I was three years old when my parents immigrated to this country. I didn’t speak any English. I learned from watching Sesame Street and immersion. My father worked long hours as a resident physician and we lived in a small one bedroom apartment in Staten Island.
I grew up in two cultures. One at home where Dosas (a traditional South Indian dish of rice pancakes) were served for weekend breakfast on stainless steel plates and one at school where I would gossip with my girlfriends about New Kids On The Block over pizza. My parents always maintained our traditions at home so I would understand, respect and love my roots as an Indian. They always let me explore and engage in a culture they knew little of so I would understand, respect and love my future as an American.
I was not born in the USA, but in college I became an American citizen through a process called naturalization. I knew it was special then, but now I reflect on that day and realize how incredible it really was. My mother and I went together, took our test and then both raised our right hands and were sworn in as American citizens - side by side. I can’t imagine what that felt like for my mother - leaving a country in her 20s with a small daughter to raise in a new land where she knew no one and everything was different. That day, I remember how proud she was of her own journey and the journey ahead for her children.
We have voted in every election since that day.
Today is a big day. I stood in line for three hours last week to submit my vote for this election. I voted as a mother of three young children. I voted as a physician working during this unimaginable pandemic. I voted as a small business owner. I voted as an American.
Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I did not see people who looked like me or my family on TV. My children now watch Mira the Royal Detective on Disney - the first Indian girl lead character. They see Mindy Kaling making people laugh on hit TV shows. They celebrate Diwali at school and share their culture with their friends. They see their own mom’s company sharing our Indian tradition of stainless steel dishes with other children across the country. They see Kamala Harris running for Vice President.
I am proud of my roots. It is what inspired me to launch a company with traditions and philosophy stemming from India. I am proud of what the future can hold for my children in the United States. So on this Election Day, I reflect on my own journey living in two worlds that have over time merged into one. I am an Indian immigrant. I am an American. I am equally proud of each of those and look forward to raising my children in a world filled with understanding, respect and love just like my parents did more than three decades ago.
If you haven’t voted yet, I encourage you to read the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on just how much is at stake this election when it comes to our children’s health and futures. Racial inequities infiltrate our healthcare system and the possibility that the Affordable Care Act could be dismantled is terrifying.
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