentous occasion, but I’d like to appreciate some people who haven’t looked away. First and foremost my beautiful mother and sister that have done everything to get where I am today and to help me go where I’ll be tomorrow, despite watching me fail over and over again. For the community that raised me, particularly for Vijay, Joy, and Alexander Uncle, Sally and Leelama Aunty & for Bindu’s dad for stopping me outside church to take the stitched tag off my suit because ‘Americans don’t leave that’, your families have become apart of my own. Whatever I do for others in my life wouldn’t be appreciation enough for the love you’ve shared with me. Litten, Sunil A, Joji G, Leny- you guys have always been remarkable in my life keeping me at bay while pushing me to go forward. Don’t stop now.
Thanks Jubil, Koshy, Levan for being there so long as kids growing up and finding our paths–and for the whole group of Mystery Men that stormed courts for the smallest of victories. D’Shai, Mandeep, my YP4 Family & Viv, love. For Christian, Kevin, Timmy, and Jeff for being brothers in a time when so much of life had shifted and so many people who were there had vanished. To an old friend that probably won’t ever read this post, you are always in my thoughts. And for all of my mentors and advisers those who lend their friendship and support even when all I had to offer wa ambiguous direction to an unknown location- C.Wood, D. Cairns in particular.
I’ve missed so many folks that have changed the course and direction of my life. You will always be in my thoughts-in the mind of the 13 year old who sits on the stoop and now ponders both the past and the future.
Mostly I appreciate God for always being my North Star and my mom for always pointing me to him. Footprints, the poem to the right, depicts my relationship with God those ten years. Luckily, I grow from that and ascribe to values, ethics, and morals that I’ve learned at home and through community-tools that I hope will have me continue to grow planted firmly in a foundation for the years ahead.