My very first memory is of frantically running down the stairs of my home in Chandigarh and squeezing my way onto a crowded rickshaw. I was 3 years old and I had no fear. Along with fifteen other kids, sitting on wooden boards hanging off the ends, this was my school bus.
I was born in India, but in the early 80’s, my parents packed all their possessions into eight very large suitcases and, with my older sister, we flew to America on a Pan Am jumbo jet.
We learned to adapt to our new country and I became an American kid. I watched MTV, tried to understand the rules of football, ate Filet-o-Fish sandwiches (no beef in our house), drove everywhere in our light blue station wagon.
Occasionally I forgot where I was. During my kindergarten entrance test, the teacher pointed to a number of objects that I had to vocally identify in English. We got through the first few, piece of cake. Then she pointed to a paper bag, and I instinctively screamed out “la-fa-fa” – the Hindi equivalent – only to quickly correct myself hoping my chances of going to school weren’t dashed. True story my parents still tell to this day with a laugh, and a hint of pride I was clinging to my roots.
Being immigrants meant we spent our summer vacations back in India. Our entire summer vacation. My parents insisted it was important to keep in touch with our culture, our heritage, our language, our extended family.
But, to me, it meant good-bye to ice-cream sundaes with extra hot fudge, barbecues, all-day-Nintendo marathons, roller coasters at Disney and sleepovers. I wanted to be with my American friends and do summer-time American things.
Then suddenly, I had a career, business cards with a long title, hippie start-up t-shirts, stock options, venture capital frenemies, elevator pitches — many elevator pitches. Exit strategies. Yes, life in the fast lane.
Neurons started firing about those summers many years ago. Lazy chess matches with my grandfather. Frantically running up to the roof to clear the clothesline before the impending monsoon. Riding on my uncle’s scooter to pick up fresh samosas & jalebis for afternoon chai. Badminton. Endless badminton. Trying to speak Hindi. Kite fights on the roof with the neighbors. Google it.
I missed it. I needed to reconnect. To climb back on that rickshaw.
This is my way.